The Department of Justice Sues Mississippi…Again!

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

I guess I should not be surprised that the State of Mississippi is once again in the news because the Federal Government has filed a Civil Rights lawsuit against it.  The Department of Justice has filed a suit against the State of Mississippi, and the City of Meridian, along with the county and various state agencies, alleging that the defendants have worked to operate a “school to prison” system that allegedly violated the rights of African-American students and students with disabilities. 

“As a result,” the court filing states, “children in Meridien have been systematically incarcerated for allegedly committing minor offenses, including school disciplinary infractions, and are punished disproportionately without due process of law. The students most affected by this system are African-American children ann children with disabilities.”

Specific allegations include handcuffing, arresting and “incarcerat(ing) for days at a time without a probable cause hearing, regardless of the severity—or lack thereof— of the alleged offense or probation violation; not providing “meaningful representation” to the juveniles during the justice process; making the children “regularly wait more than 48 hours” for a probable cause hearing; and not advising children of their Miranda rights before the children admit to formal charges.

Students can be incarcerated for “dress code infractions such as wearing the wrong color socks or undershirt, or for having shirts untucked; tardies; flatulence in class; using vulgar language; yelling at teachers; and going to the bathroom or leaving the classroom without permission,” the Associated Press reports.”  Common Dreams

I read the Common Dreams article and the AP article linked above and I could not believe that I was reading about a school district in the year 2012!  This article could have been written in the 1950’s and no one would have even flinched.  I know that the good Benedictine Sisters that I had in grade school in the 1950’s and 60’s would use corporal punishment against myself and other students who “needed” discipline, but they would have never allowed the police to put us in jail for leaving the classroom without permission!  Has the City of Meridian  and the State of Mississippi been caught in a time warp that has prevented them from escaping the 1950’s?

The Department of Justice initiated the lawsuit against the city of Meridian and the State because they have refused to work with the DOJ as some other cities have with similar programs. “Gregory Davis, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, said it is disappointing that the local and state government agencies have not worked with the Department of Justice to resolve the violations.

Roy Austin Jr., deputy assistant attorney general, told the Associated Press that other areas around the country have “school-to-prison pipelines,” but this is the first time the civil rights division has filed a lawsuit based on these allegations. He said Shelby County, Tenn., is another example of a problematic area, but he said officials there are working with the Justice Department to fix the problems.  “The department is bringing this lawsuit to ensure that all children are treated fairly and receive the fullest protection of the law,” Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said in Thursday’s statement. ”  Common Dreams

What would you do if your child was sent to jail for minor school infractions? The AP article linked above states that these students who are put into the juvenile justice system for minor school infractions can end up on Supervision and an additional school infraction can send them back to the detention centers!  Does the State of Mississippi handle school districts that are not predominantly African-American in this disgusting manner?

“The Justice Department said Lauderdale County Youth Court Judges Frank Coleman and Veldore “Vel” Young denied the agency access to court hearings and information and directed the city of Meridian to withhold files concerning children. The Justice Department’s investigation began in December 2011.  The school district has about 6,000 students, with 86 percent being black and 12 percent being white. From 2006 to the first semester of the 2009-2010 school year, all the students referred to law enforcement or expelled were black and 96 percent of those suspended were black, the lawsuit said.” Washington Post

I think that last quote from the Washington Post hits the nail on the head when it states that 100% of the students that were referred to law enforcement were black!  I think it is fair to say that the City of Meridian and the State of Mississippi need to be sent to the principal for discipline!  What is your take on this story?

33 thoughts on “The Department of Justice Sues Mississippi…Again!”

  1. Texas…. Texas…. Texas…. Next on the list….
    This is the same exact thing Texas has been doing for over 20 years in their schools. The Texas Legislators are the ones who incorporated under Zero Tolerance (with President Bush approval). Texas area such as Houston, Dallas, Austin, Galveston, Forth Worth, Tyler, Bryan, Waco and others has embraced criminilizing minority in school for a long time for minor infraction. The minority student as young as 6 years old has been recieving criminal mistmendor C ticket that range $50 to $600.00 and jail time at the age of 17 years old (while still in school or not) like they were giving out candy. The supertendent and board member make a contract (MOU) with their City to use officers to write tickets on these children for any and everything. The Federal Department of Justice should clean house and put everyone involved in jail.

  2. And I suspect those kids are working for little or nothing in producing products that bring in even more profit to the jailers and the corporations that hire the prison help.

  3. Nox,
    great work in uncovering the profit motive behind the disgusting practices in Meridian.
    Mike S. is correct in suggesting that government should be the only entity involved in operating prisons and all functions of the justice system. The idea that privatizing government functions is abhorrent to the Constitution.
    Who would have guessed that the former war monger was involved in jailing kids?!!

  4. And guess who has a large financial stake in GEO? Since the time they were Wackenhut?

    Unless he’s recently cashed out, that would be our very own domestic war criminal and former Vice President, Dick Cheney.

    Who’d have thunk a psychopath like that would be involved in caging people for money.

  5. NN, thanks for the research. This whole thing did not pass the smell test, so I had already figured the private prison industry was involved somehow. I recall the same thing was covered in a story on this site recently, when the judge in the case was busted for being in on the deal–and not in a good way. IIRC, that one was in Pennsylvania.

    1. The obvious truth for anyone who cares about this country is that there should be no privately operated prisons. The entirety of the justice system should be a governmental function, as was intended by our founders. It’s time to finally call these bast**ds who would perpetrate this evil system what they are and that is Un-American. The destruction of Constitutional protections for Americans for any purpose is obviously an Un-American activity.

  6. @rafflaw,

    Do you have evidence that the juveniles are being held in a for profit detention center?

    The current DOJ suit appears to be an extension of a 2009 Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit against Lauderdale County (the same county named in the recent DOJ suit) for running a ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ with a company called GEO as the private firm responsible for the incarceration of the students.

    The initial investigation, which began in 2006, turned into a federal civil rights lawsuit, with the ACLU and Jackson-based civil rights attorney Robert McDuff as co-counsels. It was settled in March with a sweeping consent decree designed to end the barbaric, unconstitutional conditions and the rampant violations of state and federal law that were documented separately by both the SPLC and the DOJ.

    More on GEO from the SPLC page (which I highly recommend if you can stomach it):

    GEO, which was born as Wackenhut Corrections Corp. in 1984, is the second-largest prison company in America, with 66,000 beds at 65 prison facilities across the U.S. and another seven overseas. With a total of 4,000 beds in three prisons, including Walnut Grove, the company houses about a quarter of Mississippi’s prison population.

    Built with $41 million in taxpayer subsidies, Walnut Grove has generated about $100 million in revenue for the companies operating it since the doors opened in 2001.

    With the acquisition of Walnut Grove and its other prison projects, GEO is riding a wave of privatization efforts.

    Across the U.S., the number of inmates in such private facilities grew by 80 percent between 1999 and 2010 – from 71,208 to 128,195 – as states and the federal government bought the industry’s pitch that it could save taxpayer money by operating prisons at a lower cost, according a January 2012 report by The Sentencing Project. Thirty states now have partially privatized their prison systems.

    For GEO, more privatization means greater profits. In 2011, the company produced $1.6 billion in revenue, a 27 percent increase over the previous year, and net income of $98.5 million, the best performance in the company’s history, according to its 2011 annual report.

    The company’s business model depends, at least in part, on tough sentencing.

    With 1.6 million people living behind bars, the U.S. already has the world’s largest population of prisoners – and the highest per-capita rate of incarceration. But the prison industry wants more. GEO’s annual report is clear about that – noting that “positive trends” in the industry may be “adversely impacted” by early release of inmates and changes to parole laws and sentencing guidelines.”

    Google ‘school-to-prison pipelines’ to find a plethora of well developed critiques of the way the system ‘works’. There’s even a wikipedia page that lays out the many problems quite succinctly:

    To wit:
    Because prisons can be privatized and run for profit, and traditional public schools cannot, the market favors sending people to prisons rather than schools—particularly if they are not destined to become part of the high-skilled workforce. (As prisoners, people can be compelled to perform labor anyway.)

    13th Amendment? What 13th Amendment?

  7. bettykath,
    You know as well as anyone with a pulse that Ayn Rand supporters and teabaggers are reality challenged. Be careful how you wield those facts around, one of them might get hurt and sue you for wounding them with a blunt fact.

  8. You libs think Romneys the worst thing ever while at the same time Obama sails the country down the river running up a 5 trillion dollar debt

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