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Mi Cripa Investigation Report Oakley Columbia Training Schools 2003

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June 19, 2003

The Honorable Ronnie Musgrove
Governor of Mississippi
Office of the Governor
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
Re:

CRIPA Investigation of Oakley and Columbia Training
Schools in Raymond and Columbia, Mississippi

Dear Governor Musgrove:
On May 8, 2002, we notified you of our intent to investigate
the Oakley Training School in Raymond, Mississippi (“Oakley”) and
the Columbia Training School in Columbia, Mississippi
(“Columbia”) pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized
Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997 (“CRIPA”), and the Violent Crime
Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141.
Consistent with the statutory requirements of CRIPA, we are
writing to report the findings of our investigation. At the
outset, we wish to express our appreciation for the complete
cooperation of the staff at the facilities, the Department of
Human Services, and the Attorney General’s Office during this
investigation.
On June 24-28, 2002 and July 16-17, 2002, we conducted onsite inspections of Oakley with expert consultants in juvenile
justice administration, psychology, medicine, education, and
sanitation. On July 29-August 1, 2002 and September 25-27, 2002,
we inspected Columbia with all but the sanitation expert
consultant. We reviewed documents including, but not limited to,
policies and procedures, incident reports, medical and education
files, and facility maintenance records.
We find that conditions at Oakley and Columbia violate the
constitutional and statutory rights of juveniles. Youth confined
at Oakley and Columbia suffer harm or the risk of harm from
deficiencies in the facilities’ provision of mental health and
medical care, protection of juveniles from harm, and juvenile
justice management. There are also sanitation deficiencies at
Oakley. In addition, both facilities fail to provide required
general education services as well as education to eligible youth
as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1401, et seq., and Section 504 of the

-2Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794. Finally, we find
that Oakley and Columbia violate the youths’ First Amendment
rights by forcing them to engage in religious activities.
I.

BACKGROUND

The Mississippi Department of Human Services operates Oakley
and Columbia through the Division of Youth Services. The average
length of stay for youth in the training schools is two to three
months, but some youth may stay up to six months or longer. The
majority of youth committed to Oakley and Columbia are nonviolent offenders. For example, 75 percent of the girls at
Columbia are committed for status offenses, probation violations,
or contempt of court. The majority of boys at Oakley are
committed for property offenses, lower level drug possession
charges, or auto theft charges.
Youth offenders who are mentally ill or have mental
retardation are to be committed by the Mississippi youth courts1
to rehabilitation facilities operated by the Mississippi
Department of Mental Health. See MS ST §§ 41-21-109; 43-21-611.
Thus, we were told that youth with mental illness or mental
retardation are not confined at Oakley or Columbia. As discussed
in greater detail below, this is not the case.
A.

Description of the Facilities
1.

Oakley Training School

Oakley Training School, also known as the Mississippi Youth
Correctional Complex, sits on approximately 1,068 acres of land
surrounded by agricultural fields in Raymond, Mississippi, which
is approximately 30 minutes outside of Jackson, Mississippi.
Oakley is designed to function as a paramilitary program for
delinquent boys2 and is comprised of three operational units,

1

Mississippi youth courts are divisions of either
chancery or county courts and have original jurisdiction in
proceedings involving delinquent, neglected or battered children.
2

Reportedly, the program imposes a military style
discipline on youth and is purported to promote a “vigorous
physical fitness training program.”

-3Unit One, Unit Two, and Ironwood. Boys housed at Oakley range in
age from 10 to 17. At the time of our visit, 336 boys were
committed to Oakley.
Unit One is a large, under-utilized, self-contained building
with a housing capability of 275. Enclosed in a secure perimeter
fence, Unit One contains the intake unit with approximately four
separate cells, a medical infirmary, its own school, a small
modern gym, and outside recreational space. The intake unit is
where youth sent to Oakley are processed and evaluated, and
contains 11 separate living units known as pods, each designed to
hold approximately 20 juveniles. Each pod has a locked
correctional officer’s control room designed in a manner such
that no interaction between line staff and juveniles can occur.
During our visit, only three of the 11 pods were operational due
to staff shortages.
Unit Two consists of several unfenced buildings in a
traditional juvenile detention campus setting with a freestanding school, vocational shops, a large cafeteria, a chapel,
and open space used for parade and military training. Unit Two
has eight living units known as cottages. The cottages hold
between 24 to 32 juveniles. Unit Two also has a separate unit
known as the Special Intervention Unit (“SIU”) for youth with
behavioral and disciplinary problems, and youth who are suicidal.
The SIU has 14 locked single cells and a large unfurnished day
room that is adjacent to the staff control room. During our
visit, approximately seven youth were confined to the SIU.
Ironwood, the third unit on the Oakley campus, is a freestanding building housing boys aged 10 to 17. Ironwood is
described as a 90-day, therapeutic intensive treatment unit for
boys with behavioral problems from Units One and Two at Oakley
and transfers from Columbia. It is a self-contained maximum
security unit purportedly used for the most aggressive juveniles.
Youth who are considered difficult, have attempted to escape,
have been involved in assaults, or have serious emotional or
mental health problems are housed there. Ironwood can house 25
youths in locked single cells. Nineteen boys were confined in
Ironwood during our visit.
2.

Columbia Training School

The Columbia Training School, located in Columbia,
Mississippi, is approximately two and one-half hours northwest of

-4Gulfport, Mississippi. Like Oakley, Columbia sits on over 1,000
acres of land in an unfenced agricultural setting and purports to
use a military model for delinquent youth. Columbia, comprised
of several housing and administration buildings encircling a
large field in a cottage setting, has a medical clinic, a freestanding school with a cafeteria, a chapel, and a gym. Columbia
houses girls aged 10 to 18 and boys aged 10 to 15. During our
site visit, 196 youth were committed to Columbia, 92 girls and
104 boys.
Columbia has two secure housing units, one for boys and the
other for girls, used in the same manner as the SIU at Oakley
with the added function of serving as the intake units for all
Columbia youth. The boys’ population in an SIU unit called
McGehee varied from seven to 12 during our tour. The girls’ SIU
population in a unit called Cleveland ranged from 10 to 12.
During our visit, only four residential cottages were being used
and only one of those housed girls, Hammond Cottage. Hammond
Cottage, designed to hold approximately 40 girls, has two
divisions: one side of the cottage houses girls rotating through
the basic training program and the other side houses the advanced
training programs. During our visit, the basic side of Hammond
housed 43 girls and the advanced side 37 girls. Many girls had
bunks in the hallways due to overcrowding. Boys were housed in
the other three cottages -- Rouse, Hugh-White, and Burrow. Rouse
is a boys’ basic program cottage for new commitments and housed
28 boys during our visit. Hugh-White is for basic program
participants who are re-committed to Columbia. Hugh-White housed
27 boys during our visit. Burrow is for boys in the advanced
phase of the program and housed 40 boys.
B.

Legal Background

Youth adjudicated delinquent have a right to reasonably safe
confinement conditions and, at a minimum, should have the same
constitutional protections as adult pretrial detainees. See
Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 315-16 (1982) (holding that a
person with mental retardation committed to the state’s custody
has substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth
Amendment); Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535-36 (1979)
(Fourteenth Amendment standard applies to pretrial detainees);
Gary H. v. Hegstrom, 831 F.2d 1430, 1432 (9th Cir. 1987)
(applying the Fourteenth Amendment standard afforded adult
pretrial detainees to juveniles); Morgan v. Sproat, 432 F. Supp.
1130, 1135-36 (S.D. Miss. 1977) (in a case involving the rights

-5of youth confined at Oakley, the court held that juveniles
adjudicated delinquent are entitled to substantive due process
protections under the Fourteenth Amendment); see also Morales v.
Turman, 383 F. Supp. 53, 120 (E.D. Tex. 1974) (“all juveniles
. . . are constitutionally entitled to care that at least
conforms to minimal professional standards,”), rev’d on other
grounds, 535 F.2d 864 (5th Cir. 1976), rev’d, 430 U.S. 322 (1977)
(per curiam), on remand 562 F.2d 993 (5th Cir. 1977 (court did
not reach definitive holding regarding existence of right to
treatment), on remand 569 F. Supp. 332 (E.D. Tex. 1983).
Adjudicated youth have a right to adequate education
instruction. See Morgan v. Sproat, 432 F. Supp. 1130, 1140-41
(S.D. Miss. 1977). Eligible youth also possess federal statutory
rights to education under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq. and Section 504
of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. See
Alexander S. v. Boyd, 876 F. Supp. 773, 788 (D.S.C. 1995).
II.

FINDINGS

Youth at Oakley and Columbia are confined in unsafe living
conditions and receive inadequate treatment and care. These
conditions exist mainly because of staff shortages, ineffective
management and supervision at every organizational level within
both facilities, and the facilities’ emphasis on control and
punishment instead of rehabilitation.
A.

Protection from Harm

Oakley and Columbia do not have any system of positive
incentives to manage youth, but instead rely on discipline and
force. This leads to unconstitutionally abusive disciplinary
practices such as hog-tying, pole-shackling, improper use and
overuse of restraints and isolation, staff assaulting youth, and
OC spray abuse.
1.

Abusive Disciplinary Practices at Columbia
(a)

Hog-tying and Pole-Shackling

The use of restraints without penological justification is
cruel and unusual punishment. See Hope v. Pelzer, 122 S. Ct.
2508, 2514, 2518 (2002) (the unnecessary handcuffing of an inmate
to a hitching post after his disruptive behavior ended violated

-6the Eighth Amendment). Youth reported and one staff member
confirmed incidents of hog-tying at Columbia in the boys’ and
girls’ SIUs and in Hammond Cottage. Approximately 10 to 15 boys
and girls consistently described the practice, where youth are
placed face down on the floor with their hands and feet shackled
and drawn together. That is, youths’ hands are handcuffed behind
their backs. Their feet are shackled together and then belts or
metal chains are wrapped around the two sets of restraints,
pulling them together. A 13-year-old boy, in the SIU on suicide
watch, told us that he had been hog-tied twice while in the SIU.
Another boy told us that he was hog-tied for refusing to follow
orders. Several girls in Hammond Cottage told us that either
they had been hog-tied or they had witnessed other girls being
hog-tied. They reported that girls are typically tied for three
hour periods in the corners of the cottage and stated that girls
were also hog-tied in the SIU. Girls also reported being hogtied in a SIU cell called the “dark room.”
Contrary to Columbia’s policy that requires the documenting
of all uses of restraints, the practice is not documented in
incident reports or unit logbooks. When our expert consultant
discussed the apparent discrepancy between youth reports and lack
of incident report documentation, Columbia SIU staff either
denied that these incidents took place or reluctantly admitted
they may have occurred -- but not during their shifts. A senior
manager claimed it had been a long time since hog-tying had
occurred because the practice was “inhumane.” However, one
relatively new SIU staff person stated that hog-tying had
occurred in the boys’ SIU a few months prior to our visit.
Thus, we have reason to believe that hog-tying occurs at
Columbia despite the lack of penological justification or
therapeutic or rehabilitative benefit to hog-tying. Columbia’s
own policies prohibit the use of restraints as punishment.
Columbia youth consistently reported another abusive
restraint practice. Youth reported that they had either observed
or experienced having their arms and legs shackled to poles in
public places. For instance, one young girl reported that her
arms and legs were handcuffed and shackled around a utility pole
because she was non-compliant during military exercises. The
rest of the unit was forced to perform military drills around
her. The youth was shackled for at least three hours, released
for lunch, and briefly shackled again. This incident was
witnessed and similarly described by other youth, both boys and

-7girls. Another girl reported that two weeks prior to our visit,
she was shackled to a pole for talking in the cafeteria. Still
another girl reported that she was shackled to a pole for
approximately four hours because she did not say, “Yes, sir,” on
command. Again, this practice is not documented in incident
reports or unit logbooks in violation of Columbia’s restraint
policy. Not only is this abusive practice in violation of
Columbia’s policies, it is unlawful.
(b)

The girls’ SIU

Girls in the SIU at Columbia are punished for acting out or
for being suicidal by being placed in a cell called the “dark
room.” The “dark room” is a locked, windowless isolation cell
with lighting controlled by staff. When the lights are turned
out, as the girls reported they are when the room is in use, the
room is completely dark. The room is stripped of everything but
a drain in the floor which serves as a toilet.
Most girls are stripped naked when placed in the “dark
room.” According to Columbia staff, the reason girls must remove
their clothing before being placed in the darkroom, is that there
is metal grating on the ceiling and the cell door which could be
used for hanging attempts by suicidal girls. Such suicidal
hazards should be remedied rather than requiring suicidal
children to strip naked.
One girl told us that the weekend prior to our visit, she
was placed naked in the “dark room” from Friday until Monday
morning. She stated that she was allowed out of the cell once a
day to take a shower, but received all her meals inside of the
cell. Another girl told us that in July 2002, she was placed in
the “dark room” with the lights off for three days with little
access to water as her requests for water were largely ignored.
While facility administrators told us that this room is
rarely used and if used, for no longer than a few hours at a
time, a number of girls reported being locked in the cell for as
long as three days to a week. There is no separate log book to
record the use of the “dark room” to substantiate the
administrators’ claims regarding the length of time the darkroom
is in use. To the contrary, log book entries for a three-month
period for the girls’ SIU indicate that the dark room often is
used overnight or over the weekend, particularly when the SIU is

-8overcrowded, as well as used for punishment and for suicidal
girls.
During our visit to the girls’ SIU at Columbia, there were
14 girls present. Nine of the girls had been locked in bare
cells for more than a week; one girl had been locked in a bare
cell for 114 days. The conditions we observed in the SIU are
particularly inhumane. The cells are extremely hot with
inadequate ventilation. Some girls are naked in a dark room
where they must urinate and defecate in a hole that they cannot
flush. Restraint chairs are use for punishment in violation of
Columbia’s own policy and procedures manual.3 OC spray is
sometimes used in response to a youth’s minor misbehavior. As
discussed earlier, sometimes, girls are hog-tied. Girls are
often not given access to basic necessities, such as water,
personal hygiene items, and bathroom facilities, and girls are
not given sufficient mental health services. Given the
significant number of juvenile girls in Mississippi juvenile
facilities who suffer from various forms of mental disorders,
particularly separation anxiety disorder,4 the use of the SIU in
its present form should be banned at Columbia.5
(c)

Other abusive practices at Columbia

3

Columbia’s policy states that a restraint chair should
only be used if extreme force is necessary and that restraints,
in general, must not be used to punish. Generally accepted
professional standards mandate that restraint chairs be used only
for youth whose self-destructive or dangerous behavior cannot be
controlled safely in any other way; they should never be used as
punishment.
4

Girls in Mississippi juvenile justice facilities are
five to seven times more likely than boys to have a depression
disorder, and are two to five times more likely than boys to meet
the criteria for an anxiety disorder. Angela Robertson & Jonelle
Husain, Prevalence of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse
Disorders Among Incarcerated Juvenile Offenders 27-28 (2001).
5

See Lollis v. New York State Department of Social
Services, 322 F. Supp. 473, 482 (S.D.N.Y. 1970) (two-week
confinement of a 14-year-old girl dressed in night clothes in a
bare cell with no recreational facilities or reading matter is
cruel and unusual punishment).

-9Youth at Columbia describe a number of abusive practices
imposed by staff. For example, youth report “sitting in a
chair,” in which youth are required to assume a sitting position
while holding their backs up against the wall with knees bent for
as long as 20 to 30 minutes. Youth also are forced to perform
“guard duty.” Youth are awakened in the middle of the night,
required to get dressed, and walk inside the cottage for hours
with their hands to their heads (similar to a military salute)
from bed to bed. In June 2002, according to the SIU log book, a
staff person was given permission to awaken the boys at midnight,
take away their mattresses and covers, and force them to perform
“guard duty.” Boys housed in the cottages are sent by drill
instructors to the SIU during the day for punishment for failing
to perform exercises. SIU staff confirmed that boys’ punishment
may last for hours and consists of running around tables in the
SIU day room with mattresses on their backs. Girls are punished
in the military field by being forced to run with automobile
tires around their bodies or carrying logs. Girls reported being
forced to eat their own vomit if they throw-up while exercising
in the hot sun.
Our juvenile justice expert consultant observed a cottage
staff person punish an entire cottage by forcing youth to run
inside the dorm room silently for at least 25 minutes while other
youth showered. We learned that prior to our visit, one youth
had broken his toe by hitting it on a bed while performing this
exercise.
These exercises and disciplinary practices serve no
penological or rehabilitative purpose. Many are cruel and
demeaning.6 They also are unsafe because, as our expert noted,
when this type of physical punishment is imposed, the facility
does not monitor the physical well-being of the youth.
2.

Abusive Staff
(a)

6

Assault

See Morales v. Turman, 364 F. Supp. 166, 174 (E.D. Tex.
1973) (subsequent history omitted)(“Requiring [youth] to maintain
silence during periods of the day merely for purposes of
punishment, and to perform repetitive, nonfunctional, degrading,
and unnecessary tasks for many hours . . . constitutes cruel and
unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”).

-10Based on our interviews with youth, our observations during
the tours, and review of documentation provided by the State, we
find that staff at Oakley and Columbia use excessive force with
impunity.
At Oakley, more than half of the youth in Ironwood reported
that staff had physically abused them. In Unit One, a number of
youth reported, and some line staff confirmed, that youth who are
re-committed to Oakley are taken to one of the isolation rooms in
the intake area and punched and slapped by staff as punishment
for being re-committed. Youth reported in Unit Two that staff
hit and physically assaulted other children. One such incident
was confirmed by staff members who reported that approximately
two weeks prior to our visit, a school counselor physically
abused a youth. This youth was choked by the counselor and sent
to Ironwood based on the counselor’s recommendation to the
facility director. The youth never received a hearing. We were
told by staff and youth that the counselor would never be held
accountable for the incident. Indeed, we received no written
incident or investigative reports concerning this incident.
When asked why abuses were allowed to occur at Oakley
without consequences to staff, we were told that staff shortages
inhibited the facility administration’s ability to follow-up on
youth’s complaints. Staff also stated that some staff abused
youth with impunity because they were favored by the
administration. When asked why staff did not report these
allegations, most staff responded that they feared retaliation.
In other cases, youth did not file complaints because they
believed that their concerns would not be investigated or
addressed. During our second tour of Oakley, we observed a
general assembly conducted by administration officials where a
number of the youth voiced concerns about being assaulted by
staff. For example, one youth stated that a staff person had
shoved his head into a toilet. The youth wanted to know how the
administration would respond to complaints. One administrative
official responded that youth were not allowed to defend
themselves against staff who assaulted them.
In the girls’ SIU at Columbia, staff reportedly have hit,
choked, and slapped girls. For instance, girls reported that a
ten-year-old girl was slapped by a male security guard. A young
boy in the boys’ SIU reported that before being taken to the SIU,

-11security slapped him twice in the face and placed his neck in a
“sleeper hold.”7
(b)

OC Spray Abuse

Both at Oakley and Columbia, staff practices regarding the
use of OC spray amount to excessive force. According to the
facilities’ policy, OC spray may be used in only three
situations: to “quell a riot”; or to “prevent further injury
when students are fighting” and all other efforts to resolve the
fight have failed; or if a youth possesses a device “clearly
intended to be used as a weapon and refuses to disarm.” Incident
reports and youth complaints reflect that youth are sprayed
arbitrarily and in violation of facility policy and law. See
Alexander S. v. Boyd, 876 F. Supp. 773, 786 (D.S.C. 1995)
(indiscriminate use of OC spray violates youth’s constitutional
rights. OC spray should only be used when there is a risk of
serious bodily harm and no other less intrusive restraint is
available). At Columbia, boys in the SIU reported that staff
sprayed under their locked cell doors and that staff sprayed boys
in the face while they were hog-tied. Boys also told us that
staff sprayed into the air while boys were doing exercises for
punishment in the SIU. Incident reports make clear that suicidal
youth are sprayed for their suicidal gestures and behaviors and
that youth locked in isolation rooms who bang on the door of
their cell are sprayed. A log entry for the SIU in May 2002
indicates that a suicidal girl was sprayed because she refused to
remove her clothes before being placed in the “dark room.”
Youth at Columbia reported that staff routinely sprayed
youth for failing to perform military exercises. Our review of
incident reports confirms that OC spray is used for this purpose.
For example, a 13-year-old boy was sprayed because he did not
perform exercises. Reportedly, he was punished further by being
forced to do 100 squat thrusts, 100 push ups, and 100 jumping
jacks. One girl, prior to being sent to the SIU, had difficulty
keeping up with the group during exercise in the parade field.
She yelled to a staff person that it was hot and to “shut up
talking to me.” Security was called and she was sprayed in the
face. Youth also talked extensively about “running the ridge,” a

7

Youth told us that in order to be placed in a sleeper
hold, a security officer stands behind a youth with his arm
around the neck of the youth, cutting off the ability to breath.

-12form of intensive running on the campus grounds.8 Youth who
refuse to run the ridge are reportedly sprayed by staff.
On the Oakley campus, staff at Ironwood and Unit One use
excessive force, spraying OC to control youth who misbehave or
who are noncompliant. For example, a youth in Unit One was
sprayed for refusing to go into his cell. In another case, two
youths were sprayed in Ironwood as they engaged in horseplay.
Finally, based on our document review and conversations with
staff and juveniles, OC spray use at both facilities often is
undocumented and unreported. We find that OC spray is used
regularly at both facilities for minor infractions or for
punishment.
3.

Investigation of Abuse Allegations

Oakley and Columbia do not have systemic internal and
external review processes of abuse allegations to ensure that
investigations are conducted thoroughly and objectively.
(a)

Internal Review

All abuse allegations are not being investigated internally
at the facilities or by the Division of Youth Services. Oakley
and Columbia share an investigator who investigates allegations
of abuse, when reported to him by the facility administrators.
The investigator also functions as the “military coordinator.”
The investigator conducts a limited perfunctory investigation and
submits brief investigative reports and summary recommended
courses of action to the Director of the Division of Youth
Services for approval. However, the investigator’s authority to
conduct abuse investigations is not clearly defined. As a
result, we found that Oakley and Columbia administrators are not
held accountable if they fail to report all allegations to the
investigator.
In addition, youth reported feeling prohibited from
reporting abuse allegations. Youth at both facilities stated
that they did not report staff abuse because they believed that

8

“Running the ridge” is a practice where staff force
youth to repeatedly run up and down the upper fields of the
Columbia grounds at a fast pace.

-13reporting led to retaliation, or their allegations were not taken
seriously. A medical clinic incident notebook at Columbia
documents the nursing staff’s treatment of youth’s injuries from
alleged physical abuse by staff or pepper spray use. However,
these abuse allegations appear never to have been investigated,
even when an injury was noted by the nurse and could have
possibly substantiated the youth’s claim.
(b)

External Review

We found few external reviews of abuse allegations from
outside agencies. The Division of Youth Services’ Division of
Program Integrity conducted only 10 external reviews of abuse
allegations between May 2000 and May 2002, most of them
concerning staff at Columbia. We are aware of allegations of
staff abuse at Columbia and Oakley that would have warranted more
than 10 investigations from the Division of Program Integrity
during that time period.
Moreover, during our tour of Columbia, children made various
abuse allegations concerning specific staff. Several girls
alleged that a recreation staff person forced girls to run and
perform military exercises wearing tires. Many youth reported
that the acting head nurse routinely denied medical care and
access to appropriate health services. The girls in the advanced
cottage alleged that a security guard engaged in inappropriate
sexual behavior by standing in front of the uncovered windows of
the girls’ cottage and observing them while they were undressing
before going to bed.
We provided enough information for a thorough investigation
to be conducted. We relayed the nature of the allegations, the
approximate date and location of where the incidents occurred,
and the names of the staff persons allegedly responsible for the
incidents9 to the Mississippi State Attorney General’s Office
(“Attorney General’s Office”).10 We were informed by the Public
Integrity Division of the Attorney General’s Office that they
9

We did not, however, provide the names of the allegedly
involved youth in deference to the youths’ request for
confidentiality, many of whom had relayed fears of retaliation.
10

The Mississippi Department of Human Services agreed to
defer its investigation of the allegations to the Attorney
General’s Office.

-14would need the names of the youth making the allegations in order
to conduct the investigation because approval of the youth court
judge who adjudicated the youth delinquent was required.11
4.

Severe Staff Shortages

Columbia and Oakley fail to keep the youth in their care
safe due to severe staffing shortages. Oakley has a staff
vacancy rate of 39 percent. Due to budgetary constraints, Oakley
is under a hiring freeze and cannot hire new staff to fill the
vacancies, according to administration officials. During our
tours, we noted that the staff at Oakley, including the facility
management, appeared to be under stress and overworked. The
documentation we received indicated that the Division of Youth
Services was notified as early as January 2002 that these
shortages compromised the safety of both staff and youth on
Oakley’s campus. Specifically, during an incident that resulted
in the use of pepper spray, a staff person had to enlist the
assistance of a youth to defuse a fight in one of the cottages.
The facility investigator wrote to the administrators at the
Division of Youth Services that “[t]here is a serious need for
additional staff members which [sic] are adequately trained in
juvenile justice and security requirements before a staff member
or student is critically injured or killed.”
Staff and administration are typically required to work
overtime. On the weekends, youth are sometimes distributed to
other living units due to staffing shortages. In Units One and
Two, one staff person supervises 30 or more juveniles on every
shift. This ratio substantially departs from generally accepted
professional practices. During our tour, staff and senior
managers repeatedly told us that Oakley is a dangerous place to
work. Staff repeatedly stated that they are unable to protect
youth from harm. Some senior managers admitted that all critical
incidents were not being reported because the facility cannot
afford to fire abusive staff. Line staff accused other staff of
assaulting youth and stated that nothing is done about the abuse.
Similarly, Columbia has staffing shortages and an inability
to fill vacant positions. At the time of our on-site
11

We were told that the Attorney General’s Office could
not initiate its own inquiry without prior court approval or in
conjunction with the Department of Human Services. See MS ST §§
43-21-353; 43-21-261.

-15investigation, Columbia had a hiring freeze and a vacancy rate of
approximately 30 percent. The result of the shortage is
particularly harmful for the girls. The girls’ cottage is
severely overcrowded. Girls are made to sit in a confined lobby
area or on the day room floor every evening for at least four
hours in silence because staff shortages prevent them from
staying in their rooms. Our expert noted a critical shortage of
direct care workers. Like Oakley, Columbia’s staffing patterns
substantially depart from generally accepted professional
practices.
B.

Mental Health Care

The Constitution requires that confined juveniles receive
adequate medical treatment, including adequate mental health
treatment and suicide prevention measures. Hott v. Hennepin
County, 260 F.3d 901, 905 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Williams v.
Kelso, 201 F.3d 1060, 1065 (8th Cir. 2000)); Young v. City of
Augusta, 59 F.3d 1160, 1169 (11th Cir. 1995); Horn v. Madison
County Fiscal Court, 22 F.3d 653, 660 (6th Cir. 1994); Bowring v.
Godwin, 551 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1977).
Oakley and Columbia house a large population of juveniles
who suffer from mental disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal
thoughts.12 A July 2001 study funded by the Mississippi
Department of Public Safety Division of Public Safety Planning
and the Department of Mental Health Division of Children and
Youth Services found that between 66 and 85 percent of the
incarcerated juvenile offenders in Mississippi “met DSM-IV
diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder.”13 The study added
that “multiple, co-occurring mental health and substance abuse
diagnoses were evident . . . [and] 9% [of the juveniles] had
suicidal thoughts and plans.” Oakley and Columbia do not provide
adequate services for this vulnerable population. Lack of
training, resources, program structure and staffing shortages
12

However, as indicated previously, these youth should be
committed to rehabilitation facilities operated by the
Mississippi Department of Mental Health. See supra, p. 2.
13

Angela Robertson & Jonelle Husain, Prevalence of Mental
Illness and Substance Abuse Disorders Among Incarcerated Juvenile
Offenders (2001) (“the Mississippi State University Study”).
Robertson and Husain are researchers at Mississippi State
University.

-16have severely affected Oakley and Columbia’s counseling programs
and as a result youth with mental health concerns receive
haphazard and cursory treatment.
1.

Administration of Psychotropic Medications

The care of youth with severe mental illness requires
assessment and management by a psychiatrist, and where
medications are prescribed before confinement, the continuation
of medications without interruption upon admission to the
facilities. The management of youth with mental illness and the
administration of psychotropic medications is seriously deficient
at Oakley and Columbia.
Many youth on psychiatric medications are not allowed to
continue to receive those medications when they are admitted to
Oakley or Columbia. The physicians, not the psychiatrists,
determine which youth with mental illness will continue to
receive their psychotropic medicine while committed. For
example, before his admission to Columbia, a youth was treated at
a psychiatric hospital and discharged with a prescription for
risperdal, which treats the symptoms of schizophrenia. His
risperdal was continued in detention and his medicine was sent to
Columbia when he was transferred. However, the facility
physician discontinued the youth’s risperdal without referring
him to the psychiatrist for follow-up treatment. In another
case, a youth was hospitalized for mental health treatment and
upon release was prescribed psychotropic medications. Upon
admission to Columbia, the physician discontinued these
medications and made no referral to the psychiatrist. After
staff reported the youth’s unacceptable behavior, he was referred
to the psychiatrist who, apparently either ignoring or being
unaware of the youth’s prior history, prescribed a different
medication altogether. The youth was still taking the facilityprescribed medication at the time of our visit, and staff
continued to find the youth’s behavior unacceptable.
Physicians should not make decisions about whether a child
will continue on most prescribed psychiatric medications. A
psychiatrist should evaluate the youth’s medication needs based
on a diagnostic interview, a review of records of prior care,
and, if necessary, in consultation with the youth’s psychiatrist
in the youth’s home community.

-17Rarely are the contracted psychiatrists and staff
psychologists informed when a child is admitted with or has a
history of treatment with psychiatric medicine. Youth with
mental illness often are untreated while in the facilities, even
though they are admitted with a history of mental illness.
2.

Managing Suicidal Youth

Oakley and Columbia fail to employ adequate suicide
prevention measures. Activity, positive relationships between
staff and youth, individual attention, school, exercise, reading,
and counseling are necessary aspects of an adequate adolescent
suicide prevention program. Instead, at Columbia, suicidal youth
are isolated in SIUs in stripped cells, sometimes naked, are not
allowed outdoor exercise, and receive very little schooling or
counseling. As previously discussed, some suicidal girls at
Columbia are placed in the “dark room.” Furthermore, in the
isolation units or SIUs at both facilities, children’s mattresses
are taken away during the day, leaving them with the option of
lying or sitting on concrete or standing.
Boys at Oakley who are judged to be suicide risks are placed
in an empty day room adjacent to the control room where they sit
on the floor all day without access to books, school, or outdoor
exercise. They also are not permitted to interact with other
boys in the room. The counselor assigned to counsel suicidal
youth attempts to see each youth once per day, but if she is
unavailable, no one provides mental health counseling in her
absence.
C.

Rehabilitative Treatment

The Constitution requires that youth confined at Oakley and
Columbia receive adequate rehabilitative treatment. Morgan v.
Sproat, 432 F. Supp. 1130, 1135-36 (S.D. Miss. 1977); Pena v. New
York State Division for Youth, 419 F. Supp. 203, 207 (S.D.N.Y.
1976). Oakley and Columbia youth, however, receive inadequate
rehabilitative treatment. We found that counselors and
psychologists are the staff responsible for rehabilitative
treatment. Psychiatrists are contracted for only one day a month
at both facilities. The majority of their time is spent
conducting forensic evaluations for the court, rather than
providing mental health or rehabilitative treatment to youth.
Staff assigned to the housing units, such as juvenile
correctional officers, function as security and play no role in

-18the youths’ rehabilitative treatment. There is little or no
interaction between the various disciplines regarding youths’
strengths and needs or rehabilitative treatment. The lack of
communication between staff hampers their ability to provide a
rehabilitative environment. Indeed, the programs’ current focus
on discipline, control, and negative reinforcement fosters an
atmosphere where staff demean, belittle, and abuse youth and is
not conducive to rehabilitative treatment.
Oakley and Columbia counselors have masters degrees and the
qualifications to provide effective rehabilitation, however, with
the average caseload of between 20 and 30 youth, individual goals
are impossible to achieve. For example, counselors routinely are
unable to see youth individually or in group sessions. Moreover,
therapy continuity is not maintained because counselors are
reassigned when youth move from the basic to the advanced
program. Furthermore, counselors are responsible for
implementing youths’ individual treatment plans, but are not
involved in the development of the plans. Counselors, typically,
decide which goals they will work on with the youth and as a
result youths receive canned group sessions, such as, “obey
authority” or “value an education,” which have little
rehabilitative value. A senior mental health employee at Oakley
admitted that youth do not receive individualized rehabilitative
treatment.
1.

Individual Treatment Plans

Both facilities rely solely on individual treatment plans
(“ITPs”) provided by the youth court, rather than developing an
individualized plan once the youth arrives at the facility.
Unfortunately, the courts’ ITPs are not comprehensive and fail to
evaluate the youth’s mental health status. Youth are not
involved in their own treatment planning, nor are the counselors
or the youths’ parents. In addition, youths’ ITPs repeatedly
contained the diagnosis of “conduct disorder, alcohol abuse,
cannabis abuse, strong borderline and antisocial personality
traits.” Given the time constraints, lack of information, and
the absence of individual sessions with youth, it is not clear
how the youth courts’ psychologists could make appropriate
diagnoses. The fact that many diagnoses are remarkably similar
heightens this concern.
2.

Anti-Therapeutic Conditions

-19Many of the conditions at Columbia do not promote
rehabilitation or good mental health, but instead cause
depression and mental deterioration. In the evenings, youth are
required to sit in silence for large blocks of time while they
sort their clothes, clean their boots, or for girls, braid each
other’s hair. This time could be better spent productively
engaged in activity and learning. The environment as it
currently exists invites acting out by youth and the abusive
institutional practices that too often follow. For example,
youth are forced to perform physical exercise and threatened with
SIU if they are caught talking to each other. In fact, youth
expressed frustration at the wasted time and lack of
rehabilitation services being offered in the evenings. Lack of
activity, social interaction, and counseling assistance put youth
at risk for depression.
Many of the conditions at Oakley and Ironwood, similarly,
are harsh and do not promote rehabilitation. Oakley’s SIU is
purportedly used to address the needs of the most vulnerable
boys, but instead, functions like an adult prison. Instead of
addressing the boys’ mental health or rehabilitative treatment
needs, boys are either locked in isolated cells (where they are
sometimes also shackled) or shackled and forced to perform work
details around the campus in order to earn their way out of the
SIU. They are not permitted to attend school or receive any
educational instruction, and are provided limited access to
counseling. Except for work details, the boys are permitted out
of their cells only once a day to exercise in the hallway, but
must eat their meals in their cells.
On the day of our arrival to Oakley, we observed a 13-yearold boy sitting in a restraint chair near the Ironwood control
room. Reportedly, he was placed in the restraint chair to
prevent self-mutilation. No staff approached him, and he was not
allowed to attend school or receive programming, counseling, or
medication. This boy had been severely sexually and physically
abused by family members and had been in several psychiatric
hospitals prior to being sent to Ironwood. Just before our
arrival, he had been locked naked in his empty cell. His cell
smelled of urine, and we observed torn pieces of toilet paper on
the concrete floor that he had been using as a pillow.
3.

The Military Program

-20The use of paramilitary programs at youth training schools
is not, in itself, unconstitutional. However, our experts noted,
and it is generally accepted, that four segments of the youth
population at Oakley and Columbia are particularly unsuitable for
paramilitary programs: younger boys, girls, youth with
developmental disabilities, and youth who are emotionally or
physically fragile.
The disciplinary practices are particularly harmful to the
younger boys at Columbia who are physically, emotionally, or
psychologically unable to participate fully in the training
program. Young boys at Columbia are not developmentally suited
to benefit from the military approach. Many staff perceived that
this particular population was noncompliant and anti-authority,
when in reality, many of the boys are merely active third, fourth
and fifth graders with short attention spans. The result is that
the younger boys stay at Columbia longer because they are
considered behavior problems. A Columbia counselor told us:
You can’t change developmental stages. They are not
ready. They are playful . . . . The young kids
usually stay longer, usually four to six months -there is no tolerance for their silly behavior, so they
have to start over. Many have ADHD [Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder], and they have an especially
hard time, partly because the doctor here usually takes
them off medication -- they are not really defiant, but
they can’t be judged the same as the older kids. I do
a lot of counseling with young kids who cry and really
miss their families. They get depressed.
Additionally, the counselor stated that a suggestion had been
made by other counselors to place at least the younger boys in a
separate unit. However, they were told there was insufficient
staff to run it. In our experts’ opinions, the military program
is ineffective and harmful for younger boys.
Columbia’s paramilitary program also is unsuitable for some
of the troubled girls it serves. Our expert noted that girls may
make some self-esteem gains in physically challenging programs
but the girls at Columbia are deriving no benefits, physical or
otherwise, from the program that is currently being administered.
Harsh disciplinary practices are characterized as training. A
June 2002 log book entry shows that a facility manager punished a
girl by requiring her to sleep one hour and walk one hour for two

-21successive nights. This same girl also had to eat every meal
standing for one week thereafter. These punishments are largely
unregulated and in some cases endorsed by supervisory personnel
because they are considered military training. From a juvenile
justice and mental health perspective, the military program is
inappropriate for girls who have a history of being victimized
and abused either physically or sexually.
A paramilitary program also is inappropriate for youth with
learning or developmental disabilities. Youth are only permitted
to move to the ‘advanced’ unit once they have met behavioral
objectives and passed a written and oral test on military
procedures. Youth with learning or developmental disabilities
have difficulty passing the test and serve longer commitments
because they cannot move beyond the basic phase of the program.
One counselor stated that, “[a]t least ten percent are
developmentally slow, and the staff don’t understand lowfunctioning kids. They can’t make it.” For example, staff made
fun of a girl who had both physical and cognitive impairments.
This girl was just learning to read and was unable to earn a
grade higher than 70 on the military test the youth must pass in
order to move from the basic to the advanced phase of the
program. Her peers were concerned that she would never be able
to pass the test. Youth with learning and developmental
disabilities are particularly inappropriate for the programs
offered at Oakley and Columbia.
Finally, youth who are physically or emotionally fragile are
singled out and made to feel worse because of their fragility.
Boys at Oakley reported staff routinely picked on boys who were
small in size, emotionally sensitive, or had difficulty adjusting
to the military program. Some, but not all, of these boys may be
placed in Unit Two’s Magnolia Cottage for boys who for medical or
psychological reasons are considered inappropriate for the
physical training component of the military program. However,
boys in Magnolia Cottage are verbally and physically abused by
staff during non-physical components of the military program as
often as the emotionally and physically vulnerable boys in other
cottages. A 15-year-old former resident of Magnolia Cottage who
was moved to the SIU told us that he tried to perform well in the
non-physical aspects of the program but was sensitive to being
teased by staff and had difficulty controlling his reactions,
which precipitated his being sent to isolation in SIU. The
Magnolia Cottage residents confirmed his account. Again, from a
juvenile justice and a mental health perspective, the

-22paramilitary training program, even when the physical aspects are
eliminated, is not only ineffective, but harmful to such youth.
D.

Medical and Dental Care

Youth at Columbia and Oakley receive inadequate medical and
dental care.
1.

Quality of Care

Staff shortages and a lack of medical leadership have
greatly affected the ability of staff to provide necessary
medical services to youth at Oakley and Columbia. No one is
accountable for Oakley and Columbia’s medical program. Neither
the facility director nor anyone in the Division of Youth
Services or the Department of Human Services is directly
responsible for primary care at either facility.
Columbia has only two full-time Licensed Practical Nurses
(LPNs) providing services for a 200 bed juvenile facility with an
average of 13 new admissions every week. Oakley has five fulltime LPNs and a full-time contract RN servicing a population that
can reach up to 400 with 15 to 25 new admissions every week. At
Oakley and Columbia, LPNs are unsupervised and given
responsibilities beyond their scope of practice. In short, the
LPNs are practicing medicine without a license.
Oakley and Columbia do not have full-time physician
assistants or nurse practitioners on staff and both have several
vacant nursing positions. Oakley’s contract physician sees
patients approximately four hours per week with half of his time
performing clinical exams on new admissions; Columbia’s contract
physician sees patients three hours per week. The physicians at
Oakley and Columbia are contracted solely for clinical care and
have no responsibility for the nursing staff or ensuring that
policies and procedures are followed. The result is that access
to adequate medical care is very limited. Also, responses to
health issues such as chronic disease care and health education
are virtually non-existent.
Columbia and Oakley routinely fail to continue youths’ preexisting medical regimens after they are committed to the
training schools. At Columbia, medicines are often discontinued
upon arrival. Even asthmatic youth do not receive follow-up care
to ensure that their cases are being managed. For example, a

-23girl was admitted to Columbia with a history of asthma. She was
not asked about her medical history during her initial exam. She
subsequently told the nurse about her inhaler and that it
prevented asthma attacks if used prior to exercise. The youth
never received an inhaler. While performing exercises, she began
to have an asthma attack. She was not allowed to see the nurse
and was told to continue to exercise or be punished for
disobedience. In a highly restricted environment where access to
medical services is limited, acutely asthmatic youth must have
routine, scheduled follow-up care.
We found that nurses at Oakley do not routinely follow-up
with youth after providing rescue inhalers. Poor care can cause
severe illness in youth as the following example illustrates: A
youth was admitted to Oakley in May 2002. He had a history of
asthma and was hospitalized for acute asthma one month prior to
his admission to Oakley. Several asthma medications were sent
with him to Oakley including singulair and maxair. These and all
other medications were discontinued upon his arrival. Moreover,
medical staff made no attempt to find out his prior medical
history. Two days after his admission, he developed acute asthma
and suffered from shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing for
at least a week. The only treatment provided by the nurse was a
rescue inhaler. The youth was finally examined by the physician
who noted that his vital signs were significantly abnormal, but
sent the youth back to his cottage without treatment. Another
five days passed before the youth was permitted a consultation
with an asthma specialist who subsequently prescribed singulair
and maxair.
The facilities fail to maintain equipment or lack equipment
to provide essential emergency services. Columbia’s medical
clinic contained old, rusty, dirty, and sharp equipment stored in
easily-accessible places such as unlocked drawers and trays on
the counter in the examination room. Equipment that could be
stolen easily and used as weapons such as scissors, razor blades
and even a scalpel blade were left unattended and readily
accessible to youth on a cart in the exam room rather than
securely stored. The medical clinics at both facilities do not
carry adequate emergency or medical equipment. For instance, the
clinics do not carry oxygen or syringes which are necessary for
emergencies, or basic medical equipment such as needles with
engineered controls used to prevent injury to health staff.

-24Staff fail to follow basic universal precautions which have
led to dangerous health hazards for youth in the facilities. A
nurse at Oakley was observed by our expert giving one resident a
pre-filled syringe of the hepatitis B immunization. She
accidentally inserted the same needle into the arm of the next
resident before realizing her mistake. Moreover, a scalpel blade
is repeatedly used by Columbia’s facility physician to shave
warts, permitting the transmission of blood-borne pathogens from
patient to patient. In violation of standard medical practice
and at the risk of contamination, Oakley staff store food in the
same refrigerator as pharmaceuticals such as immunizations and
control solutions to analyze blood. Our expert noted that the
Oakley physician conducted nine examinations in one day and never
changed the roll of paper that lined the surface of the
examination table.
2.

Health Assessments

Columbia and Oakley’s health assessments are incomplete, and
necessary intake services are not provided. Both facilities fail
to give tuberculosis skin tests upon admission even though
Mississippi is in the top quartile of states with annual
incidence of the disease. Moreover, identified medical histories
are not pursued. For example, a girl at Columbia had a history
of thrombocytopenia.14 No platelet count was obtained upon
admission to assess the status of disease activity or to
determine risk of internal bleeding. This is of great concern
because she is expected to be a full participant in the military
program. Furthermore, abnormal medical findings are not pursued.
For example, a youth at Columbia with a significantly low
hematocrit15 did not receive further evaluation by the contract
physician or a specialist, nor did the youth receive any
treatment. A female patient, also at Columbia, with a green
vaginal discharge noted during her admission physical examination
was neither referred to the gynecologist nor provided treatment.
At Oakley, a patient who had blood in his urine was not referred
to the contract physician and received no evaluation or
treatment. Another boy with a history of asthma was admitted to
14

Thrombocytopenia is a disease of the blood in which
there are too few platelets. It is a condition that interferes
with clotting.
15

A low hematocrit means that there is a lower than
normal level of red blood cells.

-25Oakley. Intake medical staff did not note this on his initial
health assessment and other staff were reportedly unaware of his
asthma until he suffered from shortness of breath for several
days while in military training. At both facilities, past health
records from medical providers and basic but necessary health
information from parents or guardians are almost never obtained
or requested.
3.

Sick Call

Youth must be provided sick call in a clinical setting where
they can discuss health problems confidentially with a qualified
clinician. Neither Oakley nor Columbia have an adequate sick
call protocol. At Columbia, youth must verbally tell cottage
staff that they need to see the nurse. Staff sometimes disregard
the requests, and other times call the nurse to evaluate the
problem. The nurse may or may not see the child depending on
what the staff tells her about the problem over the telephone.
Youth may have an opportunity to see the nurse when she makes
medication rounds in the cottages or at other times she happens
to be in the cottages. This evaluation is not done
confidentially, but where cottage staff and other residents are
present. The Acting Head Nurse reportedly curses at youth,
ignores medical requests, fails to provide medical advice to
girls about their female conditions, and consistently prevents
youth’s access to the doctor. This nurse has denied assistance
to girls who felt faint and dizzy from exercising in the heat.
In one instance, a girl was injured after falling on her knee
which swelled into a large knot. Staff allowed her to see the
Acting Head nurse in the cafeteria. The nurse did nothing for
her knee. When this youth saw another nurse, she referred her to
the physician who treated her knee.
4.

Inadequate Dental Care

Columbia and Oakley do not have adequate dental programs.
The medical policies and procedures for both facilities do not
require routine initial dental assessments. Initial dental
assessments and treatment should be part of the overall health
assessment of every youth admitted to Oakley and Columbia.
Columbia has not had a contract dentist since December 2001.
Therefore, dental screening, examination, and oral hygiene, among
other important components of an adequate dental care program,
were non-existent. It appears that when Columbia did have a
dentist, the only services that were provided were extractions.

-26Dental treatment is necessary to both maintain and restore oral
structures.
The dental program at Oakley raised additional concerns.
The dentist did not provide adequate dental examinations. His
dental assessments involved a simple inspection of the mouth
without the aid of a light or a dental explorer. We learned that
the dentist’s contract was not renewed after our first tour.
However, it is unclear whether Oakley has contracted with another
dentist for services. In any case, no dentist should provide
services to youth in the dental clinic we observed. The clinic
was extremely dirty and contained mouse droppings and cob webs.
Medications in the cabinets had expired between 1991 and 1995.
Needles and other instruments were lying on counters and in
unlocked drawers. We recommended during our first tour of Oakley
that the dental clinic be shut down immediately until it is
thoroughly cleaned.
E.

Education

Youth at Oakley and Columbia are entitled to an adequate
education and vocational training during commitment. Morgan v.
Sproat, 432 F. Supp. 1130, 1140-41 (S.D. Miss. 1977) (Oakley must
provide sufficient education, vocational training and
recreation). The State also is obligated to provide a free and
appropriate education to qualified students under the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Some of the core provisions of the
IDEA include parental notification, identification of students
who may be eligible for special education, evaluation of new
admissions, and individual education plan development and
revisions. However, Oakley and Columbia fail to provide these
and other general education services such as ensuring that youth
receive the required number of class hours per day and
educational services within a reasonable amount of time after
commitment. They also fail to provide most special education
services and fail to properly screen for youth who may be in need
of such services.
1.

Delay in Providing Educational Services

Oakley and Columbia youth do not attend school for several
weeks after admission. At Oakley, the administrator, school
principal, staff, and youth told us that youth committed for the
first time receive no education for three weeks. Youth who are

-27re-committed receive no education for five weeks. We also found
that youth were denied access to education services for periods
longer than three and five weeks. We found that Oakley did not
have any policies governing these practices, which violate the
Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law.16 Pursuant to
policy, Columbia youth do not attend school for the first three
weeks or more after admission which also is a violation of state
compulsory attendance laws and the Equal Protection Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment. See Donnell C. v. Illinois State Board of
Education, 829 F. Supp. 1016, 1018-19 (N.D. Ill. 1993). Unless
unforeseen circumstances occur, youth should be provided with
educational services soon after admission in accordance with
state and federal law.
2.

General Education

Although we encountered some well-intentioned teachers and
school administrators at both facilities, the structural problems
of the school program coupled with the absence of support and
resources results in an education program that is sorely
inadequate and fails to meet the needs of students.
(a)

Programming at Columbia and Oakley

Columbia has strengths that can be improved upon, such as a
school environment that is conducive to learning, properly
certified teachers who are given adequate time for planning,
adequate space and educational materials, a computer lab, a wellequipped library, and a GED program for age-appropriate girls.
In comparison, Oakley’s program suffers from a serious lack of
leadership and little staff support. Oakley’s principal admitted
that his focus is on Unit Two, leaving the Unit One school
program to be administered by an interim facility administrator
and Ironwood to be run by a teacher. Oakley’s SIU has no school
program. Youth in Unit Two at Oakley were observed simply
sitting in class rooms and not engaged in any school work.
Teachers typically provide little instruction there or in

16

We have been informed since our education tour of
Oakley that it was changing the structure of its military and
education programs to provide youth with education services
within one week of admission. We were not provided with
documentation of how this transition was to occur nor the current
status of its implementation.

-28Ironwood. The youth in Unit One, however, appeared to be engaged
in class room activity.
Most youth at Oakley and Columbia are not receiving the full
state mandated class time, which is a violation of Mississippi’s
compulsory education laws.17 Youth routinely are pulled from
class for significant periods of time to perform work details or
participate in “recreation” such as card playing, contributing to
this violation.
Oakley and Columbia do not have policies to ensure that
youth are placed in appropriate classes, have balanced class
sizes or are taught appropriate subject matter. Moreover, an
analysis of class subjects taken by youth shows that youth are
not receiving the full benefit of class instruction in core
subjects at either Columbia or Oakley. The population of youth
at Columbia and Oakley include those with severe academic
deficiencies who function well-below grade level. Yet, only 40
percent of Columbia youth attend classes in the four core
academic subjects: math, English, social studies, and science.
Otherwise, youth are enrolled in classes such as “Life Skills”
and “Family Dynamics.” In light of the population that Columbia
serves, these elective courses should be a supplement to the four
core subjects, not in place of them. Some core academic courses
at Columbia were linked into one class such as “math/science” and
“reading/social studies.” While there is a logical integration
of these subjects, youth are unable to master all of the
competencies required for both courses during a single class
period. This is troubling because youths’ grades are forwarded
to home schools, reflecting credit for two core classes when they
instructionally receive less than that.
Furthermore, Columbia does not employ substitute teachers to
cover classes when teachers are sick or on vacation. When a
teacher is absent, youth are regularly placed in “overflow” which
means that youth are divided into other classes in session during
that time period. Youth reported that they were not given any
work to do in these situations, but were required to sit in the
class and be silent. There also are no substitute teachers
employed at Oakley for absent teachers.
17

Even though Oakley’s and Columbia’s education structure
provides for the State mandated 330 minutes of instruction, a
majority of the students do not receive 330 minutes of
instruction per day.

-29School records from youths’ home schools should be obtained
so that youth are placed in appropriate classes at Oakley and
Columbia. However, we found that youths’ files rarely contained
public school records. Neither facility had a protocol for
receiving records from non-responsive school systems. We were
told during our tour at Columbia that the school planned to be
linked to the Mississippi Student Information System which will
provide access to youths’ most recent transcripts. However,
until that connection is made, Columbia and Oakley must develop a
system for receiving and maintaining permanent and cumulative
records containing academic information.
(b)

Education services for youth in disciplinary
isolation

Youth are not provided with adequate education in the SIUs
at Oakley and Columbia. The lack of education in the SIUs at
Columbia was the most glaring denial of access to education
services in the facilities. Youth can be locked up for two or
more weeks without attending school. If a youth is “committed”
to the SIU program, then a youth is in lock-up for several months
and education is limited and often-times sporadic. The boys in
SIU who had access to educational programming received
approximately 45 minutes to an hour of class time less than two
days per week and did not receive any instruction the week prior
to our visit. In addition, all of the boys in the SIU class
received the same work assignments despite differences in their
ages, abilities, and academic levels. Girls received only two
hours of education per day, except on Tuesdays when no academic
classes were held.
At Oakley, youth in the SIU are denied education for the
duration of their confinement. Confinement may be for one to
seven or more days and students may be sent back to the SIU
successively, causing even more disruption in their education.
The Ironwood program has one unsupervised teacher responsible for
teaching up to 25 youth. Youth in Ironwood receive approximately
three hours of instruction two days per week, but not all
students receive the benefit of this minimal programming. Some
who had been locked in Ironwood 90 days or more reported rarely
being taken out of their cells for class and others reported
being given materials in their cells, but given no pencils, which
limited their ability to do the assignments. We respect the
facilities’ legitimate security concerns, however, youth
committed to the SIUs should have access to the full range of

-30educational services in order for Columbia and Oakley to be in
compliance with Mississippi compulsory education laws.
3.

Special Education

The problems we encountered with the provision of special
education services at both facilities were pervasive. Oakley and
Columbia fail to follow key provisions of the IDEA and other
special education services mandates. School administrators at
both facilities were either unaware of the IDEA or erroneously
believed their schools were exempt from its requirements. For
instance, Oakley’s principal believed Oakley was exempt from core
IDEA provisions because of an agreement between the Mississippi
Department of Human Services and Mississippi Department of
Education. Oakley and Columbia are not exempt from the IDEA.
(a)

Screening, evaluation and identification

Pursuant to the IDEA, Oakley and Columbia are responsible
for screening, evaluating, and identifying youths suspected of
having a qualifying disability which would entitle them to
special education services. Yet, neither facility has a
structured mechanism to screen potentially eligible youth. The
facilities rely heavily on school records from community schools
to identify youth eligible for special education services.
However, youth may not have been attending school regularly prior
to their commitment, so reliance on school records alone is not
enough. Furthermore, as discussed earlier, we found that youths’
files rarely contained public school records. The IDEA requires
that eligibility be determined by a team of qualified
professionals, the child, and the parent or guardian, if
available.
Furthermore, we found that ineligible youth are being placed
in special education while many other students who may be
eligible are never identified and denied access to services in
violation of federal law. At Oakley, a youth was given four
segments of special education services a day, but the special
education teacher could not identify the student’s eligibility
for these classes. The student’s file contained no information
regarding the reason for placement in special education courses.
When asked why this student was in special education, the teacher
responded that the student did not do well in math. Six other
students’ files contained no information documenting the reason
for their placement in special education classes. Another

-31student was receiving four segments of special education services
per day as required by his expired individual education plan.
However, his psychological report indicated that his IQ was 66
which brings the appropriateness of his placement at Oakley into
question, given that youth with mental retardation are not
supposed to be placed at Oakley or Columbia.
(b)

Individual Education Plans

The foundation of the special education process is the
development and implementation of an individual education plan
(“IEP”) for each qualified youth. See Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S.
305, 311 (1988); see also 34 C.F.R. § 300.341(a). The facilities
have failed to create a system of developing, implementing,
monitoring, and reviewing students’ IEPs. None of the special
education teachers at Oakley were able to produce a current,
valid IEP for any of the youth in their classes. Furthermore,
IEPs contained identical, rather than individualized, goals and
objectives. IEPs did not contain, for example, statements of
present levels of performance or measurable annual goals and
objectives as required by law, and no IEP meetings have been
held, in part, because teachers and administrators were unaware
that youth must be re-evaluated periodically to keep IEPs
current. Eligible youth must have an IEP completed for each
school year. Schools must offer a continuum of placement options
for special education students. Oakley only has two of the four
options available while Columbia has no options available for
eligible youth.
Parents and guardians at Columbia and Oakley are not
notified regarding evaluations, eligibility determinations,
placements, or provision of special education services. Parent
or guardian participation in every step of the process is a
guiding principle of the IDEA which is being violated by both
facilities.
(c)

Related and Transition Services

Related services, such as individual and family counseling,
speech pathology, and psychological services, must be provided
where indicated so that youth receive the maximum benefit of
special education. See 34 C.F.R. § 300.24. The few related
services that had been available at Columbia have been
discontinued and they have never been provided at Oakley.

-32Children eligible for special education 14 years of age and
older also are entitled to transition services. Transition
services include vocational training, continuing education, or
employment services. Columbia provides no transition services
for students’ re-entry into their home communities -- another
violation of federal law. Oakley offers some limited
opportunities for vocational training. However, only students
who achieve a certain score on the Test of Adult Basic Education
are permitted to take the vocational courses. This requirement
typically excludes special education children and limits Oakley’s
ability to provide legally-required transition services. The
vocational program should be expanded and made more inclusive,
particularly in the provision of transitional services to special
education students.
F.

Religion

Religious activities can further a juvenile facility’s
rehabilitative mission. Moreover, Oakley and Columbia must allow
youth to engage in religious exercise through voluntary religious
activities, unless the facilities can demonstrate that curtailing
such activities would be the least restrictive means of achieving
a compelling governmental interest. See Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc.
However, Oakley and Columbia’s interests in affording youth the
benefits of religious activities have led to the “establishment”
of religion in violation of the First Amendment by coercing youth
to engage in specific religious activities.
During our first visit to Oakley, we observed youth-led
prayer during the graduation ceremony which occurs every
Wednesday morning and which youth in Unit Two are required to
attend or face discipline. Furthermore, Oakley staff informed us
that for two weeks following our visit, the youth would be
attending Vacation Bible School. We observed posters containing
religious material such as the “The Lord’s Prayer” and other
Bible verses hanging on the walls in military training classrooms
and in counseling rooms in the cottages. Mandatory prayer and
the posting of religious literature in the common areas of state
facilities for youth violates the Establishment Clause. See
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962) (holding that classroom
prayer at the beginning of each school day violates the
Establishment Clause); Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39, 39 (1981)
(finding that posting the Ten Commandments on the walls of
classrooms violates the Establishment Clause).

-33At Columbia, youth are required to attend religious services
at the church every Sunday. Some girls reported they would be
subject to discipline if they did not sing during services. The
facility administrator stated that youth had the option of not
attending the Sunday worship services if they chose not to, but
both boys and girls indicated that attending Sunday worship
services was a requirement or they would be disciplined. Youth
also must participate in a religious service in their cottages
every Tuesday evening or face discipline. The only reading
material the children in the SIUs and some of the housing units
are allowed to possess is the Bible. We witnessed a mandatory
group counseling session in the boys’ SIU in which youth were
required to read Bible verses and sing religious songs.
In each of these cases, youth were required to engage in
specific religious activities and were subject to disciplinary
action if they did not participate. As discussed above, these
are the same types of activities that the Supreme Court has found
to amount to the State sponsorship of particular religious
beliefs. Moreover, none of these activities are required to
maintain facility security or for any other operational purpose.
Therefore, these activities violate the Establishment Clause.
We emphasize that we are not suggesting that all religious
practices at Oakley or Columbia must stop. In fact, the Free
Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protects the youths’
rights to engage in voluntary religious activity. In light of
the unique nature of the correctional setting, facilitating
juveniles’ religious exercise may require a degree of State
involvement in religious activities that would not be appropriate
in other settings. For example, courts have held that it is
permissible for the State to pay for chaplains in order to
accommodate the religious exercise of those under State custody
and control. See Katcoff v. Marsh, 755 F.2d 223 (2d Cir. 1985)
(upholding military chaplaincy program); Carter v. Broadlawns
Medical Center, 857 F.2d 448 (8th Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 489
U.S. 1096 (1989) (holding the county hospital’s hiring of
chaplain did not violate the Establishment Clause). Likewise,
while having a chapel in a public school would clearly violate
the Constitution, chapels are present in most large correctional
facilities. Similarly, substance abuse programs that incorporate
faith, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, are used by correctional
facilities and probation departments throughout the country.
Such programs are permissible under the Establishment Clause,
though participants objecting to the religious elements must be

-34given a secular alternative if participation is mandatory. See
Warner v. Orange County Dep’t of Probation, 115 F.3d 1068 (2d
Cir. 1997).
To comply with the Constitution, Oakley and Columbia need
not excise religion from their facilities or programs. However,
they must ensure that they do not coerce the youth to engage in
religious activities by making all such activities voluntary.
Also, the exhibition of religious posters in common areas should
be limited to areas where the juveniles are voluntarily present,
such as a room where a religious service or religious instruction
is being held.
G.

Safety and Sanitation
1.

Oakley

Oakley’s buildings and grounds are unsafe and unsanitary,
creating unconstitutional confinement conditions for youth.
(a)

Physical Plant

Oakley’s campus contains old administration buildings and
housing units which require constant upkeep and maintenance.
Unfortunately, Oakley’s maintenance staff consists of four
employees who have received little or no training. These four
individuals are required to maintain all of the buildings,
control pest and rodent infestation, and mow and landscape the
expansive grounds. There is no facility safety officer.
(1)

Administration Buildings

The medical and dental clinics pose numerous safety hazards
to Oakley’s youth and staff. The Unit II Medical Clinic is a
decrepit building with many water leaks that have created
structural damage. The isolation room within the building is not
equipped or constructed for its purpose which is to isolate youth
with respiratory or gastrointestinal problems. Even more
concerning is that there is no sterilization equipment in the
clinic to clean medical instruments. Moreover, supplies and
equipment were not properly stored to maintain any kind of
sterilization. The dental clinic had not been cleaned in many
months because we observed dirt, spider webs, mouse droppings,
and dead roaches everywhere. It was apparent that the clinic has
a major insect and rodent infestation.

-35The kitchen had several deficiencies. First, rodent and
insect infestation are causing unsanitary conditions. We saw
mouse droppings in the food storage areas and live and dead
cockroaches in the kitchen. Kitchen staff stated that they had
to cover food while cooking to prevent cockroaches from falling
in from the hood above the stove. Youth also complained about
finding roaches in their food. Many areas of the kitchen were
unclean and some areas invited roach infestation. Second, water
temperatures in the kitchen created unsafe conditions. The
temperatures were high enough to cause first degree burns in a
matter of seconds. Also, the water temperature and pressure in
the dishwashing machine were improperly set so that dishes were
not always clean.
The vocational training area, which includes the auto-body,
small engine repair, welding, and carpentry shops, had a number
of safety hazards. Our expert observed numerous mislabeled or
unlabeled chemicals stored around the trade areas. There were no
“Material Safety Data Sheets” relating to the chemicals in these
areas, which inform staff how to handle and store this type of
material. The sheets also provide important safety and emergency
information on the chemicals. For example, a “chemical reducer”
was located uncovered on a shelf in the auto-body shop, where the
warning label clearly warns against this. Also, gas cylinders
used for torches and welding were not properly secured. This
fact, coupled with the fact that the areas have no fire sprinkler
system and that the fire extinguishers have not been properly
inspected, creates an extreme fire hazard. Furthermore, the
exhaust system in the painting booth was inoperable.
The gymnasium at Oakley is supposed to be used for
recreation. Unfortunately, during our visit much of it was
unuseable because of water leaks from the roof. The locker
rooms, showers, and stage area were not operable because of
disrepair and flooding. The boy’s restroom was dirty and the
floor was in disrepair. The girl’s restroom was in poor repair
and had no hot water.
(2)

Housing Units

The housing units at Oakley are divided into dormitories and
cottages in Unit II and pods in Unit I, Ironwood, and the SIU.
Two older cottages in Unit II, Cypress and White cottages, are in
extremely poor physical condition. Cypress and White cottages
suffer from age and deterioration and are not regularly

-36maintained. We observed the following problems in Cypress:
paint peeling from ceiling and walls, three out of the four
urinals were not operational, three of the eight showers were not
operational, and showers were only operable through the control
room. In other Unit II, SIU, and Ironwood housing, many
bathrooms had not been maintained properly with walls and
ceilings in poor repair and many washbasins, showers, and toilets
not operable. Furthermore, SIU and Ironwood’s housing set-up
does not allow youth access to toilets or washbasins without
getting the attention of staff. Youth also share one bar of soap
during showers.
The housing units suffer from numerous other problems.
Lighting in the living units varied greatly. There were numerous
areas in which the lighting was so poor that it invited accidents
and certainly eyestrain. Hot water temperatures varied
substantially between the housing units. Temperatures varied
between 81 and 135 degrees. Air temperature and humidity were
generally in the acceptable range, but a few living units were
extremely cold because of too much air conditioning. There were
numerous examples of mis-stored chemicals and cleaning supplies,
such as, a dirty mop head stored next to clean sheets and
underwear. Many of the youth’s mattresses were worn far beyond
their useful life. In this condition, they cannot be adequately
cleaned or sanitized and are fire safety risks. Youth sleep on
the floor in crowded housing units or if the youth is on suicide
precautions.
(b)

Pest Control

In addition to what has already been discussed above, pest
control in the housing units at Oakley is woefully lacking.
There were rat burrows behind Cypress cottage, mice and roaches
in the Unit I medical clinic, and roach infestations in Elm
cottage and the SIU.
(c)

Fire Safety

In an April 2002 fire inspection report, a fire marshal
determined that four of the living units and the Unit II school
did not have an operable fire alarm system. The report also
found that the staff lacked adequate training and understanding
for emergency situations. At the time of our visit three months
later, these issues still had not been addressed. Other fire
safety concerns included: emergency generators that required

-37hand cranking; Pine cottage’s only fire extinguisher was
partially discharged; Cypress cottage’s only fire extinguisher
was behind a locked door and the fire exit was locked and barred;
and generally staff had a difficult time finding the right keys
for fire extinguishers and fire exits.
2.

Columbia

In general, we found the Columbia facility in better
condition than the Oakley campus,18 but found the following
problems: (1) potentially dangerous areas in the housing units
for youth with suicidal ideation;19 and (2) sweltering
temperatures in the girl’s SIU with girls having no access to
water.
H.

Other Juvenile Justice Issues
1.

Lack of Due Process

Youth routinely are locked in isolation in the SIUs at
Oakley and Columbia, and in Ironwood at Oakley, without adequate
due process. As a general rule, juveniles may be isolated and
locked briefly in their rooms as an immediate response to out-ofcontrol behavior that may endanger the youth, other children, or
staff. However, extended isolation for punitive purposes may
only be imposed if the youth is afforded notice of the charges
and after an informal hearing before a staff member not involved
in the incident. Moreover, the youth should be able to appeal
adverse results of the due process hearing. Cf. H.C. v. Jarrard,
786 F.2d 1080, 1082 (11th Cir. 1986); Gary H. v. Hegstrom, 831
F.2d 1430, 1443 (9th Cir. 1987); Patterson v. Hopkins, 481 F.2d
640, 641 (5th Cir. 1973). Both Oakley and Columbia have policies
detailing adequate due process procedures to which youth are
entitled before being placed in disciplinary isolation. However,
actual practices at both facilities deviate substantially from
written policy. For example, a disciplinary committee at
18

At Columbia, there were some general maintenance issues
for some of the older housing units.
19

For example, we observed metal hooks for hanging
uniforms in the hallways of most of the basic and advanced
housing areas. Metal grating with openings large enough to tie
off a hanging device was found in several cells in the girls’
SIU.

-38Columbia hears complaints against youth. However, if a youth
appears before the Committee and testifies to something other
than what the staff attests to, the youth is typically given
added time or punishment. Youth sent to the SIUs do not receive
the benefit of the committee hearing prior to removal from the
cottages and in fact may be confined in isolation for several
days before they receive word regarding their punishment or
release back to the cottages. Hearings are not provided to
students at Oakley when they are removed from the open cottages
and sent to Unit One, the SIU, or Ironwood. Youth reported, and
the documentation we reviewed showed, that youth are routinely
removed to the secure, locked units based on recommendations from
the psychologist, the facility administrator, or the director of
the Division of Youth Services, without the opportunity for a
hearing.
2.

Grievance Process

Columbia and Oakley youth have no ability to access a
grievance system designed to address their complaints regarding
their treatment at the facilities. Generally accepted
professional standards mandate that youth should have readily
available access to a grievance process. Where courts have
considered this, they have uniformly found that detained youth
have a constitutional right to file grievances with facility
administrators regarding their treatment. Bradley v. Hall, 64
F.3d 1276, 1279 (9th Cir. 1995); D.B. v. Tewksbury, 545 F. Supp.
896, 905 (D.Or. 1982); Morales v. Turman, 364 F. Supp. 166, 175
(E.D. Tex. 1973). An objective grievance system should be well
known to youth at Oakley and Columbia and be easily accessible.
Grievances also provide an important quality-control mechanism by
which Oakley and Columbia administrators can monitor whether
facility staff are adhering to policies and procedures.
3.

Staff Training

Many of the deficiencies we identified at each facility can
be directly attributed to lack of training. Staff at both
facilities lacked adequate training in behavioral management
techniques, assessment of suicidal youth, crisis management,
psychiatric medications, therapeutic techniques, verbal
communication and de-escalation, and working with violent
juveniles. Staff also need to be trained in properly documenting
serious incidents, use of physical and chemical restraints, and
visual checks of youth locked in cells. Nurses at Oakley and

-39Columbia are not provided training to improve their skills and
clinical competency and are not regularly trained and certified
in CPR. Staff at Oakley had not received any training in CPR,
first aid, or other medical issues in recent years. Staff at
both facilities are ill-equipped to handle emergencies.
4.

Mail, Telephone, and Visitation

Youth have the right to send and receive written
communications through the postal service. See Milonas v.
Williams, 691 F.2d 931, 939 (10th Cir. 1982). Both Oakley and
Columbia’s policies state that incoming and outgoing mail will
not be read by staff unless there is reasonable cause to believe
the mail is a threat to the security of the institution or
another individual, or contains sexually explicit or obscene
matter. Youth at Columbia reported that their mail was censored.
Reportedly, correspondence to family or to youth court judges
which mentioned anything negative about Columbia or the Columbia
staff was not mailed. At both facilities, many youth indicated
that they were not given regular opportunities to write their
families. Overly-restrictive practices with respect to mail,
telephone, and visitation work together to deny youth in both
facilities the ability to communicate with their families,
communities, and attorneys.
Additionally, youth cannot make or receive telephone calls
at Oakley and Columbia. Families are permitted visits for only
two hours on Sunday. Many youth reported that families could not
visit because of the youth’s placement in a facility far from
home combined with such limited visitation opportunities. This
forced estrangement from their families negatively impacts
youths’ abilities to achieve success at the facilities.
5.

Lack of Opportunities for Exercise at Ironwood

Ironwood staff do not allow youth to go outside for exercise
in the recreation yard attached to the building. During our
first tour, more than half of the youth had been in Ironwood
longer than 90 days. One youth had been confined in Ironwood for
nearly two years and reported that he had never been allowed

-40outside even though there is a secure court in the back of the
facility. This is unhealthy and inhumane, and unlawful.20
III.

REMEDIAL MEASURES

In order to rectify the identified deficiencies and protect
the constitutional and statutory rights of the youth confined at
Oakley and Columbia, the facilities should implement, at a
minimum, the following measures:
A.

Protection from Harm

1.

Ensure that any imposition of discipline is appropriate and
justified by a legitimate, appropriate penological interest.
Ensure that abusive institutional practices such as hogtying, pole shackling, “sitting in a chair,” “guard duty,”
making youth run with tires around their bodies, use of the
“dark room” in the girls’ SIU at Columbia, and requiring
youth to strip naked before being placed in isolation, are
ceased immediately.

2.

Ensure that juveniles are adequately protected from staff
abuse. Employ sufficient trained and independent
investigators to ensure that all incidents of violence, use
of force, or serious injury are adequately investigated and
that appropriate personnel actions are taken in response to
substantiated findings. Ensure that OC spray is used only
where there is an imminent risk of serious bodily harm and
no other less intrusive restraint is available. Ensure that
all uses of OC spray or mechanical or chemical restraints
are well-documented and reviewed in a timely manner by
senior administrators.

3.

Develop and implement adequate quality assurance mechanisms
and review to ensure the efficacy of corrective measures.
B.

20

Mental Health Care

Youth in confinement “must receive at least an hour’s
physical exercise out of the [unit] or in the gym . . . .”
Morgan v. Sproat, 432 F. Supp. 1130, 1140 (S.D. Miss. 1977).
Youth “should have at least one to two hours of recreation each
weekday and two to four hours on weekends, when they are not in
school.” Id. at 1154.

-411.

Provide adequate mental health and rehabilitative treatment.

2.

Ensure that there are an adequate number of counselors and
psychologists and an adequate amount of contracted
psychiatric hours to provide adequate mental health and
rehabilitative treatment services to all youth who require
such services.

3.

Ensure that all youth with mental health needs have current
comprehensive individual treatment plans, and that the
youth, and facility counselors, are involved in their
development.

4.

Develop and implement policies and procedures that comply
with generally accepted professional standards for the
management of suicidal youth.

5.

Ensure that restraints and isolation other than disciplinary
isolation are used only when a youth presents a clear and
present danger to him/herself or others. Provide adequate
positive behavior management programs.

6.

Cease placement of youth in isolation cells for prolonged
periods. Ensure that youth placed in isolation cells
receive adequate exercise and recreation outdoors.

7.

Cease placement of mentally ill youth in programs and units
where they cannot receive adequate mental health care or
where they face a likelihood of punishment or other harm in
response to their mental illness. Cease placement of youth
with suicidal ideation at Ironwood or in the SIUs at Oakley
and Columbia.

8.

Provide appropriate rehabilitative activities during nonschool hours and days.

9.

Cease placement of youths into paramilitary programs when,
by reason of mental or physical disability or maturity
level, the youth cannot reasonably be expected to obtain any
significant benefit or the placement will likely result in
physical or psychological harm to the youths.
C.

Medical Care

-421.

Staff all medical units with sufficient medical staff to
screen and evaluate incoming youth, and provide adequate
treatment and monitoring of youth with medical needs.

2.

Ensure that nurses provide medical care within the scope of
their training and licensure.

3.

Train staff to conduct medical and mental health assessments
properly and to look for signs of mental and physical
illness in the youth interviewed.

4.

Revise and implement procedures to ensure that youth
reporting or exhibiting possible signs of significant
medical or mental health problems during the initial
assessment are seen promptly by a doctor or psychiatrist,
where appropriate, and receive follow-up care.

5.

Develop and implement procedures for validating and
continuing, if appropriate, current prescriptions for
medications of incoming youth within the prescriptions’
clinically indicated time period.

6.

Ensure that the medical clinics at each facility are
equipped with adequate equipment to provide essential
emergency services. Ensure that medical equipment that
could be used as weapons is not accessible to youth.

7.

Provide for an appropriately confidential environment in
which to conduct medical and mental health assessments.
Ensure that youth have adequate opportunities to contact and
discuss health concerns with health care staff in a setting
that affords privacy.

8.

Develop and implement policies, procedures, and practices to
ensure that youth receive care from the appropriate level
and specialty of practitioner in a timely manner.

9.

Ensure that all youth receive a full dental examination at
the time of the initial health assessment, and provide
adequate treatment and monitoring of youth with dental
needs.

10.

Cease the use of the dental clinic at Oakley until such time
as the risks of infection from the contaminated instruments,

-43and equipment, and dirt, pests, and other vermin are
removed.
D.

Education

1.

Ensure that all students receive appropriate education
instruction within a few school days of their arrival at the
facility.21

2.

Ensure that all students receive 330 minutes of classroom
time per day and that all students receive the benefit of
class instruction in math, English, social studies, and
science.

3.

Provide adequate qualified substitute teachers.

4.

Provide youth in disciplinary confinement with the full
range of educational services.

5.

Provide all youth reasonable access to reading and writing
materials in their cells.

6.

Provide adequate screening of youth for special education
needs. Obtain prior education records from school systems
in a timely fashion. Provide special education services to
all youth identified by the screening process.

7.

Implement procedures to identify all youth with mental
retardation or mental illness and ensure that they are
transitioned out of Oakley and Columbia as quickly as
possible. Implement procedures to prevent the placement of
youth with mental illness or mental retardation at the
facilities.

21

One way Oakley and Columbia could provide this remedy
is to set up a special “intake” education class. This classroom
could focus on basic education skills such as literacy, current
events, and math skills. The curriculum would be applicable to
children with a broad range of education backgrounds. It would
also provide the facility with an opportunity to evaluate the
children’s education abilities before all relevant education
records had been obtained. After an appropriate period of time
in this intake classroom, children could be integrated into the
general school population.

-448.

Ensure parent or guardian involvement in evaluations,
eligibility determinations, placement and provision of
special education services.

9.

Ensure that all eligible youth have current, valid IEPs.
Create a system of routinely developing, implementing,
monitoring and reviewing youth’s IEPs.

10.

Provide juveniles with adequate related services at Oakley
and Columbia and ensure that special education students have
access to transition services specified in the IDEA, such as
the vocational training program at Oakley.
E.

1.

Religious Freedom

Revise the policies regarding the exercise of religion to
clarify the proper role that religious activities can play
at the facilities. The policies shall provide that youth be
allowed to engage in voluntary religious activities unless
the facilities can show that curtailing such activities
would be the least restrictive means of achieving a
compelling governmental interest. At the same time, the
policies must not coerce youth to engage in specific
religious activities. Provide adequate training to all
staff on the policies and protocols described above.
Monitor facility programs and the decorations on the units
to ensure that the policies described above are being
followed.
F.

Environmental Health

1.

Correct deficiencies in maintenance and sanitation at
Oakley. Appoint a facility safety officer to ensure
accountability in the areas of safety and sanitation.

2.

Repair all safety hazards in administrative buildings and
housing units at Oakley. Remedy all suicide hazards in
areas where youth with suicidal ideations may be potentially
housed.

3.

Ensure that Oakley provides proper water temperatures in the
kitchen and housing areas.

4.

Obtain Material Safety Data Sheets for all applicable
chemicals used in the facilities.

-455.

Develop written policies and procedures specifically
addressing the handling, storage and use of flammable,
caustic and toxic chemicals in compliance with applicable
state and federal regulations.

6.

Correct structural problems in Oakley’s gymnasium.

7.

Repair and replace all malfunctioning toilets, lavatories
and showers at Oakley.

8.

Ensure that adequate sleeping accommodations are provided
such that no youth is required to sleep on the floor at
Oakley.

9.

Implement proper sanitation and maintenance control of
cockroaches, spiders and mice throughout Oakley, including
housing and medical areas.

10.

Ensure that bi-annual fire safety inspections are conducted
at Oakley by state and local fire officials.

11.

Address all issues identified by the Fire Marshal at Oakley
immediately.

12.

Ensure that Oakley staff are adequately trained quarterly in
fire and emergency procedures.

13.

Ensure adequate ventilation throughout the boys’ and girls’
SIUs at Columbia so that youth receive an adequate supply of
fresh air and reasonable levels of heating and cooling.
Maintenance staff should review and assess compliance with
this requirement at appropriate intervals.
G.

Other Juvenile Justice Issues

1.

Ensure that youth are afforded a due process hearing before
imposing confinement for disciplinary purposes in the SIUs
at both facilities, Unit One at Oakley, and Ironwood.

2.

Develop and implement an adequate grievance system at Oakley
and Columbia.

3.

Employ sufficient trained staff to ensure safety and to
satisfy the individual treatment, training and

-46rehabilitative needs of juveniles confined in these
facilities.
4.

Train existing staff so that they perform their positions
adequately and ensure that all staff demonstrate an
understanding of and/or demonstrate the application of
applicable skills. For all staff working with juveniles,
the areas of training and demonstrated competence should
include: passive restraint; stages of adolescent
development; communication skills; therapeutic intervention
skills; basic rights of residents and staff; report writing;
basic medical terminology; recognizing and responding to
seizure disorders; common side effects of prescription and
non-prescription medication; universal precautions to
prevent infection of TB or HIV/AIDS; confidentiality of
medical information; the provision of health education for
residents; basic information concerning learning
disabilities; certification in first aid and CPR; and
adaptive activities for physically and developmentally
challenged juveniles.

5.

Provide juveniles with adequate access to mail, telephones,
and visitation.

6.

Ensure youth confined to Ironwood are permitted access to
adequate outdoor exercise.
* * * * *

During the exit interview at our on-site tours, we provided
State officials with preliminary observations made by our expert
consultants. State officials and facility staff reacted
positively and constructively to the observations and
recommendations for improvements. The collaborative approach the
parties have taken thus far has been productive. We hope to be
able to continue working with the State in an amicable and
cooperative fashion to resolve deficiencies previously noted. In
addition, due to the State’s cooperation in this matter, and
State officials’ expressed desire to improve conditions in these
facilities, we will send, under separate cover, reports from our
experts which provide their more detailed findings and
recommendations to address the inadequacies they found in the
operation of the facilities. Although the expert consultants’
evaluations and work do not necessarily reflect the official

-47conclusions of the Department of Justice, their observations,
analysis, and recommendations provide further elaboration of the
issues discussed in this letter and offer practical assistance in
addressing them.
In the unexpected event that the parties are unable to reach
a resolution regarding the concerns outlined above, the Attorney
General may initiate a lawsuit pursuant to CRIPA, to correct
deficiencies or to otherwise protect the rights of Oakley and
Columbia residents, 49 days after the receipt of this letter.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1997b (a)(1). We have every confidence, however,
that this matter will be resolved cooperatively. Accordingly,
Civil Rights Division attorneys will soon contact State officials
to discuss in more detail the State’s implementation of these
remedial measures.
Sincerely,

Ralph F. Boyd, Jr.
Assistant Attorney General
cc:

The Honorable Mike Moore
Attorney General
State of Mississippi
Thelma Brittain
Interim Executive Director
Mississippi Department of Human Services
Willie Blackmon, Director
Division of Youth Services
Mississippi Department of Human Services
Dr. Nanolla Yasdani
Executive Director
Oakley Training School
Mr. Michael Morris
Executive Director
Columbia Training School
The Honorable Dunn O. Lampton
United States Attorney for the
Southern District of Mississippi

-48The Honorable Roderick R. Paige
Secretary
United States Department of Education
Mr. Robert H. Pasternack
Assistant Secretary
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
United States Department of Education
Ms. Stephanie S. Lee
Director
Office of Special Education Programs
United States Department of Education

 

 

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