Mississippi’s largest county won a legal victory in its effort to stave off a rare federal takeover of its jail, where a judge has found “ongoing unconstitutional conditions” for prisoners. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed a lower court’s order putting the Raymond Detention Center into receivership until it rules on the county’s motion for reconsideration. The court will also look at whether the lower court's injunction complies with the Prison Litigation Reform Act, a 1996 federal law that places restrictions on lawsuits brought by prisoners. Hinds County officials applauded the move to delay work by the receiver, who attorneys for the county said would be “utterly unaccountable” to voters and taxpayers, reports the Associated Press.
“We are still facing the day-to-day challenges at the jail, but we are thankful for the opportunity for another court to look at the situation and see that the Hinds County Sheriff and Hinds County Board of Supervisors have been doing something right in this situation,” said Sheriff Tyree Jones. On July 29, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves put the jail into receivership after citing poor conditions at the facility. The judge said deficiencies in supervision and staffing lead to “a stunning array of assaults, as well as deaths.” Seven people died last year at the jail. At that point, federal and state judges had ordered receiverships or a similar transfer of control for prisons and jails only about eight times, said Hernandez Stroud of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. On Oct. 31, Reeves appointed Wendell France Sr., a public safety consultant, former correctional administrator and 27-year member of the Baltimore Police Department, to improve conditions at the jail outside Jackson. France was scheduled to assume control over the jail on January 1.