Close Columbia Training School | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Close Columbia Training School

This Tuesday, the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Mississippi House of Representatives heard testimony from families and experts about abuse at Columbia Training School, where eight girls were allegedly shackled at the ankles, some of them for more than a week, because another student falsely claimed they planned to escape. One former student also reported that male staff members had solicited sexual favors from girls at the school.

These incidents are reminiscent of the outrageous abuse that brought the training schools under a federal consent decree in 2005. Before that decree, girls at Columbia were often hog-tied or shackled to poles. Girls who were difficult or suicidal were chained to a pole in the "Dark Room" and left naked, in total isolation sometimes lasting days, with only a drain in the floor for a bathroom. When the Department of Justice investigated in 2003, they found that every level of care for girls was deficient—from safety to education to medical care.

Now, after two years of reforms, it seems evident that little has changed.

The girls at Columbia are not violent criminals—we send violent criminals to jail, even if they are teenagers. Most girls are at Columbia for non-violent offenses, and even the violent offenses tend to be simple assault. Generally, we're talking about girls who got into fist fights at school.

Many of the girls at Columbia suffer from mental illnesses that the school treats erratically, if at all. Many have suffered both physical and sexual abuse.

What does it do to a girl who has been abused to be chained up like an animal by her school?

This barbarity is stupendously expensive. In 2006, Columbia employed 127 staff to run a facility with an average population of 37 girls a month at an annual cost of $5 million a year. That's $600 per student, or $219,000 per student per year, according to the committee. That figure does not include potential lawsuits from students or the cost of litigation with the federal government.

The solution is straightforward: Close Columbia and transfer the girls there to Oakley, which was built with a wing for girls. Turn Columbia into a drug rehabilitation center, which would qualify for federal funding. Use the $4 million the Legislature has approved for community-based alternatives to keep as many girls out of training school as possible. Research shows that keeping children in their community is both more effective and more economical.

Finally, it is time to remove both training schools from the Department of Human Services, which has failed dismally to reform the schools.

A "school" as broken as Columbia should be closed, for everyone's sake.

Previous Comments

ID
74993
Comment

A “school” as broken as Columbia should be closed, for everyone’s sake. The word "school" should be replaced with "slave ship".

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-14T10:46:41-06:00
ID
74994
Comment

Amen. Close it and demolish the building.

Author
Willezurmacht
Date
2007-06-14T11:00:59-06:00
ID
74995
Comment

The problem with the school is the same we have with a lot of State agencies. They are governed by the "good ol'-boy" system and qualified people with the level of training and education are not put in positions to protect against these types of negative event. Punishment has always been a substitute for ignorance. Physical beatings, withholding food and reducing a person to the id level: Taking away all levels of dignity and respect have been the given. THis also happens becuse families like Paris Hilton's folks are not around to ensure decent treatment. Mississippi continues to have a lot of stuff to atone for. A lot of the abuse is secondary to people just not knowing. It would be interesting to get a copy of the 127 hired personnel there in Columbia. You would be shocked! Let's keep our fingers crossed that Rep. Flags will get his wish to "shut it down" until they can clean it up. We need places to take care of the young who have become incorrigible and for so many reasons. We also need to get rid of the folks who are mean, hateful and untrained.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-06-18T10:52:52-06:00
ID
74996
Comment

Why doesn't anyone care about the abuse, neglect and torture of those children at the Columbia Mississippi Training School? Don't we know that those children are going to grow up and be apart of our society? I don't know about you guys but I would like to get those children the care and help that they need now rather than later. If those children don't get the care to deal with the abuse, neglect and torture that they endured now, I don't think we are going to be ready to deal with it later. When the children start to express the aggression and anger that will be shown to many unsuspecting Innocent people that don't know what is going on, "Mississippi is going to have hell on their hands", and then the State of Mississippi is going to be trying to give these children the death penalty which is lethal injection.

Author
K. K.
Date
2007-06-26T11:44:39-06:00
ID
74997
Comment

I agree, K.K. Mistreatment of children can start a vicious cycle of violence which eventually leads to their demise at the hands of the government or a so-called comrade.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-26T11:50:16-06:00
ID
74998
Comment

have you seen the recent article about the 6 employees at are suspended with pay???

Author
K. K.
Date
2007-06-26T12:25:49-06:00

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