Los Angeles, CA (PressExposure) August 07, 2007 -- On behalf of six girls in Columbia Training School, a detention center in Mississippi, the Mississippi Youth Justice Project filed a federal lawsuit against the state on Wednesday for physical and sexual abuse. The charges were filed following the youth advocacy group's discovery that the girls, with age bracket of 13 - 17 years old had been severely abused both physically and sexually. The group also demanded that the said center be shut down due to the troubles it has caused.
All of the girls who were involved in the case have been committed in the detention hall for offenses that were nonviolent, although all of them have mental illnesses. This fact was given light by the Mississippi Youth Project director, Sheila Bedi.
Of the six girls, five of them claimed that during the month of May, they have been shackled at the detention center for 12 hours every day for a period of a week up to almost a month. One of them also declared in their lawsuit of being assaulted in a sexual way. Another one claims that a guard of the detention hall sent her a letter with sexual overtures. The others also claimed that they have been subject to unnecessary use of restraints, absence of mental health treatment and other kinds of abuse and mistreatment.
The lawsuit also declares that there were times when staff at the Columbia did not double-lock their shackles, which causes it to wound around tightly in the girls' ankles every time they took a step. The girls have to bear excruciating pain because of this. However, their complains to the staff of Columbia regarding the injuries they suffer because of the shackling fell on deaf ears.
The lawsuit named among its defendants from the state Gov. Haley Bardour and Don Taylor, DHS executive director.
The center houses 33 girls and receives an annual budget of $5million for its operations. The abuse allegations came out in the open in May. However, there have been accusations of abuse that floated up even before.
Taylor has already suspended six employees of the center, with pay and spearheaded an investigation about the claims. The DHS officials said that once their investigation is completed, they would be releasing a report about their findings.
Meanwhile, Spokesperson Julia Bryan of the state's Department of Human Services overseeing the Columbia Training School declared that they have yet to review the lawsuit. Thus, they are giving out no comments yet regarding the pending litigation.