WASHINGTON — Dedri Yulon Caldwell, a former Sergeant with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department in Mississippi, pleaded guilty today to a one-count criminal information charging her with conspiring to violate the civil rights of inmates. The charge arises from Caldwell’s actions as a corrections officer at the Harrison County Adult Detention Center from April 2001 through December 2005. Caldwell faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the offense.
In documents filed in federal court today, Caldwell admitted that for more than five years, she and other corrections officers participated in a conspiracy to intentionally use excessive force to punish, intimidate, injure, oppress, threaten and retaliate against inmates at the jail.
“Officers of the law hold a critical role in our society. They are the guardians of justice,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “While the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officials carry out their important work with extraordinary professionalism, the Justice Department will vigorously prosecute abuses consistent with federal law.”
In August 2006, Ryan Michael Teel, a former Deputy of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, was charged in a two-count indictment relating to the circumstances surrounding the death of an inmate who died as a result of injuries sustained at the prison earlier this year. Teel faces a maximum penalty of life in prison on count one of the indictment, and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on count two. Two other former officers, Regina Rhodes and Morgan Thompson, have also pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to violate the civil rights of inmates.
The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. In fiscal year 2006, nearly 50 percent of the cases brought by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division involved such prosecutions. Since fiscal year 2001, the Division has convicted 50 percent more defendants for excessive force and official misconduct than in the preceding six years.
Civil Rights Division prosecutors Lisa M. Krigsten and John Cotton Richmond and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack B. Lacy, Jr. handled this matter for the Department.