HATTIESBURG, Miss. —
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — A federal court monitor says Forrest County officials are partially in compliance with an order to make improvements at the local juvenile detention center.
In documents released Monday, Anne M. Nelsen wrote in her report that the county was "substantially compliant" with six of the order's 70 provisions, "partially compliant" with another 35 provisions, and non-compliant with 29 provisions.
Nelsen said many of the provisions partially complied with only lack written policies and procedures to back them up, as the facility's staff has already put them into practice, according to the report.
"Almost a year has passed since we reached the settlement agreement, yet Forrest County has made little progress in the most critical areas of our agreement," Elissa Johnson, staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mississippi office said in a statement. "The county must make a greater effort to fully comply with the settlement agreement and protect children from these dangerous and inhumane conditions."
The agreement, reached in October 2011, settled a federal lawsuit the SPLC brought against Forrest County. It included provisions to end excessive use of force and mechanical restraints and to provide adequate medical and mental health care.
In March 2011, SPLC and Disability Rights Mississippi filed a federal lawsuit to force Forrest County to comply with federal law over conflicting state laws and provide the children at the center with access to lawyers and civil rights advocates. After gaining access to the facility, SPLC filed a suit in April 2011 challenging the conditions of confinement at the facility.
In addition to reports of abuse, the lawsuit contended children regularly were confined to dirty, crowded cells for 23 hours a day.
The agreed order included a large volume of provisions to augment staffing, alleviate overcrowding, change various policies and improve educational and medical services, among other goals.
"Full compliance with the agreed order is a daunting task and cannot be achieved quickly or easily," Nelsen wrote. "However, the commitment expressed by the (facility) administration gives me confidence that that can be realized."