Clearinghouse coding complete
On October 25, 2010, the Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division announced that it was commencing an investigation into the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (“Walnut Grove”) in Mississippi (“the State”). Walnut Grove was a 1,500 bed prison that housed children and men aged 13 to 22 in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). According to the DOJ report, the population of Walnut Grove more than tripled between 2001 and 2010. Approximately 79% of the youth were Black, 20% white and 1% classified as “Other.”
The State contracted Cornell Companies to run Walnut Grove as a facility for juvenile offenders from 2003 to 2010; in 2010, the GEO Group acquired Cornell Companies. The GEO Group, Inc. is a publicly traded company that invests in private prisons and mental health facilities in North America, Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. In 2010, the GEO Group reportedly operated more than forty facilities in the United States.
Following significant publicity surrounding the DOJ investigation, the State conducted an internal review of the facility. The State’s parallel investigation was conducted in cooperation with the DOJ. The State released a report consistent with the findings of the DOJ investigation in 2011. Between January and October 2010, during the course of the State’s investigation, 11 officers found to have engaged in inappropriate relationships with youth were terminated.
On March 20, 2012, the DOJ formally informed the governor of Mississippi of the findings of the investigation and publicly released the report. In the course of the investigation, the DOJ interviewed administrators, staff, and 300-400 youth. The DOJ found an unconstitutional pattern or practice of deliberate indifference to the health and well-being of the youth at Walnut Grove on the part of both the staff at the facility and the state. The six main findings of the report were as follows:
In the report, the DOJ concluded that it wanted to work cooperatively with the State to address the numerous deficiencies and implement remedial measures.
On November 16, 2010, plaintiffs represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU Prison Project filed a federal class-action suit against GEO and MDOC (see: DePriest ex rel. C.B. v. Walnut Grove Correctional Authority). The contents of the claim mirrored the pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct found by the DOJ. Following extensive testimony, the case was settled and a federal court monitor was appointed on March 26, 2012, six days after the DOJ’s report was released. Conditions of the settlement included: transferring youthful offenders to locations that conformed to juvenile standards; establishing a state-run youthful offender unit at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility; and ending all contracts with GEO Group. As a result of the investigation and settlement, the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility ceased housing youth offenders and became the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility (WGCF).
On April 20, 2012, Mississippi announced that it would end its contracts with the GEO Group. The state signed a new contract with another private prison company, the Management & Training Corporation. In 2014, the FBI commenced a five-year investigation into Walnut Grove and other MDOC private prisons titled Operation Mississippi Hustle. The WGCF closed in 2016 but has since reopened.
Hannah Juge (11/12/2021)
DePriest ex rel. C.B. v. Walnut Grove Correctional Authority, Southern District of Mississippi (2010)
Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)
Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)
Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.
State / Territory: Mississippi
Closing Date: 2018
Case Ongoing: No
The investigation was run by the Special Litigation section of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. The Special Litigation section works to protect civil rights in several areas, including the rights of people in jails, prisons, juvenile detention facilities, and health care facilities for people with disabilities.
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Granted
Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (Leake), Private Entity/Person
Causes of Action:
Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.
Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act, 34 U.S.C. § 12601 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 14141)
Special Case Type(s):
Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief:
Form of Settlement:
Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration: 2012 - 2017
Sanitation / living conditions
Sex w/ staff; sexual harassment by staff
Type of Facility: