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  • mcprison mcprison Mar 31, 2000 12:19 PM Flag

    WHC sued by Feds

    Govt. Seeks Intervention at Prison

    The
    Associated Press

    By BRETT MARTEL

    NEW ORLEANS
    (AP) - Responding to reports of beatings by guards and
    vicious fights and rapes among inmates, the federal
    government asked a judge to intervene immediately in the
    operation of a juvenile prison.

    The Justice
    Department filed a federal lawsuit Thursday in an effort to
    force the operator of the privately run Jena Juvenile
    Justice Center to take immediate steps to improve the
    facility.

    The agency's request for emergency relief seeks an
    end to the use of corporal punishment and gas
    grenades and limits on the use of chemical restraints and
    isolation.

    ``We're taking this action on behalf of young people in
    this facility who cannot help or protect themselves,''
    said Bill Lann Lee, acting assistant attorney general
    for civil rights.

    The agency also asked U.S.
    District Judge Frank Polozola to include the Jena prison
    in its November 1998 lawsuit accusing the state of
    failing to provide adequate care for more than 1,700
    juvenile prisoners.

    Polozola had not set a hearing
    on any of the government's motions
    Thursday.

    Officials with Wackenhut Corrections Corp. of Palm Beach
    Gardens, Fla., the juvenile prison's operator, has said
    reported problems at the facility have been
    exaggerated.

    Wackenhut officials said in a statement Thursday they are
    working to improve operations, adding that the company
    ``is providing a constitutionally sound, safe and
    secure facility'' for juvenile inmates.

    The new
    lawsuit, filed in Baton Rouge, echoes a February report by
    the Justice Department, which found that guards at
    the 276-bed facility use excessive force and that
    prisoners often get into fights over things such as food,
    clothes and shoes.

    Some inmates repeatedly
    mutilate themselves so they will be transferred to the
    prison's medical unit and avoid being pressured for food
    or sex by other prisoners, the report
    said.

    The report stemmed from a visit in January to the
    facility, which opened in 1998.

    The Tallulah
    Correctional Center for Youth, which had been the state's only
    other private facility, was taken over by the state
    last year after a series of scathing Justice
    Department reports highlighted similar
    conditions.

    Jena is about 170 miles northwest of New Orleans.

 
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