Jackson Mississippi Police Officer Sgt. Richard McGahee Arrested And Charged After Accepting A Bribe

September 9, 2012

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI – A Jackson police officer has been arrested and now faces charges of accepting a bribe, confirmed Attorney General Jim Hood.

Richard McGahee, 43, of Clinton has been indicted by a Hinds County Grand Jury for allegedly accepting a bribe in exchange for granting a field release for a suspect.

McGahee was arrested last night on the charge by investigators of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division with
assistance from the Jackson Police Department and the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office.

McGahee presently serves as a Sergeant with the Jackson Police Department.

The Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division has been working with the FBI on this case.

McGahee was arraigned in Hinds County Circuit Court Wednesday morning in front of Judge Jeff Weill, who set bond at $15,000 and trial for February 11, 2013.

If convicted, McGahee faces up to 10 years behind bars.

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US Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against In Mississippi After Meridian Police, Lauderdale County Court, And State’s Youth Services Routinely Imprisoned Children Without Probable Cause And Due Process For School Dress Code Violations, Farts, Profanity, And Disrespect

August 12, 2012

MERIDIAN, MISSISSIPPI – The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has released investigative findings determining that children in predominantly black Meridian, Miss. have had their constitutional rights violated by the Lauderdale County Youth Court, the Meridian Police Department, and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services in what civil rights investigators allege is a school to prison pipeline with even dress code violations resulting in incarceration.

The Justice Department has been investigating the agencies since December 2011 and found that the police department arrests children without probable cause, violating the children’s Fourth Amendment protections of unlawful search and seizure.

Also in the findings letter the Civil Rights Division alleges that “Lauderdale County and the Youth Court Judges violate the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments by failing to provide children procedural due process in the youth court. Lauderdale County, the Youth Court judges, and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services violate the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments by failing to provide children procedural due process rights in the probationary process.”

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments protect against abuse of government authority in legal proceedings and fairness of due process rights, respectively.

“The system established by the City of Meridian, Lauderdale County, and DYS to incarcerate children for school suspensions ‘shocks the conscience,’ resulting in the incarceration of children for alleged ‘offenses’ such as dress code violations, flatulence, profanity, and disrespect.” The Justice Department findings letter noted.

Describing the “school-to-prison pipeline” the Justice Department findings letter noted of the alleged abuses by the police, “By policy and practice, [the Meridian Police Department] MPD automatically arrests all students referred to MPD by the District. The children arrested by MPD are then sent to the County juvenile justice system, where existing due process protections are illusory and inadequate. The Youth Court places children on probation, and the terms of the probation set by the Youth Court and DYS require children on probation to serve any suspensions from school incarcerated in the juvenile detention center.”

“The systematic disregard for children’s basic constitutional rights by agencies with a duty to protect and serve these children betrays the public trust,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. “We hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings in a collaborative fashion, but we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action if necessary.”

About 62 percent of Meridian’s population is African American, and the Justice Department alleges that mostly African American children and children with disabilities are impacted by the unconstitutional policies.

The Justice Department alleged in its findings letter that two Youth Court Judges have consistently denied civil rights investigators access to information about the policies and practices of the Youth Court.

The Civil Rights Division is seeking to negotiate with Meridian officials on the findings and if an agreement is not reached, the Justice Department can sue them.

The Meridian Police Department declined to comment when contacted by ABC News. ABC News is also awaiting comment from the Mississippi Division of Youth Services, the county court and an attorney representing the city of Meridian.

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Lauderdale County Mississippi Running School To Prison Pipeline – Kids Imprisoned For Minor Offense, Like Talking Too Much

August 10, 2012

MISSISSIPPI – Officials in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, have operated “a school-to-prison pipeline” that violates the constitutional rights of juveniles by incarcerating them for alleged school disciplinary infractions, some as minor as defiance, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.

“Students most affected by this system are African-American children and children with disabilities,” the Justice Department said.

The federal agency’s civil rights division seeks “meaningful negotiations” in 60 days to end the constitutional violations or else a federal lawsuit would be filed against state, county and local officials in Meridian, according to a Justice Department letter dated Friday to those officials.

The letter also names two Lauderdale County Youth Court judges, Frank Coleman and Veldore Young.

State and local officials couldn’t be reached immediately for comment Friday.

“The systematic disregard for children’s basic constitutional rights by agencies with a duty to protect and serve these children betrays the public trust,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant U.S. attorney general, said in a statement. “We hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings in a collaborative fashion, but we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action if necessary.”

In 2009, the Lauderdale County Juvenile Detention Facility in Meridian was the target of a federal class-action lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center that alleged children and teens were subjected to “shockingly inhumane” treatment, the center said.

The alleged mistreatment included youngsters being “crammed into small, filthy cells and tormented with the arbitrary use of Mace as a punishment for even the most minor infractions — such as ‘talking too much’ or failing to sit in the ‘back of their cells,'” the center said in a statement.

In 2010, Lauderdale County officials and the center reached an agreement to reform the jail system and consider alternatives to sending youths to the detention center, said the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights group.

“I think this is evidence of a broken system where the most vulnerable population of kids are not receiving their constitutionally guaranteed rights,” Jody Owens II, managing attorney for the center’s Mississippi office, told CNN.

On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department accused Meridian police of automatically arresting all students referred by the city’s public schools and then sending them to the county juvenile justice system, “where existing due process protections are illusory and inadequate,” the federal letter says.

The police department command staff and officers characterized their agency as a “taxi service” for the schools and juvenile detention facility, without assessing the circumstances of the alleged charges against students, the Justice Department said.

“The Youth Court places children on probation, and the terms of the probation set by the Youth Court and DYS require children on probation to serve any suspensions from school incarcerated in the juvenile detention center,” the Justice Department letter said.

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BROKE: 16 States Now Rationing Prescription Drugs For Medicaid Patients

July 31, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Sixteen states have set a limit on the number of prescription drugs they will cover for Medicaid patients, according to Kaiser Health News.

Seven of those states, according to Kaiser Health News, have enacted or tightened those limits in just the last two years.

Medicaid is a federal program that is carried out in partnership with state governments. It forms an important element of President Barack Obama’s health-care plan because under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act–AKA Obamcare–a larger number of people will be covered by Medicaid, as the income cap is raised for the program.

With both the expanded Medicaid program and the federal subsidy for health-care premiums that will be available to people earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level, a larger percentage of the population will be wholly or partially dependent on the government for their health care under Obamacare than are now.

In Alabama, Medicaid patients are now limited to one brand-name drug, and HIV and psychiatric drugs are excluded.

Illinois has limited Medicaid patients to just four prescription drugs as a cost-cutting move, and patients who need more than four must get permission from the state.

Speaking on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on Monday, Phil Galewitz, staff writer for Kaiser Health News, said the move “only hurts a limited number of patients.”

“Drugs make up a fair amount of costs for Medicaid. A lot of states have said a lot of drugs are available in generics where they cost less, so they see this sort of another move to push patients to take generics instead of brand,” Galewitz said.

“It only hurts a limited number of patients, ‘cause obviously it hurts patients who are taking multiple brand name drugs in the case of Alabama, Illinois. Some of the states are putting the limits on all drugs. It’s another place to cut. It doesn’t hurt everybody, but it could hurt some,” he added.

Galewitz said the move also puts doctors and patients in a “difficult position.”

“Some doctors I talked to would work with patients with asthma and diabetes, and sometimes it’s tricky to get the right drugs and the right dosage to figure out how to control some of this disease, and just when they get it right, now the state is telling them that, ‘Hey, you’re not going to get all this coverage. You may have to switch to a generic or find another way,’” he said.

Arkansas, California, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia have all placed caps on the number of prescription drugs Medicaid patients can get.

“Some people say it’s a matter of you know states are throwing things up against the wall to see what might work, so states have tried, they’ve also tried formularies where they’ll pick certain brand name drugs over other drugs. So states try a whole lot of different things. They’re trying different ways of paying providers to try to maybe slow the costs down,” Galewitz said.

“So it seems like Medicaid’s sort of been one big experiment over the last number of years for states to try to control costs, and it’s an ongoing battle, and I think drugs is just now one of the … latest issues. And it’s a relatively recent thing, only in the last 10 years have we really seen states put these limits on monthly drugs,” he added.

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Public Schools In Jackson Mississippi Agree That They Will Stop Handcuffing Children To Poles, Railings, Desks, And Chairs As Punishment

May 26, 2012

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI – Public schools in Jackson, Mississippi, will no longer handcuff students to poles or other objects and will train staff at its alternative school on better methods of discipline.

Mississippi’s second-largest school district agreed Friday to the settlement with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which had sued over the practice of shackling students to a pole at the district’s Capital City Alternative School.

Nationwide, a report from the U.S. Department of Education showed tens of thousands of students, 70 percent of them disabled, were strapped down or physically restrained in school in 2009-10. Advocates for disabled students say restraints are often abused, causing injury and sometimes death.

The Mississippi lawsuit was filed in June 2011 by Jeanette Murry on behalf of her then-16-year-old son, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It said staffers routinely restrained students for hours for offenses as minor as dress code violations, forcing them to eat lunch while chained to a stair railing and to shout for help when they needed to go to the bathroom.

The settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge Tom Lee, says all district employees will stop handcuffing students younger than 13, and can only handcuff older students for crimes. In no case will employees shackle a student to a fixed object such as a railing, a pole, a desk or a chair.

“It’s apparent there were severe problems that we hope now are being addressed and will be alleviated,” Lee told lawyers in court Friday, just before signing the settlement order.

Troubles at the alternative school helped spark the proceedings that have jeopardized the accreditation of the entire 30,000-student district.

The suit also reinforces criticism of alternative schools statewide. A 2009 report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that such schools “overemphasized punishment at the expense of remediation.” That report urged that alternative schools focus instead on “intensive services delivered by a well-qualified staff in a highly structured but positive environment,” so that students could return to and succeed at regular schools.

Nationwide, there are no federal standards, although legislation is pending in Congress. The U.S. Department of Education says Mississippi is one of 13 states with no statewide rules governing restraints.

National experts have said seclusion and restraint should only be used in emergencies when there’s a threat of someone getting hurt. But people who aren’t properly trained resort to restraints when students get out of control, they say.

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Riot At Privately Owned Adams County Mississippi Correctional Facilty Leaves One Guard Dead And Others Injured – Contract Facilty Houses Federal Prisoners Including Illegal Immigrants

May 21, 2012

NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI – A prison guard was killed and several employees injured Sunday in a riot at the Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, Mississippi, officials said.

The 23-year-old guard appeared to suffer “blunt trauma to the head,” said Adams County Coroner James Lee.

The riot, which began about 2:40 p.m., was still going on Sunday night, the facility’s operator said in a statement. Local and state law enforcement officials as well as authorities from the Federal Bureau of Prisons were helping the facility quell the violence.

“The disturbance is contained within the secure perimeter of the facility, with no threat to public safety,” the statement said.

Five employees and one inmate were taken to a hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries, while additional staff members were being treated at the prison.

Johar Lashin told CNN that he’d heard a lot of noise and commotion when he talked around 6 p.m. with his brother Jawad, an inmate at the Natchez facility serving time for aiding and abetting illegal immigrants. His brother said he was not participating in the riot, despite pressure from other inmates to do so.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

Rusty Boyd, a spokesman with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, said Sunday evening that 45 to 55 units from that state agency are helping corrections officers deal with the situation.

The facility is a 2,567-bed prison that houses adult men who are in the United States illegally and charged with crimes. It is owned by the Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America.

Warden Vance Laughlin described the facility as quiet and with “few problems” in a March 2010 article in The Natchez Democrat, a few months after it opened to incarcerate illegal immigrants detained for mostly low-security crimes. At that point, it contained more than 2,000 inmates — more than two-thirds of whom were of Mexican descent, although scores of nationalities were then represented.

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Mississippi Supreme Court Upholds Pardons By Outgoing Governor, Again

May 17, 2012

MISSISSIPPI – The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday denied the state attorney general’s attempt to have it reconsider its assent to controversial pardons — several of them for convicted killers — issued earlier this year by outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour.

The decision was made “without comment,” court spokeswoman Beverly Pettigrew Kraft said by e-mail.

Attorney General Jim Hood has been a harsh and persistent critic of the 214 pardons and clemencies issued by Barbour in January, shortly before the governor left office.

Besides questioning whether some convicted of violent crimes should so easily walk free, he has argued some of the pardons were invalid because they did not meet a state constitutional requirement that notices be filed each day for 30 days in newspapers based where the crimes were committed.

But Mississippi courts have consistently upheld the pardons.

The state Supreme Court was among them, ruling in March that Barbour had complete power to pardon and his authority could not be challenged.

In a statement afterward, Barbour said the decision “reaffirmed more than a century of settled law in our state,” but acknowledged that his pardons have been difficult for those who themselves or had family members victimized by those who went free.

Hood, a Democrat, didn’t give up his legal fight after that decision. In a brief filed with the state’s high court later in March, he argued the case should be reheard because the “private personal rights” of the victims, as provided by the state constitution and Mississippi Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, were violated by the pardons.

Barbour, who also is former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has said that he believes in redemption and that people deserve second chances. Most of the pardons involved convicts who had already served their time and have since been released from prison for their crimes, but four were convicted murderers who had worked as “trusties” at the governor’s mansion.

Victims’ families have denounced the former governor for not meeting with them to discuss his reasons why he would show such leniency to these men.

They included relatives of Tammy Ellis, who was gunned down by David Gatlin in 1993 as she held her 6-week-old son.

Other convicted killers who, like Gatlin, received full pardons and were named in Hood’s brief include Charles Hooker, who was convicted in a 1991 murder, and Anthony McCray, convicted in a 2001 murder.

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