A federal judge seized control over a Mississippi jail after finding “severely deficient” conditions, Associated Press reports. The judge will appoint a receiver to oversee Hinds County’s Raymond Detention Center in hopes of conditions improving. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves said that the deficiencies in staffing have led to assaults and deaths in the jail. The judge wrote that it was clear that Hinds County was “incapable or unwilling to handle its affairs.” State and federal judges have ordered receiverships or other transfers only eight times in the past.
Reeves will decide on details of the receivership, including the powers the receiver will have and how long they will stay in power. Reeves wrote that the staffing levels were “particularly egregious.” He said that the lack of staffing encouraged gang formation and the circulation of contraband, including narcotics and weapons. He also said that jail staff lacks training in using force and tasers. Cell doors do not lock, and there is inadequate lighting, creating miserable conditions for the incarcerated and preventing guards from being able to watch detainees. In 2016, Reeves imposed a consent decree on the jail, citing “unconstitutional conditions,” a decree that was rolled back only months ago.