The Hinds County Board of Supervisors is asking U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves for its hearing on the status of the county jail to be rescheduled.
In a brief filed January 13, attorneys for the county said that it couldn’t meet a deadline for discovery (an exchange of all evidence and information between the parties) on January 18 and wouldn’t be ready for an evidentiary hearing scheduled for January 24.
The reason is one of the county’s attorneys tested positive for COVID-19 and has a high fever and a severe headache. The brief also says he was in close contact with one of the other litigators on the case. Also, the brief states the other litigation attorney who appeared in the case is out of the state and won’t return until next month, so getting a new attorney up to speed on the case would be difficult.
The county says that it is not seeking a delay, but it wants time for its attorneys to recover and be able to prepare its defense.
The U.S. Department of Justice sued the county for inhumane conditions at the Raymond Detention Center in 2015 and a settlement was reached in 2016 where the county agreed to improve conditions at the jail. The U.S. District Court of Southern Mississippi is using court-appointed monitors to supervise the county’s progress on fixing issues with the jail. Reeves issued an order in January 2020 demanding the county meet the requirements of the settlement.
In a filing from December 15, attorneys for the county asked Reeves for a deadline of July 1 to show more progress on meeting the requirements of the consent decree.
The filing came in response to an order issued on November 23 by Reeves that mandated the county explain to him why the U.S. Department of Justice shouldn’t take over operation of the Raymond Detention Center.
His order followed an October 28 report by the independent monitor that decried six deaths at the jail, saying that they represented a “serious lack of compliance” with the 2016 court order issued by Reeves.
The county said in its December 15 brief that progress is being made to turn around the jail with a new administrator. The county also said that there has been one death due to violence since the new administrator took over, but there have been no new COVID cases and no suicides despite two attempts.
In May 2015, a list of findings on the Raymond facility were released by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The DOJ found that the county wasn’t doing enough to protect inmates from violence from other prisoners, was allowing the improper use of force by staff, detaining inmates beyond court-ordered release dates and improperly housing and isolating prisoners.