The Justice Department announced that it has filed a joint motion with the state of Arkansas to dismiss the settlement in United States v. Arkansas, a case involving conditions at the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center in Alexander, Ark. The state has fully complied with the settlement, which includes reforms in mental health care, fire safety, education and religious freedom for the youth residing at the facility. In addition to complying with the settlement, during the course of the department’s investigation and settlement, the state shifted its focus on juvenile justice from an institution-based model to a community-based model. The result has been a significant statewide decrease in the number of incarcerated youth. At the same time, crime in Arkansas has dropped even though the population of youth under 18 has grown.
“In the Justice Department’s view, the state has met the requirements necessary for dismissal of this case. We reached this conclusion after thoroughly reviewing information gathered during the department’s enforcement of the settlement,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We commend the state for its successful efforts to reduce the number of youth in secure institutional confinement, and for its commitment to ensuring that the constitutional rights of youth are protected.”
In March 2003, the Justice Department and state of Arkansas entered into the settlement to resolve the department’s findings of unlawful conditions at the then-named Alexander Youth Services Center following a comprehensive investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The settlement called for broad reforms in areas related to mental health care, fire safety, education and religious freedom.
For more information on the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt .