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Hinds County pushes back against mandated federal oversight of jail

Weeks after a federal judge ordered a receiver be appointed to run the Hinds County jail, county officials say they don’t agree with the mandated oversight. 

In an Aug. 12 court filing, attorneys representing the county and Sheriff Tyree Jones said imposing a receiver would take the jail out of local control, which is a “debilitation of the democratic process” and departure from the court’s typical work. 

Judges need to show receivership is a last resort, the filing states, but Hinds County isn’t at that point. A new injunction order, which scaled back a 2016 consent decree, was put in place three months before U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves decided in July he will appoint a receiver for the jail, attorneys argue. 

“Defendants maintain and preserve the arguments that they have made in this case, do not waive or forfeit any of their arguments, and maintain that, among other things, the Raymond Detention Center is not in violation of constitutional minimums, and no receiver is warranted,” the court filing states. 

The receiver will be in charge of day-to-day management of the jail to follow the injunction order: bring the jail into compliance and meet a minimum standard of living for detainees, which is a constitutional right. 

In his July 29 order, Reeves wrote receivership is necessary because there is a risk of unconstitutional harm to jail detainees and staff. He stated issues highlighted during a three weeks of hearings: Seven detainees died in 2021 by suicide or were killed by other detainees. There is violence and contraband. The jail is chronically understaffed and infrastructure needs repair.

“While the Court has considered other sanctions, it must be noted that the County has never suggested any other alternative. It has simply argued against a receivership,” Reeves wrote. 

“It continues to plead for more time, but we have been there and done that. There is no sense in granting the County more time to do nothing.”

He set a deadline of Nov. 1 to appoint a receiver. Reeves asked the county and U.S. Department of Justice to present potential candidates for the jail receiver role. The county proposed one person and the department recommended three, according to court documents.

The county requested a hearing be held to consider qualifications of the potential receivers and for both parties to ask the candidates questions. 

A status conference is scheduled for Aug. 29 at 10 a.m. and will be held over Zoom. The link to watch the hearing will be available on the Southern District’s website under the “News & Announcements” section. 

The county’s recommendation for a receiver was Frank Shaw, the current interim jail administrator.

In his July 29 order, Reeves said Shaw is “wholly unqualified for the role” because he was in charge of a privately-run prison in Arizona where riots broke out. Reeves also said Shaw’s contract with the county is expected to expire soon. 

The DOJ’s candidates are Wendell France Sr., who has worked in prisons and the now-closed Baltimore City Detention Center and Susan McCampbell, who has worked as a court monitor at jails and prisons in multiple states, according to court filings. 

The name of the DOJ’s last candidate is not mentioned in recent court records. A spokesperson for the department was not immediately available for comment and attorneys for Hinds County did not respond to a request for comment. 

Reeves eliminated Shaw as an option and said he will select a receiver from the remaining three candidates.

In its Aug. 12 court filing, attorneys representing the county objected to France and McCampbell as potential choices for jail receiver because of their previous work with the DOJ. France has consulted for the department and McCampbell has provided expert litigative services. 

Despite the objections to having a jail receiver, the county submitted an order detailing what kind of duties, powers and authority the receiver should have, according to court documents.

Within 90 days of the receiver’s appointment, that person must develop and submit an action plan. The receiver is encouraged to seek input from the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, county administrator and the U.S. Department of Justice. The sheriff must approve the action plan. 

Generally, the receiver can ask for the sheriff’s input, but it is not required. 

The county said the receiver would only have power over staff at the jail, not those employed by the sheriff’s office or county.

The receiver will also not have power or authority over planning, design and operation of a new jail, the order proposes. 

County officials plan to build a new jail on McDowell Road in Jackson with a projected completion date in June 2025, according to court documents. The jail is expected to cost over $60 million, have 200 beds and allow for direct supervision of inmates – an issue raised during hearings in federal court and in numerous court monitor reports. 

The county asked for the receiver’s term to end when the new jail opens or upon “reasonable implementation” of the injunction order at the current jail, according to court records. 

In ordering the receivership, Reeves wrote the opening of a new jai can be seen as a “natural projected end-date” for the receiver. Regardless, it is challenging to gauge how fast a receiver can fix a jail, he said. 

The county proposes a maximum $75,000 annual salary for the receiver and $50,000 for up to two staff members to work with the receiver. 

The receiver will draft a budget for jail operations and present it to the board of supervisors. If it is not approved, they can try to negotiate and reconcile the receiver’s budget and an alternate one proposed by the board. If there is no agreement, the budgets will be submitted to the court for resolution, according to court documents. 

The county said there can’t be more than a $1 million increase for the total jail operation budget from each fiscal year to the next. If requesting a higher increase, the receiver must show “clear and convincing evidence” the increase is essential to implement the injunction order and achieve compliance, according to court documents. 

The post Hinds County pushes back against mandated federal oversight of jail appeared first on Mississippi Today.

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