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TWO MISSISSIPPI JAILS AGREE TO UPGRADE CONDITIONS IN RESPONSE TO JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROBE WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Two Mississippi jails that were found by the Justice Department to have inadequate medical care, insufficient staffing, and improper fire safety agreed today to upgrade their conditions of confinement. Sunflower County Jail in Indianola and Forrest County Jail in Hattiesburg were two of 18 Mississippi jails the Justice Department investigated following a series of prisoner suicides. The investigations, launched pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, revealed that conditions at all of the jails failed to meet constitutional standards. A separate criminal investigation into the individual suicides is a pending matter within the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division. "We must never allow unconstitutional conditions to go unchallenged in our nation's institutions," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "Through the cooperative efforts of federal and local officials, we have been able to reach agreements that will ensure better conditions." Under the agreements, the two jails will develop and implement new policies and procedures, ensure fire safety, provide adequate medical care, guarantee safe and sanitary conditions, and provide adequate inmate security and supervision. The agreements also require both jails to train their staff to meet the provisions of the agreement and develop and implement suicide prevention programs. Sunflower County, whose jail was deemed unfit for human habitation, also agreed to construct a new jail facility, which it recently completed. The Justice Department examined all conditions at the two jails in 1993, including supervision, fire safety, training, staffing and mental and medical care. It then notified local officials of its findings and began negotiations. In a separate action, the Justice Department asked a federal court for permission to intervene in a private case challenging the conditions at the Simpson County Jail in Mendenhall. The Justice Department concluded that conditions in the jail, which was also one of the facilities investigated in 1993, failed to meet constitutional standards. By intervening in the class-action suit, the Justice Department can help obtain a settlement to improve conditions at the Simpson County facility. The Justice Department will monitor the two jails that entered agreements today to ensure that they are complying with them and will continue to monitor the 10 other Mississippi jails which entered agreements last year. The Sunflower County agreement was filed today in U.S. District Court in Oxford, and the Forrest County agreement was filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson. The motion to intervene in Ranier v. Lloyd Jones, Sheriff, Simpson County, was filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson. # # # 95-228