Juvenile Detention in Mississippi
In Mississippi, over 70% of the youth behind bars are accused of non-violent offenses like shoplifting, disorderly conduct or school-related disciplinary problems. Children as young as ten years old have been locked up for a school-yard fight or for misbehaving at home.
Most of the youths held at the Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Biloxi in 2010, were not found guilty of any crime and were awaiting court hearings. They endured squalid conditions and physical and mental abuse. Often confined to unsanitary jail cells for 23 hours a day, many cells were overcrowded, requiring children to sleep on the floor on thin mattresses. There were also cases reported of shackling and assaults by staff.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit that resulted in a settlement agreement to protect children and teens detained at the center from abuse and neglect.