On October 16, 2000, we notified Maryland officials of our investigation into conditions in the Baltimore City Detention Center in Baltimore, Maryland. On August 13, 2002, we issued our findings. We identified serious problems including the failure to provide adequate protection from harm, inadequate medical and mental health care, and unsafe living conditions. We entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the State in January 16, 2007. Portions of the Memorandum were extended in April 2012. The United States is currently monitoring the State's efforts to address issues that were not fully resolved by the Memorandum of Agreement including juvenile programs, life safety conditions, and mental health care.
On March 21, 2012, the Division entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding certain conditions at the Dallas County Jail. In 2007, the Division had entered into a Court-approved Agreed Order, found here, terminated in November 2011. Based on the jurisdiction's substantial compliance with virtually all of the Agreed Order, and based on the fact that areas in only partial compliance were primarily tied to the construction of a new infirmary, the parties jointly moved for termination of the Agreed Order, and that request was granted by the District Court. The MOU, found here, requires the County to: (1) maintain compliance in all areas where substantial compliance had already been achieved; (2) achieve substantial compliance in the areas that were in partial compliance; (3) permit compliance monitoring and access by the United States and an Independent Monitor; and (4) bear the costs of monitoring by the Independent Monitor and any consultants he hires.
On February 5, 2016, we notified the Attorney General of Georgia of our investigation into the treatment of transgender and gay prisoners in the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections. We are partnering with the three U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Georgia to conduct the investigation. The investigation focuses on whether Georgia adequately protects transgender and gay prisoners from sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and assault by both staff and other prisoners.
Anyone with information related to this investigation may contact the Special Litigation Section through the following means:
- Toll-Free Phone Number: (844) 401-3736
- Email Address: Community.GeorgiaDOC@usdoj.gov
- Mailing Address: Monica DiGiandomenico, Outreach Specialist Special Litigation Section U.S. Department of Justice Patrick Henry Building 601 D Street, NW Washington, DC 20530
On November 4, 2003, we notified Grant County officials of our investigation into conditions in the Grant County Detention Center in Williamstown, Kentucky. On May 18, 2005, we issued our findings. We found that county officials had not taken adequate steps to protect prisoners from harm and to provide medical care. The County agreed to implement remedial measures in an August 2009 letter of agreement.
On June 4, 2009, we found unconstitutional conditions in our investigation of the Harris County Jail (HCJ) under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. We found that HCJ failed to provide prisoners with adequate medical care, mental health care, protection from serious physical harm, and protection from life safety hazards. The document here provides more information about our investigation, findings and remedial measures necessary to address our findings.
In April 2013 we conducted an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. In January 2014 we found unconstitutional conditions which subjected prisoners to a substantial risk of harm. These conditions included staff sexual abuse and sexual harassment of prisoners, prison officials’ failure to adequately respond and investigate allegations of sexual abuse and harassment, and systemic deficiencies that directly contribute to staff and prisoner sexual abuse and staff sexual harassment. In the findings letter we also noticed an expanded investigation into protection from harm, medical care, mental healthcare, and sanitation, which commenced in June 2014. On July 8, 2015 the District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division entered a consent decree between the United States and the State of Alabama, which can be found here. Since that time, we have accompanied the court-appointed monitor on twice yearly visits to the prison, in order to determine how successfully Alabama has implemented the changes outlined in the decree. Following each visit, the monitor has filed reports with the court that provide updates on the status of Alabama’s compliance with the decree.
On August 24, 2011, we made findings of unlawful conditions at the Miami-Dade County Jail (MDCJ). Our investigation was conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. We found that MDCJ provided prisoners with inadequate mental health care and suicide prevention; failed to protect prisoners from physical harm; and failed to provide sanitary and safe conditions. The document here provides more information about our investigation and findings.
On January 15, 2009, we notified Mobile County officials of the results of our investigation into conditions at the Mobile County Metro Jail (MCMJ). The County initially cooperated in this investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, but ceased communicating about the investigation in 2007. We continued our investigation through alternate sources and found unconstitutional conditions at MCMJ, including problems with inadequate mental health care; excessive restraint; failure to protect prisoners from physical harm; and unsafe and unsanitary conditions. The document here provides more information about our investigation and findings.
In October 1994, we opened an investigation of the Muscogee County Jail pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq. The investigation focused on the areas of security, medical and mental health care, suicide prevention, and environmental health and safety. We issued a letter of findings from this investigation on June 1, 1995, outlining serious constitutional deficiencies in all areas. On September 30, 1999, a federal district court approved and entered a consent agreement to correct these conditions. In January 2015, we entered a new agreement that will wind down enforcement of the long-standing consent decree. The new agreement expands on the 1999 decree by adding crucial safeguards for prisoners with serious mental illness, including landmark restrictions on the use of solitary confinement.
On July 31, 2008, we made findings of unlawful conditions at the Oklahoma County Jail and Jail Annex (OCJ) pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. We found that OCJ failed to provide detainees reasonable protection from harm; constitutionally-required mental health care services; adequate housing, sanitation and environmental protections; and protection from serious fire-safety risks. The document here provides more information on our investigation and findings. We entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the County addressing conditions at the Jail on November 5, 2009.
On December 23, 2008, we notified Orange County officials of our investigation into conditions in the Orange County Jail (OCJ) in Santa Ana, California. On March 4, 2014, we issued a letter with notice of the results of our investigation. We identified a number of concerns and recommendations involving the use of force, supervision practices, medical care, and mental health care.
On September 22, 2009, we found unconstitutional conditions in our investigation of the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. We found that OPP fails to protect prisoners from harm, including from use of excessive force by staff and violence from other prisoners. We also found that prisoners do not receive adequate mental health care and are exposed to dangerous environmental and sanitation conditions. The document here provides more information about our investigation and findings. On April 23, 2012, we issued an update to our 2009 findings that details continued problems.
On September 24, 2012, we filed a motion to intervene in a private lawsuit involving conditions at Orleans Parish Prison Jones v. Gusman, No. 2:12-cv-00859 (LMA) (E.D. La., filed Apr. 2,2012). The motion to intervene can be found here; the memorandum of law in support of the motion here; and the proposed complaint in intervention here.
On November 30, 2011, we opened an investigation into conditions at a State Correctional Institution in Cresson, Pennsylvania. On May 31, 2013, we issued our findings. We concluded that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections' (PDOC) use of long-term and extreme forms of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness at Cresson, many of whom also have intellectual disabilities, violated their rights under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We also expanded our investigation statewide, focusing on similar issues. On February 24, 2014, we issued findings concluding that PDOC was violating the rights of prisoners under the Eighth Amendment and the ADA statewide across Pennsylvania's 26 prisons.On April 14, 2016 we closed our investigation following significant improvements made by PDOC to its policies and practices that are intended to protect prisoners with serious mental illness and intellectual disabilities from the harmful effects of solitary confinement. PDOC worked to ensure that these prisoners are no longer subjected to solitary confinement and are instead provided with specialized treatment to meet their individualized needs. Our closing letter also identified areas where continued efforts at improvement would be appropriate.
On July 13, 2010, we notified the County of our intent to open an investigation of conditions at the Robertson County Detention Center. On August 26, 2011, we issued our findings that Robertson County failed to protect prisoners from harm due to inadequate suicide prevention measures and inadequate mental health services. On April 26, 2013, we entered into a Settlement Agreement with Robertson County to remedy the unconstitutional conditions at the Detention Center. The Settlement Agreement, found here, includes comprehensive provisions aimed at protecting prisoners from the harm and risk of harm due to an inadequate suicide prevention program, including appropriate screening by a qualified mental health professional to assess suicide risk; appropriate supervision, observation, and monitoring of prisoners identified as at risk of suicide; comprehensive policies and protocols to ensure that prisoners at risk of self harm are identified, protected, and treated; and adequate training in suicide prevention practices. The Settlement Agreement also contains comprehensive relief in a wide range of important areas involving mental health, including adequate assessments by trained professional staff, adequate multi-disciplinary treatment plans, appropriate medication administration, a quality assurance/performance improvement program, and adequate training on all mental health policies and procedures. The Settlement Agreement is an enforceable Order of the Court with compliance periodically assessed by an independent Monitor. The document found here is the Monitor's May 31, 2013 report.
In November 2010, we filed a Statement of Interest in a class action lawsuit challenging the Franklin County Sheriff's Office's use of conducted electric devices ("CEDs") (commonly known as "tasers") against detainees in its jails. We then filed a motion asking the Court to allow us to intervene as a party in this lawsuit. Our Complaint in Intervention alleged that the Franklin County Sheriff's Office violated 42 U.S.C. § 14141 by engaging in an unconstitutional pattern and practice of using CEDs in an abusive manner, failing to adequately investigate use of CEDs, and failing to adequately train corrections deputies in the use of CEDs. In February 2011, we resolved these claims by entering a court-enforceable settlement agreement with Franklin County. The Settlement Agreement requires the Franklin County Sheriff's Office to reforms its policies, procedures and training on use of CEDs and its internal investigations of all uses of CEDs. The Department monitors compliance with the Settlement Agreement.
In April 2011, we opened an investigation concerning the conditions at the St. Tammany Parish Jail ("St. Tammany") under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act . In July 2012, we found that unlawful conditions at St. Tammany violated the constitutional rights of prisoners. We found that St. Tammany failed to provide prisoners with adequate mental health care and suicide prevention. On August 15, 2013, the United States negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement to address the findings. The documents here provide more information about our investigation, findings, remedial measures, and settlement.
On May 23-26, 2011, we conducted an onsite inspection of the Topeka Correctional Facility ("TCF") to assess whether prisoners at TCF were subject to sexual abuse in violation of their constitutional rights under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. On September 6, 2012, we issued a Findings Letter in which we concluded that TCF failed to protect women prisoners from harm due to sexual abuse and misconduct by correctional staff and other prisoners in violation of their constitutional rights. On December 22, 2014 , the United States and the state of Kansas entered into a Memorandum of Agreement to address the findings. The Memorandum of Agreement, found here, requires the state to faithfully abide by the requirements embodied in the Prison Rape Elimination Act. The state will mandate zero tolerance toward all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment and implement policies and procedures that are designed to prevent, detect, and respond to such conduct; formulate a staffing plan that provides for adequate levels of staffing and, where applicable, video monitoring, to protect prisoners against sexual abuse; implement a classification system specific to the female population at TCF; maintain a risk assessment process that adequately identifies potential predators and victims; train TCF staff on all its responsibilities to prevent sexual abuse, including indentifying, detecting, reporting, and responding to incidents of sexual abuse; maintain guidelines for timely initiating and concluding investigations; ensure prompt corrective action following any administrative or criminal finding of sexual abuse or sexual harassment and subject staff to disciplinary sanctions up to and including termination; and maintain a grievance process that provides multiple internal ways for prisoners to privately report sexual abuse and sexual harassment, and any retaliation by other prisoners or staff. The agreement requires a Monitor to oversee implementation of the Agreement and issue a compliance report every six months.
On July 11, 2008, following an investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, we found unconstitutional conditions at the Cook County Jail. The problems identified in our findings letter included problems with security and safety, protection from harm, use of force, medical and mental health care, fire and life safety, and sanitation. On May 26, 2010, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois entered an Agreed Order that addressed those issues and appointed four experts in the areas of Corrections, Medical, Mental Health, and Sanitation to monitor Defendants' compliance with the Order, found here. These monitors submit reports to the court on a semiannual basis. The document here provides more information about our investigation and findings.
The United States and Erie County entered two court-enforceable agreements to remedy unconstitutional conditions at the Erie County Jail and the Erie County Correctional Facility in Buffalo, New York. Our investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act found systemic constitutional violations in the areas of suicide prevention, mental health and medical care, excessive force and protection from harm, and environmental safety (click here). The first agreement was entered in June 2010 to address immediately the problems with suicide prevention. The second agreement, entered in August 2011, remedies the remaining problems. The Department and two Technical Compliance Coordinators monitor the County's compliance with the agreements.
In May of 1991, the Court entered a Settlement Agreement between the United States and the Territory of Guam to remedy unconstitutional conditions in the Territory’s jail and prison facilities. The Settlement Agreement requires the Territory to make reforms in the areas of fire safety, security, sanitation, and the provision of medical, mental, and dental health care. The Territory has complied with a majority of the Settlement Agreement’s requirements, but is still working to remedy a few outstanding fire safety issues and its provision of health care to inmates and detainees. On January 16, 2015, the Court entered an Order establishing a schedule of objectives and deadlines, agreed to by the Parties, under which the Territory shall implement required reforms in fire safety and health care by November 2015. The Department of Justice‘s enforcement of the Settlement Agreement includes working cooperatively with the Territory and the Independent Monitor to ensure that detainees and inmates in Guam have adequate access to routine health care and safe environmental conditions.
In December 2011, we entered into a court enforceable Settlement Agreement with Lake County (click here) to remedy the unconstitutional conditions we found in our investigation of the Lake County Jail under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. The Settlement Agreement addresses problems we found with suicide prevention, use of force, medical care, mental health care, fire and life safety, sanitation, and training. The document here provides more information about our investigation and findings. The Department monitors compliance with the Settlement Agreement every six months and files a report with the Court.
U.S. v. Piedmont Regional Jail Authority, a case in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, concerns the rights of prisoners at the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, Va., to receive appropriate medical can mental health care. In March 2011, the Justice Department launched an investigation, using its authority under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, (CRIPA), into allegations that the Piedmont Regional Jail was not providing prisoners with constitutionally adequate medical care. In September 2012, the Justice Department released its findings that deficiencies in medical and mental health care at the jail exposed prisoners to an unreasonable risk of serious harm, and thus violated the Constitution. In September 2013, the Justice Department filed a complaint and simultaneous settlement agreement in the District Court, resolving the investigation. The settlement agreement was entered as an Order of the Court by Judge James Spencer on October 1, 2013. The agreement requires that the jail employs adequate, and sufficiently-credentialed, medical and mental health personnel; performs timely screening and appropriate health assessments of prisoners; establishes a chronic care program and an acceptable sick call process; provides clear policies and sufficient training to its staff; excludes certain essential services and follow-up services from co-payments, and otherwise reduces co-payments so that prisoners are not deterred from seeking needed health care. The agreement also requires the jail to develop and track data to analyze the performance of medical and mental health staff and work with an independent monitor to implement the changes described in the agreement and to evaluate the jail's success in effecting meaningful reform.
In 2007 we conducted a joint investigation with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York concerning conditions at the Westchester County Jail (WCJ). In November 2009, we found that unlawful conditions at WCJ violated the constitutional rights of inmates. We found that WCJ prisoners are not adequately protected from harm, including physical harm from use of excessive by staff, and do not receive adequate medical and mental health care. We continue to assess information about current conditions at the WCJ. The document here provides more information about our investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act and findings.
In the summaries below, a headline reference to "United States v." means that there is a case filed in Federal court. If there is no case filed in Federal court, the summary has a headline reference to the name of the relevant facility or agency involved in the administration of juvenile justice.
The United States has open investigations of two of Indiana's juvenile justice facilities. Those facilities are the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility ("Pendleton") and the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility ("Indianapolis," now known as Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility). The Department, along with experts in protection from harm, suicide prevention, mental health care, and special education, visited each facility several times. On January 29, 2010, the United States issued an investigative findings letter regarding Indianapolis, the State's sole girls' facility. On August 22, 2012, the United States issued a findings letter regarding Pendleton. As described in our letters, we found that each facility failed to provide youth with adequate protection from harm, mental health care, and special education services, in violation of the Constitution and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Resolution of our findings is pending.
In March 2011, the United States issued an investigative findings letter summarizing our investigation and concluding that conditions at the Leflore County Juvenile Detention Center violated the constitutional and federal statutory rights of the youth confined there. Leflore is a 30-bed short-term facility that serves large numbers of children annually due to high turnover and repeat confinements." The United States concluded that youth confined to Leflore County Juvenile Detention Center are: (1) exposed to excessive physical restraint and isolation as a means of discipline; (2) exposed to great risk of harm from inadequate mental health care, including inadequate screening, monitoring and treatment of youth who are suicidal; and (3) given inadequate educational opportunities.
On May 12, 2015, the United States filed a complaint concerning conditions at the Leflore County Juvenile Detention Center in the federal district court for the Northern District of Mississippi. On May 13, 2015, the United States and Leflore County jointly asked the court to approve a settlement agreement to resolve the United States’ complaint. On June 18, 2015, the court entered as its order a settlement agreement between the United States and the Leflore County Board of Supervisors. The agreement includes significant reforms regarding protection against harm and includes commitments eventually to eliminate disciplinary seclusion and restrict the use of cool-down seclusion.
After the state of Mississippi took control of the Leflore County School District, we expanded our investigation to include Mississippi’s role in providing educational services at the Juvenile Detention Center school. On January 12, 2016, the United States issued an investigative findings letter to the state of Mississippi describing our investigation and concluding that the provision of special education services at the Detention Center school violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1482 ("IDEA"). The letter found three specific violations of the IDEA. First, the Detention Center school failed to implement appropriate policies and procedures to identify, locate, and evaluate children with disabilities for special education services. Second, when children entered the Detention Center already identified as requiring special education services, the Detention Center school did not obtain the student’s individualized education program (IEP) promptly. Third, because children with disabilities were either unidentified or their IEPs were not obtained promptly, the Detention Center school failed to provide them a free appropriate public education.
On June 26, 2019, the United States closed its investigation of the state of Mississippi regarding the provision of special education services at the Detention Center school. As described in the closing letter, the United States determined that the Detention Center school had improved practices in three key areas: (1) implementing appropriate Child Find policies to identify, locate and evaluate children with disabilities; (2) promptly obtaining students’ IEPs and related records from their home schools; and (3) providing students with the educational services described in their IEPs.
In October 2008, the United States and the County of Los Angeles ("County") agreed to remedy conditions in the Los Angeles County Probation Camps ("Camps"). At the time of the investigation, the County operated 19 Camps, which housed approximately 2,200 youth. Theagreement resolved the United States' investigation and findings of unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Specifically, the United States found that the Camps failed to protect youth from harm and failed to provide youth with adequate suicide prevention and mental health services. By October 2012, the County had complied with most of the provisions of the agreement, but several remained outstanding. The parties then amended the agreement to include additional specificity regarding the outstanding provisions, and to add a new provision requiring the County to increase access to community-based placements as alternatives to incarceration. The County is expected to reach compliance with the amended agreement by December 31, 2014. A team of independent monitors evaluates the County's compliance.
In November 2016 the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in Kenny, et al v. Wilson, et al. articulating the United States’ position that laws invoked to charge juveniles must include clear standards to ensure that they are enforced consistently and free from discrimination. In Kenny, a case before the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, a proposed class of students and a non-profit youth services organization allege that two state laws – the disturbing schools statute and the disorderly conduct statute – are unconstitutionally vague. As a consequence, plaintiffs assert, the laws do not provide students with notice of what conduct is criminally prohibited and they lead to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. In Kenny, the plaintiffs allege that African-American students are nearly four times more likely to be referred for criminal “disturbing schools” charges than white students and that the disparity is even starker in certain counties.
The brief emphasizes that vague statues enforced arbitrarily contribute to the “school-to-prison pipeline,” the cycle of harsh school discipline that brings young people into the justice system and disproportionately affects, among others, students of color and students with disabilities. In the filing, the department explains that “significant racial disparities in the enforcement of a criminal statute may indicate that the statute is unconstitutionally vague” in violation of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. Laws that lack clear standards and do not provide sufficient guidance to law enforcement can lead to arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement. The brief highlights examples from the department’s juvenile justice and law enforcement experience to illustrate the link between vague standards and unconstitutional practices.
The Justice Department has opened an investigation of the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. The investigation will review conditions at the Broad River Road Complex, South Carolina’s long-term juvenile commitment facility, including whether the Department of Juvenile Justice fails to protect youth from physical abuse by other youth and by staff, and subjects youth to prolonged solitary confinement.
The investigation will also review whether the Department of Juvenile Justice violates the Americans with Disabilities Act in its use of pre-sentencing residential evaluation centers. In particular, the Department is assessing whether youth with disabilities, including mental health and cognitive disabilities, receive reasonable modifications so they can benefit from the community-based evaluation process and have an equal opportunity to benefit from community-based evaluations.
If you have relevant information regarding the conduct of South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice, please contact us via email at SCJuvenile.Justice @usdoj.gov, by phone (toll-free) at 1-844-380-6166, or by mail at U.S. Department of Justice, Special Litigation Section, Civil Rights Division, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20530 (attn.: Jaclyn Weiner)
United States v. City of Meridian; County of Lauderdale; Judge Frank Coleman, in his official capacity; Judge Veldore Young, in her official capacity; State of Mississippi; Mississippi Department of Human Services; and Mississippi Division of Youth Services, Mississippi (S.D. Miss)
In October 2012, the United States filed a lawsuit against the City of Meridian, Mississippi; Lauderdale County, Mississippi; Judges of the Lauderdale County Youth Court; and the State of Mississippi alleging that these defendants systematically violate the due process rights of juveniles. The United States filed the complaint following an eight-month investigation finding that the City, County, Youth Court, and State help to operate a school-to-prison pipeline in which the rights of children in Meridian are repeatedly and routinely violated. The lawsuit includes claims that defendants systematically incarcerate children in Meridian for allegedly committing minor offenses, including school disciplinary infractions, and punish children disproportionately without due process of law, in violation of the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. On September 18, 2015, the United States District Court entered Orders approving settlement agreements between the United States and the City of Meridian and the State of Mississippi. The agreements include reforms regarding policies, practices and training regarding arrests for school-based offenses and youth probation practices. The department’s allegations that defendants Lauderdale County and the Lauderdale County Youth Court Judges failed to provide basic due process protections for children have not been resolved, and remain in litigation. The Department welcomes feedback from the community. If you have comments or concerns, please feel free to contact us via email at Community.Meridian@crt.usdoj.gov or by phone at 855-544-5131.
In 1997, the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico entered into a Consent Order to remedy the unconstitutional conditions the United States identified in several juvenile facilities throughout Puerto Rico. The agreement seeks to: protect children from harm and unsafe conditions, including violence and sexual abuse at the hands of facility staff; ensure that children receive education while confined; and ensure that they are provided adequate medical and mental health care. The Department of Justice is actively litigating this case and continues to push for reform.
In June 2008, the United States and the State of Ohio entered into a court enforceable Consent Decree to remedy the unconstitutional conditions the United States found at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility ("Scioto") and Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility ("Marion"). The Consent Decree required the State to reform its policies, procedures, and practices in the following areas: (1) protection from harm, (2) education, (3) mental health, (4) programming and orientation, (5) medical care, and (6) grievances. Since 2008, the United States has worked with monitors to assess the State's compliance with the various provisions in the Consent Decree. In 2009, Marion was closed and no longer monitored.
In June 2011, the United States and the State revised and extended their agreement. Because the State had demonstrated compliance with certain provisions of the Consent Decree, the parties agreed to dismiss those provisions. The United States monitored a variety of provisions involving mental health, protection from harm, special education, grievances and programming and orientation. As part of this process, the United States visited Scioto, interviewed youth, reviewed documentation and worked with the Monitor.
In December 2012, the United States and the State reached a supplemental agreement to reform the State's use of isolation and failure to provide treatment in the special management unit at Scioto. The Court approved this agreement in January 2013. Between November 2013 and January 2014, however, monitoring data revealed that the State continued to use unlawful seclusion on youth at Scioto as well as youth at Indian River Juvenile Correctional Facility ("Indian River"), Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility ("Circleville") and Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility ("Cuyahoga Hills").
On March 12, 2014, the Justice Department sought to supplement its original complaint to include the continuing use of unlawful seclusion at Indian River, Circleville and Cuyahoga Hills. The Court granted the motion on March 28, 2014.
On May 21, 2014, the Court entered an Agreed Order resolving allegations that the State unlawfully subjected youth with mental health needs to harmful seclusion and withheld treatment and programming, in violation of their constitutional rights. Under the Agreed Order, the State pledged to dramatically curtail its use of seclusion and ensure youth receive individualized mental health treatment to prevent and address violent behaviors that led to seclusion. A monitoring team was to obtain data from the State to assist in assessing the State's compliance with the Agreed Order. The Agreed Order also embodied the State's commitment eventually to eliminate the use of seclusion as a punitive measure for all youth in the State's juvenile correctional facilities.
On December 8, 2015, the federal district court for the Southern District of Ohio granted the parties’ joint motion to terminate the Agreed Order. The court noted the “remarkable improvement” in conditions of confinement at the State’s juvenile correctional facilities. The court commended the State for numerous improvements, including the abolition of the practice of disciplinary seclusion, its “vastly improved” mental health services, and a reduction in the incarcerated population from over 2000 children to fewer than 500 today. The monitoring team prepared and filed with the court a detailed report that explained the reforms the State made “to memorialize [the State’s] major policy and practice decisions for the benefit of others in the field.”
On October 14, 2014 the United States filed a Statement of Interest in Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program v. SafetyNet Youthcare, Inc., a case in which the defendant denied access to the local protection and advocacy organization. The Statement of Interest expresses the United States' view that facilities must permit access under the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act to all residents regardless of whether the facility characterizes some residents as having a less serious mental health disorder than others.
On December 12, 2014, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama granted summary judgment in favor of the local protection and advocacy organization. The court held that defendant's denial of access violated the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 10801 – 10851 (2012). The court issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendant from denying the protection and advocacy organization reasonable access to defendant's programs. The court's opinion is at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/documents/adap_order_12-12-14.pdf.
In July 2010, the United States filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief in this class action. We supported the arguments made by a class of individuals with developmental disabilities who sought to end their unjustified segregation in Pennsylvania's large, publicly-run congregate care institutions. In January 2011, the Court ruled in favor of the class members, finding that Defendants had violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, by unnecessarily institutionalizing the class members. Mem. & Order, Benjamin v. Department of Public Welfare, No. 09-cv-1182 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 27, 2011). The Court encouraged the parties to negotiate an agreement to remedy that violation. The parties submitted a settlement agreement for the Court's approval in May 2011. The Court held a fairness hearing to determine whether the agreement was fair, adequate, and reasonable. Following the hearing, in September 2011, the Court approved the agreement.
Since that time, representatives of a group of individuals who live in these state institutions and wish to remain there have appealed the Court's order approving the settlement agreement to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. (Benjamin et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, et al., Nos. 11-3684, 11-3685 (3d Cir.)). They argue that the relief given to the class members will hurt their ability to stay in the institutions. They also argue that the settlement agreement should not have been approved because it assumes that institutionalized individuals who are unable to express a preference regarding their placements can be moved to community-based services if appropriate. The class members and Pennsylvania defendants together filed a brief opposing those arguments on April 3, 2012. Shortly thereafter, the United States filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the settlement agreement. We argued that the settlement agreement is fair and reasonable. We also explained that because federal law strongly favors the integration of individuals with disabilities into the community over segregation in large institutions, an institutionalized person who can live in the community but cannot express a preference regarding placement and has no guardian or involved family member, should be provided with community-based services.
In December 2012, the Third Circuit ruled that the group of individuals who wish to remain in the state's congregate care institutions has an interest in the settlement agreement and that those individuals were not adequately represented by any other party in the lawsuit. The Third Circuit therefore reversed the district court's order approving the settlement and sent the case back to the district court. The Third Circuit ruled that this time, the group of individuals must be permitted to participate in the remaining stages of the lawsuit. The case is now back before the district court.
On January 10, 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted the joint motion of the United States, Plaintiffs and the District of Columbia to dismiss all Court Orders in Evans v. Bowser, Civ. Action No. 26-293. The motion was based on the District’s substantial compliance with the terms of a remedial order, the 2010 Revision to the 2001 Plan for Compliance and Conclusion of Evans v. Fenty. This concluded a case first filed by private plaintiffs in 1977 concerning the care and treatment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the District of Columbia. The United States joined that litigation by intervention in 1978. Over the years, the Court entered additional Consent Orders requiring the District of Columbia to place class members into integrated community homes and programs. The District continued in contempt of these orders for many years. The 2010 Revision to the 2001 Plan for Compliance consolidated all outstanding court orders and hired an Independent Compliance Officer to monitor progress. On the same day that it entered its order finally dismissing the case, the Court held a public hearing that praised the efforts of many involved, and included testimony from several class members.
Amanda D., et al. v. Wood Hasan, et al.; United States v. New Hampshire (formerly Lynn E. v. Lynch)
1:12-CV-53-LM (D. N.H. 2012)
On December 19, 2013, the Department, along with a coalition of private plaintiff organizations, entered into a comprehensive Settlement Agreement with the State of New Hampshire that will significantly expand and enhance mental health service capacity in integrated community settings over the next six years. The Agreement is a full consent decree entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire as a Court order on February 12, 2014. The Agreement also provides for regular compliance reviews and public reporting by an independent monitor.
The Agreement will enable a class of thousands of adults with serious mental illness to receive expanded and enhanced services in the community, which will foster their independence and enable them to participate more fully in community life. It will significantly reduce visits to hospital emergency rooms and will avoid unnecessary institutionalization at State mental health facilities, including New Hampshire Hospital (the State's only psychiatric hospital) and the Glencliff Home (a State-owned and –operated nursing facility for people with mental illness).
The Agreement requires the State, for the first time, to create mobile crisis teams in the most populated areas of the State and to create crisis apartments to help support team efforts at avoiding hospitalization or institutionalization. The Agreement also requires the State to make enhanced Assertive Community Treatment ("ACT") team services available statewide, such that the mental health system can provide ACT to at least 1,500 people at any given time. The Agreement requires the State to provide scattered-site, permanent, supported housing to hundreds of additional people throughout the state; the State will also create special residential community settings to address the needs of persons with complex health care issues who have had difficulty accessing sufficient community services in the past. The State will also deliver additional and enhanced supported employment services, consistent with the Dartmouth evidence-based model, to hundreds of new recipients throughout the state.
The Settlement Agreement resolves litigation that had been contested for well over a year. Private Plaintiffs filed the initial complaint in February 2012, and on April 4, 2012, the Court granted the Department's motion to intervene. On April 7, 2011, the United States had issued a Findings Letter concluding that the State of New Hampshire was failing to provide services to individuals with mental illness in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs in violation of the ADA, which led to the needless and prolonged institutionalization of individuals with disabilities and placed individuals with disabilities at risk of unnecessary institutionalization. On September 17, 2013, after months of discovery and a hearing with oral argument, the Court certified a class of Plaintiffs consistent with parameters supported by Plaintiffs and the United States. Shortly thereafter, settlement talks resumed which produced the instant Agreement.
In December 2016, the United States notified Louisiana that it had concluded that the State violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by unnecessarily institutionalizing people with mental illness in nursing facilities. In June 2018, we entered an Agreement to resolve the Department’s investigation. The agreement focuses on diverting Louisianans from inappropriate placement, planning for successful transitions from nursing facility stays, and developing capacity in proven community-based services.
United States v. State of Mississippi / Mississippi Service System for People with Developmental Disabilities and Mental Illness
The United States issued a findings letter in December 2011 concluding that Mississippi is violating the ADA's integration mandate in its provision of services to people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. Following an investigation, the Department found that the State of Mississippi has failed to meet its obligations under the ADA by unnecessarily institutionalizing persons with mental illness or developmental disabilities and failing to ensure that they are offered a meaningful opportunity to live in integrated community settings appropriate to their needs. The Department recommended that the State implement remedial measures, including the development of community-based services for people with developmental disabilities or mental illness who are unnecessarily institutionalized, or at risk of unnecessary institutionalization.
On August 11, 2016, the United States filed a lawsuit against the State of Mississippi, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons (“CRIPA”) alleging it violates Title II of the ADA and Olmstead by unnecessarily segregating people with mental illness in its state hospitals and placing people with mental illness at serious risk of hospitalization as a result of insufficient community-based services. The complaint alleges that the state’s failure to provide services in community settings forces adults with mental illness to access services in segregated state hospitals, including the Mississippi State Hospital, East Mississippi State Hospital, North Mississippi State Hospital, and South Mississippi State Hospital.
Anyone with information related to this matter may contact the Special Litigation Section through the following means:
- Toll-Free Phone Number: (844) 664-0224
- Email Address: Community.Mississippi@usdoj.gov
- Mailing Address: Special Litigation Section, U.S. Department of Justice Patrick Henry Building 601 D Street, NW Washington, DC 20530
This ADA case involves all persons with developmental disabilities (“DD”) served in the Commonwealth’s system. Over the years, through a series of consent decrees, along with regular court oversight and involvement, the Division has been able to prompt the Commonwealth to close all six of its residential institutions and to create, from nothing, a community service system to meet the needs of hundreds of persons with DD in integrated community settings. In 2011, the Court entered as a Court order, a Joint Compliance Action plan that summarized prior Court orders and imposed additional requirements on the Commonwealth. On October 31, 2016, the Court issued an order that clarified that the group covered by existing orders in this case included all persons with DD in the system and was not limited to just those who at one time resided in a Commonwealth institution. In recent years, the Court has issued a series of orders to protect the budget of the Commonwealth’s DD program from drastic and arbitrary cuts during the decade-long fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico. These orders have prevented service interruption and termination for hundreds of vulnerable people in need of individualized DD services. The Division continues to work with the Commonwealth to improve its delivery of health care and behavioral services for people with complex conditions, as well as to increase the number of people working in integrated community settings.
In November 2012, the United States and the State of Oregon entered into an agreed process in order to resolve a 2010 investigation into Oregon's mental health system pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The United States had previously investigated the Oregon State Hospital under CRIPA and issued a findings letter in January 2008 that concluded that conditions at the Oregon State Hospital violated individuals' rights. In 2012 the parties agreed that the state would work to develop an adequate array of community mental health services in order to help individuals with serious and persistent mental illness live successfully in the community and prevent their unnecessary institutionalization. Under the agreed process, the state is required to provide the United States with data about mental health services and the people served in order to assess what gaps exist in the community mental health system. The parties will then develop outcome measures that the state must meet in order to resolve the investigation.
In January 2014, the United States issued an Interim Report, in which it noted a number of concerning trends, including: the state's failure to provide individuals with services in the community instead of in restrictive inpatient settings; limited improvements in outcomes for individuals; and a lack of high intensity quality community services. The state has since provided updated data to the United States, and the parties will soon begin negotiating outcome measures.
On September 13, 2013, the United States filed a Statement of Interest in Sciarrillo v. Christie, a case in which private plaintiffs oppose the state's deinstitutionalization plan for its facilities housing people with developmental disabilities. The Statement of Interest expresses the United States' view that plaintiffs failed to assert a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In December 2013, the District Court of New Jersey dismissed the plaintiffs’ suit, rejecting this “obverse Olmstead” argument.
On March 7, 2016, the United States District Court for the District of Idaho issued a declaratory judgment in Sonnenberg v. Disability Rights Idaho, Inc, granting to a protection and advocacy organization (“P&A”) access to a coroner’s records under the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. § 10801 et seq. (“PAIMI”). The dispute arose when a county coroner refused to provide its investigatory records to the P&A, arguing that a P&A’s right of access to records under PAIMI does not extend to a coroner’s records of its death investigation. The coroner had also cited privacy concerns and questioned the P&A’s probable cause to investigate the death. The court held that the coroner was an “agency charged with investigating” reports of incidents of abuse, neglect, and injury under PAIMI. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the P&A, held that the coroner had violate PAIMI by withholding its investigatory records, and permanently enjoined the coroner from withholding the records from the P&A.
In June 2007, we settled our investigation of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., resolving claims that St. Elizabeths Hospital violated the rights of people confined to St. Elizabeths . We found were that the District did not provide lawful care to people at St. Elizabeths in the areas of protection from harm; psychiatric and psychological care; medical and nursing care; and discharge planning and providing care in the most integrated setting. The District Court of the District of Columbia entered the negotiated settlement as an order of the Court. he court. n the United States and the District of Columbia, the Department of Mental Health, and St. Elizabeths Hospital, to remedy the constitutional violations found. On October 26, 2011, the court approved a modified settlement agreement that focuses on certain key areas of the agreement that are still not in compliance.
On September 20, 2012, the Court granted the United States' request to intervene in a pending lawsuit against the State of Texas. The suit claims that Texas unnecessarily segregates individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in nursing facilities, and that this violates the law under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
In August 2013, the Parties entered a two-year Interim Settlement that required the State to begin expanding community alternatives to nursing facilities. During this time, the Parties negotiated extensively to reach a comprehensive settlement of all remaining issues. Litigation resumed in October 2015, after settlement negotiations failed and the Interim Agreement expired. In May 2016, the Court denied the State’s motions to dismiss the lawsuit and granted the private Plaintiffs’ renewed motion for class certification. The United States had filed a brief in support of the Plaintiffs’ motion, which asked the Court to resolve the common claims of over 4,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities “who currently or will in the future reside in nursing facilities, or who are being, will be, or should be screened for admission . . .”. The Parties are now in the early stages of discovery.
Plaintiffs in Thomas et al. v. Kent et al., 2:CV14-08013-FMO-AGR (C.D. Cal.) are individuals with significant physical disabilities requiring substantial care. They allege that California imposes unnecessarily low limits on the cost of services authorized under one of its Medicaid waiver programs, and does not have appropriate systems in place to permit exceptions to those limits when necessary to avoid unnecessary institutionalization. In a series of Statements of Interest, the United States has clarified: States’ obligations to ensure that any limitations on services are implemented in a manner which avoids placing individuals with disabilities at risk of unnecessary institutionalization; that the integration mandate applies to individuals at serious risk of institutionalization; and the narrow application of the fundamental alteration defense.
On October 11, 2016, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware agreed with the joint motion of the State and the Department of Justice that Delaware had fully complied with the terms of a remedial agreement that mandated improvements to the State’s system for people with mental illness. The Department of Justice determined that Delaware had complied with the terms of the agreement based on the independent court monitor’s Tenth Report which found the State in substantial compliance with all provisions of the agreement. In 2011, the court approved the settlement agreement and entered it as a court order.
The goals of the Agreement were to ensure that people who are unnecessarily institutionalized can receive the treatment they need in the community; to ensure that individuals in health crisis have sufficient community resources available to avoid unnecessarily being hospitalized or arrested or jailed; and to ensure that people with mental illness in the community are not forced to enter institutions because of the lack of stable housing and intensive treatment options.
Over the course of five years, Delaware put in place sufficient and appropriate community-based mental health services to assist individuals with mental illness to live successfully in the community. The State also demonstrated the ability to use data to drive-decision making. As a result, individuals with mental illness in Delaware are now able to live in their homes and avoid unnecessary segregation.
The United States brought two separate cases against the State of Georgia involving its public services for people with mental health or development disabilities. Each lawsuit was resolved through separate landmark settlement agreements. Currently, the 2010 case remains pending. In the 2010 settlement agreement, the State agreed to expand its community services system, including crisis services, case management, housing supports, and other services supporting full integration in daily life for thousands of people with mental illness or developmental disabilities receiving State services. The Court appointed an Independent Reviewer to assess the State's progress under the agreement.
The Independent Reviewer issues annual Compliance Reports: Year One Report (2011), Year Two Report (2012), Year Three Report (2013), Supplemental Report (March 2014), Year Four Report (2014), and Year Five Report (2015).
The 2009 settlement agreement resolved the United States' claims that persons with mental illness or developmental disabilities were harmed by unnecessary confinement in State Hospitals. That agreement resolved claims that the State failed to prevent harm to patients in the State Hospitals, and failed to prepare them for successful discharge to the most integrated settings. The State complied with the requirements of the 2009 settlement, and the Court dismissed that case in early 2014.
On May 27, 2016, the Court entered an order adopting the parties' negotiated Extension Agreement, extending and supplementing the court-ordered relief under the 2010 Settlement Agreement in this case. The Extension Agreement resolves the Unites States' Motion to Show Cause, alleging that the State had not provided sufficient community-based services to people with developmental disabilities or serious mental illness who were targeted to receive those services under the 2010 Agreement. On June 22, 2016, the Independent Reviewer filed with the Court a supplemental report, identifying both progress and ongoing challenges in implementing the Settlement Agreement. The parties and community stakeholders are working collaboratively to ensure the success of the Extension Agreement, so that people in the target populations can receive necessary services in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs, as required by the ADA.
In January 2009, the United States and the State of Connecticut filed a Settlement Agreement in federal court to resolve the United States' CRIPA investigation into the care and treatment of residents at the Connecticut Valley Hospital ("CVH"). CVH is the State's principal forensic, general psychiatric, and addictions in-patient treatment facility, serving approximately 500 individuals. On September 10, 2013, the Parties agreed that the State had achieved substantial compliance with the terms of the Settlement Agreement involving treatment planning; mental health assessments; psychiatric and psychological services; documentation; seclusion and restraint; suicide prevention; and protection from harm. The State remained in partial compliance with the provisions requiring the State to ensure that each resident is served in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs and to pursue adequate community placement for those residents who no longer require hospital care. Consequently, the Parties dismissed all provisions of the Settlement Agreement found in substantial compliance and agreed to extend the provisions of the Settlement Agreement governing Discharge Planning and Community Integration until September 10, 2015, with a 60-day negotiation period if an independent Monitor finds non-compliance at that time. The current Monitor will continue to assess compliance with those provisions of the Settlement Agreement and issue a progress report every six months.
In January 2010, a federal court entered as its order the Consent Judgment we negotiated with New York City to resolve claims of unlawful conditions in the psychiatric emergency room and psychiatric in-patient units at the Kings County Hospital Center (KCHC) in Brooklyn, N.Y. Under the terms of the Consent Judgment, New York City worked to ensure that patients at KCHC are safe and receive the care and services necessary to meet their individualized needs. The agreement underscores the city's obligation to actively pursue the discharge of patients to the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs and to provide follow-up services. The city also agreed to take actions such as improving medical and mental health care, and ensuring that patients are free from undue restraint. A team of expert consultants visited periodically to assess the City’s compliance and offer technical assistance. On November 20, 2017, the Court dismissed the Consent Judgment on the parties’ joint motion, because the City had satisfied its terms.
United States v. Tennessee (Clover Bottom Developmental Center) (M.D. Tn.), Nashville and Greeneville, TN
The United States brought suit against the State of Tennessee in 1996, concerning conditions of care and the right to care in integrated settings for residents of Clover Bottom Developmental Center, Greene Valley Developmental Center, and Nat. T. Winston Center. The State and the United States, along with two intervenors, settled the case in 1996 through the entry of a settlement agreement that called for both improved conditions within the centers and the integration of residents into community settings. (See Settlement Agreement.) Shortly after the initiation of the suit, the State closed Nat T. Winston Center. The State closed Clover Bottom Developmental Center in November 2015. The State is now in the process of closing Greene Valley Developmental Center. In 2015, the Court approved an Exit Plan designed to resolve this litigation by bringing to fruition planned improvements in respite care, individual support planning, and other areas. The Exit Plan also provides for oversight of individuals' transition to community living during the closure of Greene Valley Developmental Center.
In 2006 and 2008, we issued findings letters regarding Texas' 13 State-Supported Living Centers ("SSLCs") for individuals with disabilities. Our investigation found that the State had failed to provide facility residents with adequate discharge planning and placement in the most integrated setting, protection from harm, behavioral and mental health services, health care, and integrated supports and services, in violation of the Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Title XIX of the Social Security Act. In June 2009, we entered into a court-ordered settlement agreement with the State to remedy the deficiencies we identified. Teams of independent monitors monitor the State's compliance with the agreement. At the time of our investigations, the facilities housed approximately 5,000 residents; today, the population is fewer than 3,400 residents
On January 26, 2012, we reached a settlement resolving our investigation into whether persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Virginia are being served in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. We filed the action in the federal district court in Richmond, Virginia and asked the Court to make our settlement an order enforceable by the Court.
The Agreement has two primary goals. One is to prevent the unnecessary institutionalization of individuals with developmental disabilities who are living in the community, including thousands of individuals on waitlists for community-based services. The other, equal goal is to ensure that people who are currently in institutions - at the Commonwealth's training centers or in other private but state-funded facilities - have a meaningful opportunity to receive services that meet their needs in the community.
The Commonwealth will increase opportunities for these individuals to receive quality services in the community by creating approximately 4,200 home and community-based waivers. Waivers allow the States to pay community providers for services to people who are eligible to receive those Medicaid-funded services in an institution. The 4,200 waivers will be created over a ten year period. Almost 3,000 of these waivers will be targeted to individuals with intellectual disabilities on the waitlist or youth with intellectual disabilities in private facilities; another 450 waivers will be targeted to individuals with non-intellectual developmental disabilities on the waitlist or youth in private facilities; and another 800 waivers will be targeted to individuals choosing to leave the training centers. An additional 1,000 individuals on waitlists for community services will receive family supports to help provide care in their family home or their own home.
The Commonwealth will also create a comprehensive community crisis system, including a hotline, mobile crisis teams, and crisis stabilization programs, to divert people from unnecessary institutionalization or other out-of-home placements. The Commonwealth will implement an "Employment First" policy to create work opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. The Agreement also creates an $800,000 fund for housing assistance to help people with developmental disabilities live independently. Finally, the Agreement requires a strong quality and risk management system to ensure that community-based services are safe and effective. An independent reviewer will assess whether the Commonwealth has met the goals of the Agreement.
We opened an investigation of the W.F. Green State Veterans' Home in Bay Minette, Alabama, in November 2007. In December 2008, we found that residents of W.F. Green suffer significant harm from deficient care, including inadequate medical and nursing services assessments, planning, and care; inadequate nutritional and hydration services; improper and dangerous psychotropic medication practices. We also found that the State failed to provide services to residents in the most integrated setting, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. With the assistance of a mediator, in January 2011 the parties entered a Memorandum of Understanding to address the findings. W.F. Green complied with our agreement, and in October 2012 the Department closed the investigation.
In May of 2015, the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. On August 10, 2016, we released the results of our investigation. We found that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of unlawful stops, searches, and arrests; these unlawful stops, searches and arrests disproportionately harm African Americans in Baltimore, resulting in disparities, along with other evidence of intentional discrimination, that erodes public trust; BPD engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force and discrimination against people with mental health disabilities or in crisis; and BPD routinely suppresses protected speech. We had serious concerns that gender bias may be compromising the effectiveness of BPD’s sexual assault investigations and that BPD’s transportation practices may continue to be deficient despite reforms. We found systemic deficiencies contributed to the violations we observed, including insufficient policies, inadequate training, failures to collect and analyze data, a lack of oversight, and a failure to hold its officers accountable for misconduct. DOJ found that these ongoing violations further a deep divide between BPD and many of the communities it has sworn to serve and protect, and impede legitimate law enforcement activities.
On January 12, 2017, we filed a complaint and court-enforceable consent decree, overseen by independent monitoring, in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland to ensure sustainable, constitutional, and effective policing. This consent decree, which was negotiated with the City of Baltimore, requires the Baltimore Police Department (“BPD”) to remedy the Justice Department’s finding that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law. The documents here provide more information about the investigation, our findings, the court-enforceable consent decree, and next steps.
In March of 2013, following a series of highly-publicized use-of-force incidents that suggested critical flaws exist in use-of-force policies, procedures, and practices within the Cleveland Division of Police ("CDP"), in Cleveland, Ohio, we opened an investigation pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that focused on CDP's use of force, including deadly force. The investigation, which concluded in December 2014, revealed that CDP engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. We also determined that structural deficiencies and practices, including insufficient accountability, inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement with the community, contribute to CDP's use of excessive force. To address these findings, in May 2015, the Justice Department and the City of Cleveland entered into a court-enforceable agreement, overseen by an independent monitoring team, that requires CDP to implement widespread reforms that focus on building community trust; creating a culture of community and problem-oriented policing; improving officer safety, training, and accountability; and implementing technological upgrades.
The Special Litigation Section opened an investigation of the East Haven Police Department (EHPD) on September 30, 2009 pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. As the investigation progressed, we expanded the investigation to include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We announced the results of our investigation on December 19, 2011. We found that EHPD engages in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing against Latinos in violation of the Constitution and federal law. In particular, we found that EHPD targeted Latinos for discriminatory traffic enforcement, treated Latinos more harshly than non-Latinos after traffic stops, and intentionally failed to design and implement internal systems that would identify and prevent the discriminatory conduct. On November 20, 2012, we entered an agreement resolving our investigation and asked the Court to make our settlement an order enforceable by the Court. The agreement, which was negotiated with the Town of East Haven and the EHPD, provides a comprehensive framework to remedy the issues we found. Since that time, a Joint Compliance Expert ("JCE") has monitored EHPD's compliance with the agreement, providing periodic reports to the Court. The documents here provide more information about the investigation, our findings, the agreement, and EHPD's compliance efforts.
In September 2014, the Department of Justice opened an investigation of the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The investigation focused on allegations that Ferguson law enforcement engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution and federal statutory law. On March 4, 2015, DOJ announced the results of the investigation, finding that FPD's police and municipal court practices systematically violate the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. DOJ determined that FPD's approach to law enforcement is unduly focused on revenue generation and that its practices both reflect and exacerbate existing race bias. As a result, Ferguson's law enforcement practices discriminate against African Americans and decrease trust between the Ferguson community and law enforcement, hampering FPD's ability to ensure public safety. On March 17, 2016, the parties jointly filed a proposed consent decree in federal court to address the conduct that DOJ’s investigation found. On April 19, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri approved and entered the parties’ jointly-filed consent decree. The documents here provide more information about the investigation, DOJ’s findings, and the consent decree.
In May 2012, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into allegations that the Missoula County Attorney's Office was failing to adequately respond to and investigate reports of sexual assault, and thus engaging in sex discrimination in violation of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. The DOJ investigation of the Missoula County Attorney's Office was part of a broader civil pattern or practice investigation into allegations that Missoula law enforcement, including the Missoula Police Department and the University of Montana's Office of Public Safety, was systematically failing to protect adult women victims of sexual assault. On June 10, 2014, DOJ entered into a settlement agreement with the Missoula County Attorney's Office, the Montana Attorney General, and Missoula County, aimed at ensuring impartial and effective investigation and prosecution of reports of sexual assault by the Missoula County Attorney's Office. Under the agreement, the Missoula County Attorney's Office will develop and implement sexual assault policies and training for prosecutors; improve treatment of individuals who report sexual assault; use prosecution techniques that have been shown to result in better sexual assault investigations; improve communication and coordination with other Missoula stakeholders regarding sexual assault response; and improve the tracking and sharing of data regarding sexual assault prosecutions. The documents here provide more information about the investigation and settlement, including the DOJ investigative findings (released February 14, 2014) and the settlement agreement between DOJ, Missoula County Attorney's Office, the Montana Attorney General, and Missoula County.
In May 2012, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into allegations that the Missoula Police Department was failing to adequately respond to and investigate reports of sexual assault, and thus engaging in sex discrimination in violation of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. The DOJ investigation of the Missoula Police Department (Missoula Police) was part of a broader civil pattern or practice investigation into allegations that Missoula law enforcement, including the Missoula County Attorney's Office and the University of Montana's Office of Public Safety, was systematically failing to protect adult women victims of sexual assault. On May 16, 2013, DOJ entered into a comprehensive agreement with the Missoula Police, aimed at ensuring a fair and effective police response to reports of sexual assault. The agreement requires, among other things, that the Missoula Police implement or revise policies, provide training, and change practices to improve its response to sexual assault; work with an Independent Reviewer, community organizations, and other stakeholders, to develop and implement the agreement's reforms; facilitate the development of an External Review Panel to conduct reviews of closed sexual assault cases handled by the Missoula Police and University of Montana's campus police department; and develop procedures for gathering and analyzing data to evaluate and assess its response to sexual assault. The documents here provide more information about the investigation and settlement, including the DOJ investigative findings; the settlement agreement between the DOJ and Missoula Police; and the Independent Reviewer's reports on the Missoula Police Department's implementation of the agreement.
In May 2012, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into allegations that the University of Montana's Office of Public Safety – the university's campus police department - was failing to adequately respond to and investigate reports of sexual assault, and thus engaging in sex discrimination in violation of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. At the same time, DOJ, together with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, launched a separate, concurrent investigation, pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, into the University of Montana's handling of complaints of sexual assault and harassment. On May 9 2013, DOJ entered into two separate, comprehensive agreements with the University of Montana – one aimed at ensuring that the University's Office of Public Safety responds swiftly and effectively to allegations of sexual assault; and the second focused on improving the University's Title IX response to reports of sexual assault and harassment. The agreement between DOJ and the University's Office of Public Safety requires, among other things, that the Office of Public Safety implement or revise policies, provide training, and change practices to improve its response to sexual assault; work with an Independent Reviewer, community organizations, and other stakeholders to develop and implement the agreement's reforms; facilitate the development of an External Review Panel to conduct reviews of closed sexual assault cases handled by the Missoula Police Department and University of Montana's Office of Public Safety; and develop procedures for gathering and analyzing data to evaluate and assess its response to sexual assault. The documents here provide more information about the investigation and settlement, including the DOJ investigative findings; the settlement agreement between the DOJ and the University of Montana's Office of Public Safety; and the Independent Reviewer's reports on the Office of Public Safety's implementation of the agreement.
In March 2009, we opened an investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) pursuant to Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI). MCSO refused to cooperate with our investigation, and we filed suit under Title VI to obtain the information we needed, which MCSO agreed to provide in June 2011, settling this suit. After completing our investigation, on December 15, 2011, we announced our findings. We found that MCSO engaged in a pattern of misconduct that violated the Constitution and federal law. Specifically, we found that MCSO engaged in a policy of stopping, detaining, and investigating persons of Hispanic ancestry based on their race, in traffic and during worksite raids; failed to provide language access assistance to Hispanic jail inmates with Limited English Proficiency (LEP); and unlawfully retaliated against individuals who complained about or criticized MCSO’s practices.
We attempted to work with MCSO to reach an agreement to remedy the unlawful conduct we found, but we could not resolve our claims without litigation. We filed suit against Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County on the above grounds in May 2012. The Court granted summary judgment in our favor on the discriminatory policing claim in June 2015. We reached a partial settlement with Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County in July 2015, resolving the remaining claims concerning conduct in worksite raids, retaliation, and language access requirements for Hispanic LEP inmates in MCSO jails.
In May 2013, in a parallel law suit, Melendres v. Arpaio, the federal district court of Arizona found that MCSO had engaged in unlawful discrimination against Hispanic persons in its traffic enforcement operations. In October 2013, the court issued an injunction, ordering MCSO to undergo reforms to prevent further discriminatory law enforcement practices, and appointed an independent monitor to oversee implementation of the injunction. In August 2015, we requested, and were granted intervention in Melendres, to join the case as a Plaintiff-Intervenor. We are now working with Plaintiffs and the independent monitor to ensure that MCSO meaningfully implements the court-ordered reforms required by the injunctive order.
On May 15, 2010, we opened an investigation of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following a comprehensive investigation, on March 17, 2011, we announced our findings. We found that the NOPD has engaged in patterns of misconduct that violate the Constitution and federal law, including a pattern or practice of excessive force, and of illegal stops, searches, and arrests. We found also a pattern or practice of gender discrimination in the Department's under-enforcement and under-investigation of violence against women. We further found strong indications of discriminatory policing based on racial, ethnic, and LGBT bias, as well as a failure to provide critical police services to language minority communities. On July 24, 2012, we reached a settlement resolving our investigation and asked the Court to make our settlement an order enforceable by the Court. The documents here provide more information about the investigation, the Justice Department's findings, settlement, and next steps.
On September 8, 2011, the Civil Rights Division announced the findings of its comprehensive investigation of the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD). PRPD consists of approximately 17,000 sworn police officers and is the second largest local law enforcement agency in the county. The investigation was conducted pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, we found that PRPD officers engage in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, use of unreasonable force against individuals exercising their First Amendment rights, and unconstitutional searches and seizures. We also uncovered other deficiencies of serious concern. These include troubling evidence that PRPD frequently fails to investigate sex-related crimes and incidents of domestic violence, and that PRPD engages in discriminatory policing practices that target individuals of Dominican descent.
On December 21, 2012, we filed a complaint and a settlement agreement in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. The agreement, which we negotiated with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, provides a comprehensive framework to remedy the misconduct we found. The documents here provide more information about the investigation, the Civil Rights Division's findings, and the agreement.
On March 31, 2011, we opened an investigation of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following a comprehensive investigation, on December 16, 2011, we announced our findings. We found that SPD has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the Constitution and federal law. Our investigation further raised serious concerns that some SPD policies and practices, particularly those related to pedestrian encounters, could result in discriminatory policing. We negotiated and filed a consent decree to address these concerns on July 27, 2012, and separately entered into a settlement agreement on related issues on that same date. On September 21, the court modified and entered the consent decree. The documents here provide more information about the investigation, the Justice Department's findings, the consent decree and memorandum of understanding, and next steps.
In August 2007, we opened an investigation of the Yonkers Police Department (YPD) pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. On June 9, 2009, we sent the City a technical assistance letter that identified necessary reforms to YPD practices and policies in the areas of use of force, civilian complaints, investigations, supervisory oversight, and training. After receiving the department’s technical assistance letter, the City and YPD made substantial changes to its policies and procedures. On November 14, 2016, we signed an agreement with the City of Yonkers that implements and further improves those policies and procedures and addresses the department’s remaining concerns.
In October 2015, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in S.R. & L.G. v. Kenton County, et al. The plaintiffs in the case are two elementary school children who allege that a school resource officer (SRO) violated their rights under the Fourth and 14th Amendment and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when the SRO handcuffed them in school, behind their backs, above their elbows, and at their biceps, after the children exhibited conduct arising out of their disabilities. The purpose of the statement of interest, which does not take a position on the merits of the case, is to provide the court with a framework to assess the plaintiffs’ claims.
The brief explains the requirements to protect the rights of children, particularly children with disabilities, in their interactions with SROs. It emphasizes that school resource officers should not handle routine disciplinary incidents that school officials should properly address. It further describes the particularized facts and circumstances the court should consider in evaluating whether the SRO’s conduct in this case was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Finally, the department confirms that the ADA applies to SROs’ interactions with children with disabilities and that this statute requires SROs to make reasonable modifications in their procedures when necessary, and requires law enforcement agencies to change policies that discriminate against children with disabilities.