Today, the Justice Department asked a federal court to dismiss its case involving Oakley Training School in Raymond, Mississippi, because the state of Mississippi and the Division of Youth Services have significantly improved conditions for confined youth at Oakley. The reforms, implemented under a consent decree, resulted in increased protections to prevent harm to youth, improved suicide prevention practices, improved medical, dental and mental healthcare, increased rehabilitative services and improved special educational services.
In 2003, the department notified Mississippi that conditions at the Oakley Training School and the Columbia Training School violated the constitutional rights of confined youth. In 2005, the department and state officials entered into a settlement agreement to implement many reforms related to legally-required services and protections for confined youth. The parties appointed independent monitors to oversee these reform efforts at Oakley and Columbia and to provide technical assistance to facility officials. The state closed Columbia in 2008, leaving Oakley as the only facility in the case.
During the course of the settlement agreement’s corrective action period, state officials have made steady progress toward improving conditions of confinement at Oakley. On May 8, 2014, the monitor issued her 21st report indicating that the state had achieved and maintained substantial compliance with all required remedial measures in the settlement agreement. The department agrees with the monitor’s assessment.
“We commend the state of Mississippi and the Division of Youth Services for their commitment to protecting confined youth in its custody,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Molly Moran for the Civil Rights Division. “These improvements will help to ensure that safety, security, and required services are provided to all Oakley youth in a sustainable manner.”
“We are pleased that the state of Mississippi and the Division of Youth Services have been diligent about improving the conditions for youth confined at the Oakley Training School,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis for the Southern District of Mississippi. “The implemented reforms will benefit the youth confined at Oakley.”
The department initiated this investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Both statutes give the department the authority to seek a remedy for a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the constitutional or federal statutory rights of youth in juvenile justice institutions. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt