Columbia juvenile school incident being investigated, says MDHS

Published 11:34 pm Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Mississippi Department of Human Services is investigating allegations that eight girls at the Columbia Training School, who threatened to escape, were shackled as a “prevention measure,” according to executive director Don Taylor.

Taylor said in a statement released Friday that administrators in charge have been suspended with pay during the investigation. The girls were not seriously injured from the shackles on their legs but had received medical attention, he said.

Further details will not be released until the investigation is complete, DHS spokeswoman Julia Bryan said.

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If the incident occurred, Taylor said in his statement that MDHS would “consider all possible solutions that will prevent this type of mistreatment in the future, including potentially closing training school facilities.”

In May 2005, the state entered a four-year decree to end a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit over allegations of abuse at the Oakley and Columbia training schools. The monitor reports have said problems continue to plague the schools, but progress is being made.

Oakley, which is a few miles southwest of Raymond, serves boys ages 10 to 17 and Columbia houses girls ages 10 to 18 for infractions such as truancy, shoplifting and simple assault.

Sheila Bedi, a Mississippi Youth Justice Project attorney who represents Oakley juveniles, called the schools “state-funded child abuse.” The Youth Justice Project is examining the incident, she said in a article.

“It is not rehabilitating children. It’s actually harming them,” she said.