A youth advocacy group has sued Mississippi over allegations of physical and sexual abuse at Columbia Training School, reports the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. The Mississippi Youth Justice Project had asked for counseling for girls sent to the school, monetary damages, and “assurances that no other girls would suffer the same fate as our clients,” spokeswoman Sheila Bedi said. Bedi said the suit could have been avoided if the state had negotiated. Five teenage girls were forced to wear leg shackles, and one was sexually assaulted, the lawsuit alleges. None of the teens was provided federally required mental health treatment, it says.
The state oversees the school where about 33 troubled girls are housed under a $5 million budget. A state official said Mississippi “working diligently to complete the investigation” it began after the allegations surfaced in May. That month, five girls were shackled for 12 hours a day for periods ranging from eight days to about a month, the lawsuit alleges. “She has dreams. She screams of shackles,” Alicia Stojic said of her daughter, a plaintiff. “They don’t care about the children. (It) needs to be shut down.” Six employees have been suspended with pay while the state investigates. The investigation widened when a Mississippi legislative committee learned of accusations that male guards asked girls for sexual favors and gave teens cigarettes.