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Adams County Correctional Facility
Natchez, Mississippi
CCA
United States of America v. Juan Lopez-Fuentes: August 8, 2012, 5 pages. Damning FBI statement regarding CCA's Adams County Correctional Facility where one of its guards was killed during a riot.
Private Prison, Public Problem: June 6, 2012, Jackson Free Press. Excellent piece on how this prison was built and CCA's operations.

Jun 13, 2014 sfgate.com

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) — The attorney for an inmate indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to commit murder related to a deadly prison riot in Mississippi told a judge Thursday the defendant wasn't ready to plead guilty as everyone expected. Jesus Beltran-Rodriguez was one of five inmates indicted on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the May 20, 2012, riot at the Adams County Correctional Center. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge May 22, but was scheduled for a change of plea hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Natchez, according to The Natchez Democrat. In an appearance before U.S. District Judge David Bramlette, Rodriguez, speaking through an interpreter, told the judge he had questions for his attorney. After a 15-minute conference, his attorney, Damon Stevenson of Jackson, told Bramlette that he met with his client Monday and Rodriguez had indicated at that time he was ready to move forward with the plea. "Since Monday, it appears some issues have arisen," Stevenson said. "He has been informed that mother is gravely ill, and he is very emotional. At this time, I don't think he is able to think clearly."

Bramlette granted a request from Rodriguez's attorney to delay the plea hearing. One guard was killed and 20 people were injured in the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately-run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, which holds immigrants convicted of crimes while being in the U.S. illegally. Court records show Beltran-Rodriguez is one of the inmates suspected of beating the guard, Catlin Carithers, who died. The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after deportation for being in the country illegally. The prison is operates by Nashville, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation's largest private prison companies. Several other inmates have been charged — or convicted — with participating in the riot.


May 30, 2014 clarionledger.com

Three people have been indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to commit murder related to a deadly prison riot in Mississippi. Federal prosecutors say in a news release Friday that Hector Miguel Diaz-Osuna, Ricardo Gonzalez-Porras and Jesus Beltran-Rodriguez were indicted by a grand jury. Prosecutors say Gonzalez-Porras is also charged with assaulting a prison guard. Two other defendants, Juan Geraldo Arredondo and Ernesto Granados, are charged in the indictment with rioting. One guard was killed and 20 people were injured in the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately-run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, which holds immigrants convicted of crimes while being in the U.S. illegally. Court records show Beltran-Rodriguez is one of the inmates suspected of beating the guard, Catlin Carithers, who died. The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after deportation for being in the country illegally. The prison is owned by Nashville, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation's largest private prison companies. Several other inmates have been charged — or convicted — with participating in the riot. Gerson Benavides was sentenced Thursday in federal court to 75 months imprisonment. Benavides was previously convicted of rioting at the Adams County Correctional Facility. Benavides was also ordered to pay restitution of $1.3 million. Humberto Cuellar was sentenced Thursday 110 months imprisonment. He also was previously convicted of rioting. He also was ordered to pay restitution of $1.3 million. Correction officer Catlin Carithers was killed and 20 people were injured as the riot grew to involve hundreds of inmates. They caused an estimated $1.3 million in damage. The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after deportation for being in the country illegally. The FBI has said in court records that the riot was started by a group of Mexican inmates, known as Paisas, who were angry about what they considered poor food and medical care and disrespectful guards. Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, without ties to organized gangs, the FBI has said.


Mar 12, 2014 United States Attorney Gregory K. Davis

NINE INMATES PLEAD GUILTY TO RIOTING AT ADAMS COUNTY CORRECTIONAL CENTER Natchez, Miss. Gerson Benavides, age 30, Joel Oswaldo Ramirez-Nunez, 33, Humberto Cuellar, 41 Hiasom Ali, 36, Raybel Granillo, 29, Margarito Munoz-Astello, 37, Ricardo Quintana, 27, Ruben Coronado-Licon, 22, and Bertil James, 38, pleaded guilty on March 11,  2014 before Senior U.S. District Judge David C. Bramlette III, to one (1) count of Rioting in a Federal Correctional Facility, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen. The offense occurred on May 20, 2012 at the Adams County Correctional Center. During the riot, several correctional officers were assaulted and one Correctional Officer (CO) died as a result of injuries he received during these assaults. Other COs were taken captive and held hostage for several hours by participants in the riot. Total damage to ACCC was estimated to be $1,305,142.00. The defendants were serving federal prison sentences at the prison. All of the defendants with the exception of Ali and James are citizens Mexico. Ali and James are citizens of Egypt and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively. Each defendant faces a maximum prison sentence of ten years, fine of $250,000.00 and supervised release term of 3 years. The defendants will be sentenced on May 29 and June 12, 2014. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Lemon is prosecuting the case.


8/31/2013 menafn.com

NATCHEZ, Aug 31, 2013 (Menafn - The Natchez Democrat - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Corrections Corporation of America told a federal judge earlier this week the lawsuit alleging CCA is responsible for a correctional officer's death in a May 2012 prison riot doesn't hold up to legal scrutiny. The family of Catlin Carithers, 24, who died May 20, 2012, after being assaulted in a seven-hour prison riot at Adams County Correctional Center, filed the lawsuit against CCA in federal court in May. While CCA had previously filed a brief motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the defendants filed a 10-page memorandum with the western division of the U.S. District Court's Southern District of Mississippi this week expanding their argument as to why the case should not move forward. The memorandum states that the company disputes any allegations of a breach of duty on its part. In the response, the company argues in part that because Carithers' death falls under the Mississippi Worker's Compensation Act because a third person or persons -- in this case, inmates -- killed him because of his employment with CCA. While the plaintiffs have claimed that the MWCA does not apply because CCA had a "duty to control" the inmates, the company responded that that duty in and of itself does not render the provision inapplicable and allowing a civil action against the company would be entitling the plaintiffs to double recovery. The lawsuit against CCA alleges that in order to increase profits, the company maintained inadequate staffing, under equipped the facility and employees, and failed to properly train employees, as well as treating inmates "inhumanely" and -- while knowing that inmates wanted to harm Carithers specifically -- placed him in danger regardless of that fact. The company responded that it was "an overstatement" to allege CCA knew inmates were going to harm Carithers and was warned they would harm him, and even if it could be inferred the company was aware of the risk to Carithers, it could not prove an actual intent to harm him. "To find that Defendants acted with an 'actual intent to injure' Carithers, one would have to believe that they intentionally understaffed, underequipped and undertrained their employees so that the inmates would injure their employees," the company responded in writing. "Such a diabolical scheme is not plausible." The company likewise responded that it cannot be held liable for the assault and battery on Carithers by inmates by cause-and-effect of "creating inhumane conditions for the inmates, and a dangerous work environment for its employees." The lawsuit against CCA likewise claims that the company fraudulently concealed from Carithers the fact that he was on a "hit list" compiled by disgruntled inmates, and that he would not have entered the prison on the day of the riot had he known he was on the list. "It is also entirely speculative that Carithers was killed by the same inmates who created the 'hit list,'" the company responded in court filings. "Fraudulent concealment 'must be pleaded with particularity and may not be inferred or presumed.'" The response likewise states, "There are no facts from which it could be inferred that Carithers -- a senior correctional officer who was called in to help quell a disturbance at the facility he worked at -- would not report simply because an inmate informant mentioned he was on a 'hit list.'" ACCC is a 2,567-bed prison that is privately owned by CCA and operates on a contract from the federal bureau of prisons. It opened in 2009, and is located on U.S. 84 east of Natchez.


July 24, 2013 ktvu.com

JACKSON, Miss. — Ten people have been indicted for their roles in a riot at a prison in Natchez that left one guard dead, federal authorities said Wednesday. The indictments, announced Wednesday by FBI Special Agent In Charge Daniel McMullen and U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Daniels, are in addition to nine others previously charged in connection with the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately-run Adams County Correctional Center. The prison is owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation's largest private prison companies. McMullen and Daniels said the defendants were charged with instigating, conniving, willfully attempting to cause, assisting, or conspiring to cause any mutiny or riot at a federal correctional facility. Indicted were: Gerson Benavides, 29; Adrian Romero-Carrera, 27; Carlos Flores, 40; Ruben Coronado-Licon, 22; Ricardo Quintana, 28; Margarito Munoz-Astello, 36; Bertil James, 38; Ian Jeffrey Reid, 43; Haisam Ali, 36; and Raybell Granillo, 28. During the riot, several corrections officers were assaulted and one officer, Catlin Carithers, died from injuries he received. Other guards were held hostage for several hours. It took hours for authorities to suppress the riot, which caused an estimated $1.3 million in damage. Prosecutors have said that Marco Perez-Serrano, also known as Jesus Fernando Ochoa, was the first inmate to attack Carithers during the riot. Carithers died and 20 people were injured as the riot grew to involve hundreds of inmates. Perez-Serrano pleaded not guilty in April to a charge of rioting. A change of plea hearing is scheduled for Aug. 13 in U.S. District Court in Natchez. Inmate Jesus Beltran-Rodriguez, also suspected of beating Carithers, and Humberto Cuellar, accused of taking a different guard hostage during the uprising, are scheduled for trial Oct. 7. They have pleaded not guilty to rioting. The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after deportation for being in the country illegally.

 

July 20, 2013 blog.gulflive.com

JACKSON, Mississippi -- An inmate suspected of participating in the fatal beating of a guard during a prison riot in Mississippi last year is expected to plead guilty next month. Prosecutors say Marco Perez-Serrano, also known as Jesus Fernando Ochoa, was the first inmate to attack correction officer Catlin Carithers during the riot at the privately run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez on May 20, 2012. Carithers died and 20 people were injured as the riot grew to involve hundreds of inmates. Perez-Serrano is charged with rioting. A change of plea hearing is scheduled for Aug. 13 in U.S. District Court in Natchez. His attorney, Joe Hollomon, did not immediately respond to a phone message. The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after deportation for being in the country illegally. The prison is owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation's largest private prison companies. Several other inmates have been charged with participating in the riot. Perez-Serrano was indicted in February. He pleaded not guilty in April. An FBI affidavit filed in the case said inmates stacked food service carts from the kitchen and climbed on to a roof where Carithers was stationed with another guard. The affidavit says Perez-Serrano was the first person seen attacking Carithers when he hit him with a food tray. After other inmates joined in the attack on Carithers, Perez-Serrano was seen hitting another guard with the tray, according to the affidavit. The inmates used keys they took from the guards to get into secured prison areas where more correction officers were attacked, according to the affidavit. Perez-Serrano also was seen destroying prison property, including a surveillance camera, and fought with members of the special response teams that responded to the riot, authorities say. Inmate Jesus Beltran-Rodriguez, also suspected of beating Carithers, and Humberto Cuellar, accused of taking a different guard hostage during the uprising, are scheduled for trial Oct. 7. They have pleaded not guilty to rioting. Carithers family filed a federal lawsuit alleging that inadequate staffing and poor treatment created a dangerous environment at the facility. In a statement after the lawsuit was filed, CCA said it "takes the safety and well-being of our staff very seriously, and we work diligently to provide our dedicated correctional officers, chaplains, nurses and teachers the training, security and support systems they need in this very challenging field." "In addition to conducting our own thorough review, we have cooperated fully with law enforcement throughout their investigation of the incident, and we support full prosecution of those inmates responsible for this disturbance," the statement said. The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, said prison officials were told by an informant days before the riot that the situation was becoming volatile and that the officials failed to warn Carithers that he and other guards were on an inmate "hit list." Carithers was off the day of the riot but was called in to help, his family has said. The FBI has said in court records that the riot was started by a group of Mexican inmates, known as Paisas, who were angry about what they considered poor food and medical care and disrespectful guards. Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, without ties to organized gangs, the FBI has said. It took hours for authorities to control the riot, which caused an estimated $1.3 million in damage. The prison's special response team and the Mississippi Highway Patrol's SWAT team worked to end the riot while state and area law enforcement officers, some from neighboring Louisiana, helped secure the outside.

 

Jul 6, 2013 necn.com

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A prison company wants a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by relatives of a guard who was killed during a prison riot in Mississippi. Correction officer Catlin Carithers was beaten to death during the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Natchez against Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the prison. The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, says CCA "created a dangerous atmosphere for the correction officers by depriving inmates of basic needs and treating them inhumanely." A motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed Wednesday says, among other things, that CCA is immune from the claims in the lawsuit because they are barred "by the exclusive remedy provision in the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act." The argument is that workplace injuries should be compensated by workers' compensation, not through litigation. "Carithers's death was caused by the willful conduct of a third party (inmates) because of his employment status as a correctional officer at ACCF and while working on the job. Therefore, his death is compensable under the Act," the motion said. The lawsuit says prison officials were told by an informant in the days before the riot that the situation was becoming volatile and that the officials failed to warn Carithers that he and other guards were on an inmate "hit list." Besides the Workers' Compensation Act, the motion provides an alternative argument to dismiss the lawsuit — that the allegations fail to state a claim. "Defendants did not assault or batter Carithers; inmates did. Moreover, regarding the alleged failure to disclose the inmate informant's "black list" report, the Complaint fails to allege the reliance, proximate causation, and legal duty requirements of a fraudulent concealment claim," the motion says. Carithers was off the day of the riot but was called in to help, his family has said. It took hours for authorities to control the riot, which grew to involve hundreds of inmates and injured at least 20 people. The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates convicted of crimes while being in the U.S. illegally. The FBI has said in court records that the riot was started by a group of Mexican inmates, known as Paisas, who were angry about what they considered poor food and medical care and disrespectful guards. Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, without ties to organized gangs, FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden has said. Several inmates have been charged with rioting in the case. The prison's special response team and the Mississippi Highway Patrol's SWAT team worked to end the riot while state and area law enforcement officers, some from neighboring Louisiana, helped secure the outside.


May 18, 2013 www.clarionledger.com

The Corrections Corporation of America board chairman reportedly denied a request at Thursday’s annual stockholders meeting for a moment of silence in memory of murdered prison guard Catlin Carithers. Monday will mark one year since Carithers was killed after being called in on his day off to help quell a prison riot at the CCA-owned Adams County Correctional Center facility near Natchez. Thursday was the first stockholders meeting since the May 20 riot. Stockholder Alex Friedmann said when he asked for the moment of silence, CCA Board Chairman John D. Ferguson refused to honor the request, saying CCA had honored Carithers in other ways. The meeting was at CCA headquarters in Nashville, where approximately 30 people stood outside, some with signs, protesting the privately-run prison company. The meeting inside was formal and businesslike, Friedman said, as only stockholders, executives and staff are allowed to attend. Friedman, who said he owns CCA stock in order to communicate issues with executives, previously served a six year sentence at a CCA prison and is president of a watchdog nonprofit group that opposes private prisons called Private Corrections Institute. “In that one meeting CCA would not give 30 seconds of respect (for Carithers),” Friedman said. “It speaks volumes how the company thinks of its employees and how it treats them.” CCA spokesman Steve Owen said in an emailed response that Friedman “would stop at nothing” to disparage CCA and its employees. “Yesterday, professional corrections critic Alex Friedman shamefully attempted to exploit the tragic death of Catlin for his own personal agenda,” Owens said. “These antics do not honor his memory.” Friedman said a number of other “activist stockholders” attended Thursday’s meeting, including members of the Jesuits religious order and other religious groups. Owens said CCA has “honored his memory in a number of ways, both at the Adams County Correctional Facility and throughout the company.” The family of Carithers filed a lawsuit this month in connection with the May 20 riot saying CCA was negligent in Carithers’ death. The lawsuit cites information from an informant predicting the riot and suggesting Carithers was on a “hit list.” Friedman said he attended a CCA stockholders meeting in 2008 when the board honored someone’s memory with a moment of silence, but he believed the board had a different chairman at the time. “This is the only time, at the annual meeting, that shareholders could recognize Mr. Carithers,” Friedman said. Owen said CCA takes the safety and well-being of the staff very seriously, and the entire CCA family has been “deeply saddened” by Carithers’ loss. A federal judge recently rescheduled the trial of an inmate who is accused of being the first person to attack Carithers during the riot, in which 20 others were injured, for Aug. 19. In other CCA news, The Natchez Democrat reports that a new company will take over operations of a facility in Wilkinson County, which is currently run by CCA, in July. Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private corrections company, reportedly received a five-year contract with the Mississippi Department of Corrections to operate the facility.


May 13, 2013 www.clarionledger.com

At least one email allegedly sent by an inmate informant to the chief of security at the Adams County Correctional Center predicted the riot that broke out the next day resulting in a guard’s death. Other emails described a “hit list” of prison guards, one of whom was the guard killed. In a lawsuit filed in connection with the May 20 riot, the family of Sgt. Catlin Carithers, the prison guard who was killed, point to these emails and information from the informant as reason to believe Corrections Corporation of America was negligent in Carithers’ death. CCA is the Nashville-based parent company of the Natchez prison. According to copies of the emails obtained by The Clarion-Ledger, the security chief was warned that the leadership of certain prison groups wanted to meet with the warden to ask for changes in medical, food, recreation and laundry arrangements. The emails appear to have been sent to the prison’s security chief from an inmate who had a cellphone inside the facility. At 10:14 p.m. on May 19, the email writer says that the situation is more serious than prison officials seemed to think. He indicated there would be meetings the next day for the heads of the groups to list their requests to Warden Vance Laughlin. The email characterizes one of the new leaders as having a “couple riots on his belt,” and the informant believed most of the inmates would follow him. “People will be ready 4 war tomorow (sic), I am not joking,” he writes, going on to say, “Any officer that disrespect an inmate will be punish (sic).” In the same email, the informant warns leaders would present changes, and if the facility did not comply, they “will burn the place down.” He then warns that it would be a peaceful demonstration, but if the staff interfered, it could “get ugly.” He ends the email by telling them to get ready, that this was serious, and could involve as many as 1,600 inmates. Up to 700 inmates are believed to have participated in the riot. The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates convicted of crimes while being in the U.S. illegally. CCA officials would not comment on the informant’s warnings but condemned the actions of the inmates. “CCA takes the safety and well-being of our staff very seriously, and we work diligently to provide our dedicated correctional officers, chaplains, nurses and teachers the training, security and support systems they need in this very challenging field,” said CCA spokesman Steve Owen. “In addition to conducting our own thorough review, we have cooperated fully with law enforcement throughout their investigation of the incident, and we support full prosecution of those inmates responsible for this disturbance. There is never an appropriate justification for an inmate to instigate and participate in violence against a correctional officer.” Alex Friedmann, an associate editor at Prison Legal News, said he corresponded with the informant for several months. He said the informant told him when Laughlin met with two men he thought were leaders, they assured him there would be no problem. What the warden didn’t know was that those men were no longer “shot callers.” “CCA didn’t know and these guys didn’t say they’d been forced out by the other inmates. They weren’t aware these guys had no say anymore and no power to control the guys in their groups. The next day the inmates begin congregating on the yard,” he said. “The guys who were there at the time took a strong, hard response, and they threw tear gas from the roof to break up the congregation, and they climbed up on the roof and assaulted the guards throwing tear gas at them.” Carithers, 24, was on that roof. According to one of the emails, the writer also told prison officials Carithers was one of several guards who was on a “hit list,” designated to be injured or worse if there was any trouble. Inmates stacked food carts to get to the roof to attack Carithers and the others. During the riot, fire also broke out. Carithers wasn’t supposed to work on the Sunday of the riot. He recently had received a promotion to senior corrections officer that took him off the weekend shift. “They called him in for backup,” his brother Josey Carithers said at the time. “I know my brother, and I bet he got in his truck and hauled butt to go help. He was ready.” Emails supposedly from the inmate to the chief of security a few days later said he couldn’t accept that someone as young as Carithers died because of the warden’s “stupidity.” The security chief wrote back saying he felt terrible about it because he was the one who called Carithers to come into work on his day off, resulting in his death. The lawsuit brought against CCA by Carithers’ family is based on the claims that CCA was aware of the hit list and was aware that officers on the hit list would be injured or punished. Carithers was not warned when he was called into work that day. “The inmate informant further asked why the Facility security officer put Catlin on the front line when the facility administration knew he would be ‘eaten alive’ by the inmates,” the complaint states. The complaint also states CCA officials put their guards in further danger by maintaining a less than adequate staff with underequipped and undertrained officers. In addition, the complaint states, CCA “further created a dangerous atmosphere for the correction officers by depriving the inmates of basic needs and treating them inhumanely.” The suit asks CCA for past medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, funeral and related costs, future lost income, future emotional distress, loss of consortium, attorney fees, punitive damages, prejudgment and post judgment interest and any other damages warranted under the circumstances. The family’s attorneys did not return calls for comment, and both the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office said they could not comment on the ongoing investigation. The FBI has said in court records that the riot was started by a group of Mexican inmates, known as Paisas. Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, one of many groups referred to as “nations,” because they usually congregate based on what country they are from or what language they speak, Friedmann explained. Several inmates have been charged with rioting in the case. One of them, Marco Perez-Serrano, has been identified as the first person to attack Carithers when he hit him with a food tray. Carithers was beaten to death with a lunch tray.

8 May 2013 Associated Press Newswires

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The family of a guard killed during a prison riot in Mississippi filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday that says inadequate staffing and poor treatment created a dangerous environment at the facility. Correction officer Catlin Carithers was beaten to death during the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez. It took hours for authorities to control the riot, which grew to involve hundreds of inmates and injured at least 20 people. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Natchez against Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the prison. A CCA spokesman didn't immediately respond to phone and email messages Wednesday. CCA "created a dangerous atmosphere for the correction officers by depriving inmates of basic needs and treating them inhumanely," the lawsuit says. It also says that prison officials were told by an informant in the days before the riot that the situation was becoming volatile and that the officials failed to warn Carithers that he and other guards were on an inmate "hit list." Carithers was off the day of the riot but was called in to help, his family has said. The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates convicted of crimes while being in the U.S. illegally. The FBI has said in court records that the riot was started by a group of Mexican inmates, known as Paisas, who were angry about what they considered poor food and medical care and disrespectful guards. Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, without ties to organized gangs, FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden has said. Several inmates have been charged with rioting in the case. One of them, Marco Perez-Serrano, has been identified as the first person to attack Carithers when he hit him with a food tray. A complaint filed by an FBI agent says prisoners took food service carts out of the dining hall and kitchen and stacked them on top of each other to climb onto the roof, where Carithers was working. Carithers joined CCA in 2009. His cousin, Jason Clark, told The Associated Press in an interview after the riot that Carithers was engaged to be married and excited about a recent promotion that took him off weekend shifts. He had been trained in recent years as part of the prison's special response team and was called to work Sunday to help with the uprising, Clark said at the time. The prison's special response team and the Mississippi Highway Patrol's SWAT team worked to end the riot while state and area law enforcement officers, some from neighboring Louisiana, helped secure the outside.

October 12, 2012 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 
NATCHEZ, Miss. — A federal grand jury has indicted an inmate who authorities have identified as an alleged instigator of the May 20 prison riot at the Adams County Correctional Center that left a guard dead. The Natchez Democrat reports (http://bit.ly/X0841l ) that Yoany Oriel Serrano-Bejarano has been charged with instigating and conspiring to cause the riot. Court records say prisoners were angry about their treatment the day the riot erupted. In September, an FBI agent stated in an affidavit that Serrano-Bejarano was one of a number of inmates who stacked food carts in order to reach correctional officers on the roof of one of the prison's buildings during the riot. Prison guard Catlin Carithers was assaulted on the roof and later died from his injuries. At least 20 people were injured. Authorities say Serrano-Bejarano had a prison staff radio during the riot, assaulted a hostage and contributed to the destruction at the facility. The prison holds nearly 2,500 illegal immigrants convicted of crimes in the United States. It's owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation's largest private prison companies. An FBI agent's affidavit in the case said the riot was started by a group of Mexican inmates, known as Paisas, who were angry about what they considered poor food and medical care and disrespectful guards. Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, without ties to organized gangs, FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden said. Court records show Serrano-Bejarano was released from prison Aug. 28 for his previous crimes, but has been in federal custody since Sept. 5. Another inmate, Juan Lopez-Fuentes, pleaded guilty in August to charges related to the riot and is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 19.

September 6, 2012 AP
One inmate has pleaded guilty to participating in a deadly prison riot in Mississippi, while a second prisoner has been charged in the case. One guard was killed and 20 people were injured in the May 20 riot at the privately-run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, which holds illegal immigrants convicted of crimes in the United States. Yoany Oriel Serrano-Bejarano was charged Tuesday. A complaint filed by an FBI agent says he assaulted a guard and helped other inmates climb onto the roof of a building where correction officer Catlin Carithers was beaten to death. The affidavit says prisoners took food service carts out of the dining hall and kitchen and stacked them on top of each other to climb onto the roof where Carithers was assaulted. "Serrano-Bejarano has been identified as one of the inmates who held the food carts so the inmates could access the roof," the complaint says. The court documents also say that Serrano-Bejarano assaulted a different guard, was seen with a prison guard's radio, and destroyed cameras and windows. Serrano-Bejarano is at least the second inmate charged in the case. Court records did not list an attorney for him. Juan Lopez-Fuentes pleaded guilty to participating in the riot during a hearing Aug. 27 in U.S. District Court in Natchez. He faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing on Nov. 19. Lopez-Fuentes was charged with leading a group of inmates who took hostages in one section of the prison. He forced one of the hostages to relay orders for tactical teams to drop their weapons and back off, according to court records in his case. Lopez-Fuentes was serving time for two previous felonies at the time and was facing deportation. The FBI affidavit doesn't say why Serrano-Bejarano was being held in the prison, though it says he was released Aug. 28 and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement for deportation. The criminal charge will allow authorities to hold him pending the outcome of the case. Court records say the prisoners were angry about their treatment the day the riot erupted. The prison holds nearly 2,500 illegal immigrants, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after being deported. The prison is owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation's largest private prison companies. The FBI says in court records that the riot was started by a group of Mexican inmates, known as Paisas, who were angry about what they considered poor food and medical care and disrespectful guards. Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, without ties to organized gangs, FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden has said. It took hours for authorities to control the riot, which grew to involve hundreds of inmates and caused an estimated $1.3 million in damage. The prison's special response team and the Mississippi Highway Patrol's SWAT team worked to end the riot while state and area law enforcement officers, some from neighboring Louisiana, helped secure the outside.

August 14, 2012 Commercial Appeal
A deadly riot at a prison for illegal immigrants in Mississippi was started by a group of Mexican inmates angry about what they considered poor food and medical care and disrespectful guards, according to an FBI agent's affidavit. One guard was killed and 20 people were injured in the May 20 riot at the privately-run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, which holds illegal immigrants convicted of crimes in the U.S. The leaders of the Mexican inmates, known as the Paisas, demanded to take a list of grievances to the warden that day and told others in the group to disobey orders from prison staff, according to the FBI affidavit. The affidavit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Jackson, is part of a complaint charging one of the inmates with rioting. Correction officer Catlin Carithers was beaten to death during the riot, which officials have said involved as many as 300 inmates and left the prison badly damaged. The affidavit does not say who killed Carithers. The affidavit says the Paisas were the most influential group in the prison. But it had recently gone through a shake-up in its leadership because members thought the old leaders weren't effective in communicating complaints to prison officials. The new leaders — Ernesto "Neto" Granados and Juan "Bobby" Arredondo — allegedly ordered the Paisas to disobey prison staff by refusing to return to their cells until their demands were met. FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden said Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, without ties to organized gangs. "The Paisas were further instructed by their new leaders to destroy the prison if staff made any attempts to break up the riot," the affidavit said. It says damages to the prison are estimated at more than $1.3 million. "In addition to destroying the prison, Paisas planned to assault the correction officers." At one point, the inmates gained access to a section of the prison by telling the warden they wanted to go back to their cells, but they ended up taking more hostages once they got into that part of the facility, the affidavit said. Other inmates were able to break through a fence and get a 32-foot ladder, which they used to get on the roof of a building. That's where Carithers was killed. The affidavit describes a chaotic scene in which inmates were picking up tear gas canisters and hurling them back at guards. Some guards locked themselves in safe rooms, but the inmates used keys taken from other officers to get into the rooms. They also looted the kitchen and commissary. The affidavit is part of a criminal complaint that alleges that Juan Lopez-Fuentes was in charge of a group of inmates who took hostages in one section of the prison. Lopez-Fuentes allegedly forced one of the hostages, a prison guard, to relay orders for tactical teams to drop their weapons and back off. The prison's special response team and the Mississippi Highway Patrol's SWAT team worked to end the riot while state and area law enforcement officers, some from neighboring Louisiana, helped secure the outside, officials have said. The prison holds nearly 2,500 low-security inmates, with most serving time for coming back to the United States after being deported. The facility is owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America, one of the nation's largest private prison companies.

May 22, 2012 Colorlines.com
A Mississippi jail is on lockdown today after a Sunday night riot left one prison guard dead and as many as 20 inmates and guards injured. According to sheriff’s reports, the violence began as a gang feud and soon engulfed the privately operated facility, which holds 2,500 non-citizens incarcerated for reentering the United States after deportation and for other charges. But the fragments of information that have emerged from inmates and advocates suggest that the violence had more to do with a pattern of abuse and neglect that has emerged at privately run, for-profit prisons. The Adams County sheriff’s office and the Corrections Corporation of America, the behemoth prison company that operates the facility for the federal Bureau of Prisons, have tightly controlled news of the riot and what caused it. In statements, officials say the violence emerged out of thin air and soon “turned into a mob mentality,” according to Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield. “This could have happened anywhere, anytime,” Mayfield told the Associated Press. Prison watchdogs say that’s not necessarily true. What little independent information that has emerged from inside Adams County Correctional Center suggests a different story—one of mistreatment and abuse at the hands of guards that may have reached a breaking point. At 5 p.m. on Sunday evening, an inmate reportedly phoned a local TV station with a cell phone, sending photos to confirm that he was indeed held inside the facility. “They always beat us and hit us,” the prisoner told the local reporter. “We just pay them back. We’re trying to get better food, medical (care), programs, clothes, and we’re trying to get some respect from the officers and lieutenants.” According to the news report, the prisoner said that nine guards had been taken hostage. In an interview with Colorlines.com, Patricia Ice, who directs the legal program at the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, said that her organization has heard reports of neglect and abuse inside the Adams County facility. Ice said she received a call last month from a California woman who reported medical neglect of a family member in the jail. “I got a complaint from a family member saying that a man had lung cancer and was being ignored,” Ice said. “Three weeks earlier, he was examined by a doctor and diagnosed with lung cancer but had not received any treatment at all.” Prisoners' rights advocates say that the accounts of these inmates are consistent with documented conditions in private prison facilities around the country. “Private prisons have a financial incentive to spend as little as possible in order to make a greater profit,” said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership. Libal is a longtime advocate for the rights of prisoners held in private facilities. “They skimp on staff salaries and training, which leads to high turnover rates. They spend as little as possible on services in order to maximize profit. This mentality leads to poorly run facilities where abuse, neglect and prisoner uprisings are common.”

May 22, 2012 Clarion Ledger
A U.S. Representative is calling for an investigation into the Adams County Correctional Center, where a riot on Sunday left a guard dead and several other people injured. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., is the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, and thus oversees the Bureau of Prisons. WAPT-16 reports he has called the inspector general to start the inquiry into the facility and how it manages inmates. "There are some issues with the privately run facilities, so I think between the Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Homeland Security, you will see some restricting of that process," Thompson said.

May 21, 2012 Clarion Ledger
At least one former employee of the Adams County Correctional Center said he was sad but not surprised when he heard that things had turned violent inside the facility. Donnie Hedgepeth of Lincoln County said he worked there when the facility opened in 2009 until sometime in 2010. He said he quit his job because he believed the jailers were outnumbered. "I told everyone before I left, 'I know what's going to happen,'" he said. "It was too unsafe the way it was. There were too many prisoners for each guard." Hedgepeth said when he worked there the ratio was somewhere between 200 and 300 prisoners per guard. There was one guard per pod of up to 300 prisoners, and three pods per dorm. Each dorm had one officer per pod, he said. "I don't know that it's still like that. It could have changed," he said. "But I didn't like working there. It was too unsafe for me." Emilee Beach, a prison spokeswoman, did not return an email seeking comment on how many corrections officers there were as opposed to prisoners.

May 21, 2012 AP
As many as 300 inmates, some of them armed with makeshift weapons such as broomsticks, rioted at a privately run prison for illegal immigrants, beating a guard to death and injuring 19 people, a sheriff said Monday. More than two dozen officers were held hostage at some point during the hours-long spate of violence Sunday, including a group of 15 who had to be rescued by special response teams, Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said. A gang fight set off the violence, the sheriff said. The guard was killed on the roof of one of the prison buildings. Sixteen prison employees were treated for various injuries and released from a hospital. Three inmates were hurt, officials said. The Adams County Correctional Facility holds nearly 2,500 illegal immigrants, with most serving time for coming back to the United States after being deported, said Emilee Beach, a prison spokeswoman. Some of the inmates have also been convicted of other crimes. The guard killed was identified as Catlin Carithers, who joined Corrections Corporation of America in 2009 and was a senior correctional officer, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company said on its website. CCA is one of the largest private prison companies in the country. Carithers' cousin, Jason Clark, said the slain guard was engaged and was excited about a recent promotion that took him off the weekend shifts. He had been trained in recent years as part of the prison's special response team and was called into work Sunday to help with the uprising. "He liked protecting people," Clark said, adding that his cousin had worked as a volunteer firefighter. It wasn't immediately clear if the gang fight started between members of the same gang or rival groups, but the situation escalated quickly and spread throughout the prison, Mayfield said. "They had makeshift weapons, broom handles, mop handles, anything they could pull apart, trashcan lids for shields, anything they could grab," Mayfield said. At one point, the inmates set a fire in the prison yard. Frank Smith, who runs the online prison watchdog group Private Corrections Working Group, said riots are usually caused by poor conditions, but the sheriff said that was not the case. "The big problem is CCA tries to cut corners in every possible way. They short-staff, the don't fix equipment, and things just get more and more out of control, and that's what leads to these riots. It's just about maximizing short-term profits," he said.

May 20, 2012 CNN
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.

April 21, 2009 Natchez Democrat
Eric Staiger just moved to Natchez and now he and his family need a place to live. Staiger is a newly hired assistant warden at the Correction Corporations of America facility and has not been able to find rental housing since he began searching prior to his move to Natchez. “It’s been a challenge so far,” Staiger said of locating a rental house for himself, his wife and their two kids. He started his search on the Internet before he left his home in Ohio. “I thought it would be easier,” he said. “Now I’m just relying on word of mouth and working with my Realtor.” And Natchez Realtor Sue Stedman said while she’s thrilled to see job growth in the community, she isn’t surprised by Staiger’s struggle. “There aren’t many rentals out there right now,” Stedman said. “And some people are going to notice a shortage.” But Stedman said while rentals can be hard to come by, the sale market in Natchez is doing well. Stedman said the number of houses for sale in the area has reached pre-Katrina levels. But that won’t help Staiger. CCA Warden Vance Laughlin said upper level management at the prison is being hired from within the company. Laughlin said his group of managers is coming to the area with the intent of being promoted out of Adams County, and are not in the market to buy a house. “They need rentals,” Laughlin said.

March 15, 2009 Natchez Democrat
Last week, as most of the Adams County Supervisors were in town taking care of county business, one supervisor was in the nation’s capital taking county business to a whole other level. Supervisor Darryl Grennell was in Washington D.C. for the National Association of Counties’ Legislative Conference, and in the midst of lectures and meetings Grennell was able to meet with some of the nation’s higher-ups to talk county business. On Monday, Grennell was able to meet with U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran to discuss several issues pertinent to Adams County. “I think it was a very productive meeting,” Grennell said. “He was very receptive.” Grennell said while no formal actions came from the meeting, he was glad to have had the opportunity to make Cochran aware of what’s going on in Adams County. Grennell said he and Cochran were able to discuss the repair projects at Marblestone Alley and West Stiers Lane, acquisition of federal stimulus money for road repairs in the county and the new Corrections Corporation of America prison. “Basically he said he’d make some phone calls on the county’s behalf,” Grennell said. “It went well.” While work on the Marblestone Alley and West Stiers projects isn’t new, Grennell said he was grateful to have had a chance to talk about stimulus funding and the CCA prison. The county hasn’t gotten any firm commitments on stimulus funding and the prison is currently without prisoners since it has not secured any contracts that would provide inmates. “Hopefully this can get the ball rolling,” Grennell said. Supervisor Mike Lazarus said he hopes the county will be able to see positive results from Grennell’s visit. “It’s always good to have connections,” Lazarus said. “It’s big. It keeps our name at the top of the list when projects come up. It’s very helpful for us.”

January 8, 2009 Natchez Democrat
On Dec. 1 Corrections Corporation of America completed construction at its new prison on U.S. 84, but the facility is without prisoners. Warden Vance Laughlin said the facility looks great. The halls are quiet, the beds are empty and there aren’t any guards on duty. And that won’t change anytime soon. Laughlin said he’s not expecting any inmates until at least June. The hold up comes from a missing, but crucial, federal contract. Once in place, it’s the contract that will fill the jail with the all-important prisoners. The contract, which was originally expected to be in place by Oct. 1, is “delayed indefinitely,” Laughlin said. Laughlin said he’s hoping it will be in place by the first quarter of this year. But once the contract is in place it will be at least 120 days before the prison sees its first inmate. That 120-day period will be used for hiring and training guards and other employees. And there’s no clear answer on exactly what’s stalling the contract. Laughlin said he thinks the general economic slow-down has had an impact on the contract. Additionally, the money to be used for the contract has not been finalized. CCA marketing director Steve Owen said he attributes some of the delay to administrative changes as high up as the White House. Owen said those changes have an impact on Congress, which ultimately controls the budget for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. And Congress has yet to finalize the bureau’s 2009 budget. “Government contracts can move slowly,” Owen said. “Sometimes these things can just drag out.” But the slow pace of progress isn’t reason for concern, Owen said. Owen said he’s confident the federal contract will come through — but if it doesn’t there are other options. “Still our focus is on what we pitched the facility for,” he said of CCA’s intent to pursue a federal contract. Both Laughlin and Owen said if the federal contract fails, the prison can, and will, pursue other contracts.

November 3, 2008 Natchez Democrat
If country music songs are to be believed, prison cells are the loneliest places to be, but being warden of a prison with no prisoners isn’t much fun either. Vance Laughlin, warden of the new Adams County Correctional Facility, told members of the Rotary Club of Natchez that he’s got plenty of time on his hands in the next couple of months. Just call if you need a hand with anything, he told the crowd, joking, at least a little. Laughlin said Wednesday that a delay in granting a federal prison contract means the new facility is vacant for just a little while longer. Originally, Corrections Corporation of America, the owner of the private prison, expected the contract would be announced Oct. 1, Laughlin said, but now it looks like it will be in the first quarter of 2009. Originally, CCA had announced they would start accepting job applications in October, but Laughlin said the delay in the contract has delayed the need for hiring just a bit longer. “We’re (still) coming,” Laughlin said. “Once we start hiring, it’s going to be very, very visible … lots of big ads … just give us some time.” The time is no problem, Laughlin said, in fact he said he’s looking at it as a positive factor. “From my perspective, as warden, it gives me another two to three months to get things set up,” he said. Construction on the $140 million, 2,500-bed facility is expected to be complete by Dec. 1, he said. But even if CCA receives the much-anticipated contract to house illegal immigrant prisoners — ones who will likely be deported after their sentences are served — the first prisoner would not report to the facility until 120 days after the contract is awarded. But, Laughlin said, CCA would begin screening applicants the very next day after the contract is awarded. “We’re very hopeful for this contract, but we could not get it,” he said. “If so, we have a plan B and we have a plan C. “The (Federal) Bureau (of Prisons) is a very important customer so they get first shot,” he said.

April 21, 2008 AP
Gov. Haley Barbour has signed into law a bill that gives a privately owned jail in Natchez the authority to house federal and state inmates. The Adams County Correctional Center is currently under construction and is slated to be completed in December 2008. Barbour said signing "this legislation is appropriate as the state continues to find alternative housing solutions for our growing inmate population." Governor. The correctional facility is located on more than 140 acres in southwest Mississippi near Natchez. It is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America.

August 1, 2007 Clarion Ledger
A 1,668-bed private prison being built in Adams County secured the final $500,000 in matching funds today to extend the Natchez sewer lines to the site. The Delta Regional Authority will provide that money for the Corrections Corporation of America prison, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008. Funding for the sewer project will accelerate completion of the project, which is expected to create approximately 300 jobs. The funding was announced today in a joint news release from Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, Gov. Haley Barbour and 3rd District U.S. Chip Pickering. "Southwest Mississippi is an important part of our state and this new facility will help create economic confidence in the area by generating hundreds of new jobs," Cochran said in the news release. Lott noted in the news release that the sewer project has an additional benefit. "Anytime you expand or upgrade water or waste water service, it is a well-placed, long-term investment in the community that can promote new residential and commercial growth," he said.

12, 2007 Natchez Democrat
The board of aldermen agreed on a more binding agreement between the city and county governments regarding water and sewer services to a private prison Tuesday. Walter Brown, who represents the private prison company CCA and the city waterworks, asked the aldermen to sign an interlocal agreement. The agreement would spell out more specific responsibilities of the parties involved, Brown said. The city and county are applying for grants to fund the water and sewer infrastructure to the proposed prison near Cranfield. An interlocal agreement would help secure those grant monies, Brown said. The project will still require no city or county taxpayer money, he said. The interlocal agreement would simply say, “We’re doing our part of the project, and they’re doing theirs,” Brown said. Because CCA wants to meet the GO Zone deadline to benefit from financial incentives, time was short, Brown said. “CCA still wants to take the deed by July 1,” Brown said. “We’re really under the gun to meet their timeline.” Some of the parties involved, such as Adams County Water Association and the county have asked for changes to the original draft of the agreement, he said, so he did not have the final document at Tuesday’s meeting. That didn’t sit well with Alderman James “Ricky” Gray. “It’s kind of unusual for me to sit up here and vote for something I haven’t seen and the city attorney hasn’t read over,” Gray said. “I like to read over something before I vote and sign it.” Since time was of the essence, Alderman Jake Middleton suggested the board give the mayor and board attorney authorization to review the document before they signed it. “I don’t think they’re going to sign off on something that’s not beneficial,” Middleton said. Brown said he would be happy to get copies of the draft to anyone interested. The board voted authority to the mayor to sign the agreement.

May 3, 2007 Natchez Democrat
The new prison needs $4 million in water and sewer infrastructure, but if all goes as planned, the county and city won’t have to shell out a penny of their own. If plans fall through, the money may come out of taxes the company would be paying to the county. Adams County Water Association plans to provide the water, and Natchez Water Works will provide the sewer for the Corrections Corporation of America private prison near Cranfield. However, they need the money for things like labor, pipes and a water tank. So the city and county are looking to get money through grants that private CCA can’t get. The county board of supervisors approved the project Tuesday and asked the Southwest Mississippi Development District to hunt for grants and loans. Such grants could come from several places, including federal funds and the Delta Regional Authority, attorney Walter Brown said. Hopefully, the grants won’t require matching funds, said Brown, who represents CCA locally and Natchez Water Works. “A 10 percent match is normally required, but we’ve asked for it to be waived,” Brown said. “If not, we’ll figure out how to handle it. Most logical would be a tax increment financing bond.” Such a bond would use the company’s future taxes to pay off the debt. That way, the county isn’t losing any money it currently has, Brown said. Previously, CCA and county representatives said no city or county money would be required if the prison located in Adams County. That worries Supervisor Henry Watts. “Full disclosure is always my concern — full disclosure on the front end, letting the supervisors know,” Watts said. “Give us a good idea what kind of money the taxpayers of Adams County are having to put up, not only on the prison but on any proposal.” Tuesday’s supervisors meeting was the first time Watts said he had heard the county might need to play a role in the prison project. “It was the first time I’d heard we were actually going to have to put up money,” Watts said. “Am I scared of that? No. But right now, we have no idea how much money we’d have to put up.”

Central Mississippi Correctional Facility
Rankin, Mississippi
Wexford (formerly run by Correctional Medical Services)

For Jamie Scott, an $11 Robbery in Mississippi May Carry a Death Sentence, By James Ridgeway and Jean Casella
December 2, 2008 Clarion Ledger
William Morris Byrd Jr. had been in and out of prison most of his life, but Charlotte Boyd, his sister, said he did not have to die there. Byrd, 53, died Nov. 21 after what Boyd described as months of wasting away at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl. While the family is waiting for the autopsy, Boyd said the initial cause of death is Crohn's Disease, a chronic but treatable inflammation of the digestive path that she said had blocked her brother's esophagus. "He literally starved. We watched him turn into a skeleton," she said. Byrd was serving a lengthy sentence for rape and was not eligible for parole until 2020. Boyd realizes her brother may not be a sympathetic figure to most, but after reading a story last week in The Clarion-Ledger, she said her brother may not be alone. "If they are doing him that way, they are going to let somebody else die, too," she said. "Even a dog needs medical attention." Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said Byrd received appropriate medical care from the prison. "We provided timely, quality medical care for the inmate," he said, "as we do for all of our inmates." Mississippi's per-capita death rate for prisoners has spiked in recent years. In 2001, the state's death rate was at the national average, but in 2006 Mississippi's inmate death rate was the second highest in the nation. In 2007, inmate deaths rose again. The majority of those deaths are from natural causes, and former inmates and family members of current inmates say medical care in the state's prison system is inadequate. Epps blames the higher death rate on several factors, including an increasingly aged prison population and generally unhealthy lifestyles that have made the state a leader in medical problems like heart disease and diabetes. Epps expressed confidence in MDOC's medical contractor, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Wexford Health Sources, but the Legislative Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review last year released a report criticizing the prison system's response to chronic-care issues. PEER also found that Wexford's medical staffing was not in compliance with the terms of its contract with the state. The report found 13 percent staffing shortages at the MDOC prisons in Pearl, Parchman and Leakesville. Officials at MDOC referred questions about current Wexford staffing levels to the contractor. Wexford did not return a telephone call Monday but last week referred questions to MDOC. Senate Corrections Chairman Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, said the increase in the prisoner death rate is worth keeping an eye on, but he said Epps' explanation of the increase is plausible. It's something lawmakers would want to pay attention to and monitor, "get a little more information on," he said. "It didn't come across as there was any kind of serious problem of neglect." But the rising number of deaths worries people like Diane Rowell, whose hypoglycemic son is in South Mississippi Correctional Facility serving a short sentence for a parole violation. She said her son has lost weight and complains of being tired. "It worries me. I cry a lot about it," she said. "I know they broke the law, but they are still human beings."

July 16, 2005 Clarion Ledger
A state prisoner suffering from life-threatening illnesses has been denied medical treatment for more than a month, a lawsuit claims.  The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Jackson, seeks immediate medical treatment for Raymond Winne of Gulfport, an inmate at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County. The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees an inmate the right to receive necessary medical attention, the suit says.   Named as defendants are the correctional facility Superintendent Margaret Bingham and Correctional Medical Services, Inc., which provides medical treatment for state inmates.  The lawsuit comes after an American Civil Liberties Union class- action lawsuit was filed in June on behalf of roughly 1,000 inmates in Unit 32 at the state Penitentiary in Parchman.  The lawsuit's allegations include that inmates in the super maximum security unit are subjected to inadequate medical, mental health and dental care.  In 2003, the ACLU filed a lawsuit and won improvements in Unit 32 for death row inmates.

Delta Correctional Facility/Leflore County Jail
Greenwood, Mississippi
CCA
July 11, 2012 AP
Leflore County's Board of Supervisors has been told it could cost more than $3.1 million to fully repair the Leflore County Jail. The estimate presented to the board this week is considerably more than the $1 million the county has earmarked for the work out of proceeds from a $4 million bond issue. Two plans that leave out some fixes at the jail would cost $1.4 million and $1.9 million, according to The Greenwood Commonwealth. Sheriff Ricky Banks, jail consultant Ed Hargett and architect G.G. Ferguson explained the projections to the board Monday. Hargett recommended the least expensive option. He said it would provide the "bare minimum" of what is needed for accreditation by the American Correctional Association. Hargett called the three plans a Cadillac, a Chevrolet and a Pinto. Banks, who preferred the term "Model T" for the final plan, declined to say Monday which plan he recommended when asked by Supervisor Anjuan Brown. "We can live with whatever y'all vote for," the sheriff said. Leflore County took over operation of its jail from Corrections Corporation of America in February. One of the reasons cited for leaving by the private prison operator — which also ran the adjacent and now-closed state prison — was the anticipated high cost of repairs. Initial estimates by Hargett had been about $1 million, far less than even the lowest cost plan presented Monday.

November 10, 2011 AP
Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said Thursday that a privately run prison in Leflore County will close in January. Epps said the state and Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America mutually agreed to cease operations. "This decision wasn't reached overnight," Epps told The Associated Press. He said the state's cost per day for taking care of inmates was $34.61 for medium custody beds. By state law, Epps said CCA had to accept a rate of 10 percent less, or about $31.15 per inmate per day. "They said they couldn't make it on that," Epps said. Epps said there will be more savings to the state because he will move the inmates to facilities where he won't have to spend anything extra other than providing meals, clothing and medical care. Delta Correctional Facility, which opened in 1996, has about 218 employees. There are presently about 900 inmates housed in the medium-security prison and another 125 in the adjacent Leflore County Jail, which CCA also has been under contract to operate. CCA announced it will be pulling out of operating the jail as well. Epps and CCA officials said plans are to cease operations of the 1,172-bed Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood, Miss. on Jan. 15, 2012. Epps said he has over 4,000 vacant beds in the corrections system, which includes state facilities, community work centers and regional prisons. "Eight hundred of them are going to regional facilities and the others to state facilities," he said.

September 13, 2011 Tennessean
Former Metro Police Sgt. Mark Chesnut has settled a lawsuit against Corrections Corporation of America that blamed the private prison company of negligence after an escapee shot and nearly killed him. Chesnut was shot five times by Joseph Jackson Jr. on June 25, 2009, after pulling over Jackson and his cousin on Interstate 40 near Bellevue. Unbeknownst to Chesnut, Jackson had just been sprung from a Mississippi prison owned by CCA. Jackson is serving 45 years in prison and his cousin Courtney Logan is serving 31 years. Chesnut sued CCA, accusing the company of not properly supervising Jackson. The lawsuit asked for $16.5 million, but court records do not indicate how much the case settled for. Court records show the settlement was reached in late August with a mediator.

September 1, 2011 AP
Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks says authorities have filled a hole where a contraband gun was found in a jail cell. The .25-caliber automatic pistol was found this past Saturday in a cell where inmates are taken as they're being booked into the county jail. Banks tells The Greenwood Commonwealth (http://bit.ly/nclLP20 ) that the gun was in a pipe casing. He says 17 or 18 inmates went through the room since the last time the pipe casing was inspected a day or two before the gun was found. Corrections Corporation of America contracts with Leflore County to run the jail. Investigators will run a check on the gun with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but Banks says they're unlikely to find anything because it's a cheap pistol.

August 18, 2011 AP
The Greenwood Police Department has concluded its investigation into a July fight that left one man dead at Delta Correctional Facility. The Greenwood Commonwealth ( ) reports that Chief Henry Purnell plans to release the findings soon. Twenty-six-year-old Derek Criddle was fatally stabbed during a fight in a housing pod on July 6; six other inmates were injured during the clash. Police and officials from the Mississippi Department of Corrections and Corrections Corp. of America — which contracts with the state to run the 1,172-bed, medium-security prison — have released few details of what happened.

July 8, 2011 AP
Authorities have released the name of an inmate killed this week at the Delta Correctional Facility in Leflore County. Greenwood Police Chief Henry Purnell says 26-year-old Derek Criddle was fatally stabbed during a fight in a housing pod Wednesday. He was serving 25 years for an armed robbery in Grenada County. Six other inmates were injured. Purnell says the investigation is continuing.

July 7, 2011 AP
Corrections Corp. of America says one inmate is dead and two others remain hospitalized after a disturbance at Delta Correctional Facility in Leflore County. Nashville-based CCA spokesman Steve Owen told The Associated Press that six inmates were hurt Wednesday night at the privately-run prison. He says one was treated at the prison while five others were taken to nearby hospitals. He says three of those five have been returned to the prison. CCA officials said in a statement that the fight began at about 6:35 p.m. inside a housing pod as inmates returned from supper. CAA says guards quickly broke up the fight. One inmate was pronounced dead at the scene. His name has not been released.

December 1, 2010 Tennessean
Two cousins involved in the near-fatal shooting of a Metro Police officer after a Mississippi prison escape were sentenced Wednesday morning to decades in prison. Joseph Jackson Jr. was sentenced to 45 years in prison and Courtney Logan to 31 years behind bars for the June 25, 2009, shooting of Sgt. Mark Chesnut. Chesnut stopped the cousins on Interstate 40 near Bellevue. Unbeknownst to him, Logan had just helped Jackson escape from prison in Mississippi. While Chesnut checked their licenses, Jackson walked up and shot Chesnut five times. The pair fled, but Chesnut was able to radio a distress call. Backup arrived shortly thereafter and the cousins didn’t get far before being caught. Chesnut suffered grievous wounds in the shooting, but survived and was even able to return to work at the police department on light duty. His police cruiser had a video camera that caught much of the encounter. Jackson pleaded guilty to attempted murder and two felony weapons charges in the shooting. Logan was found guilty by a jury of attempted murder and a weapons charge. Chesnut is also suing Corrections Corporation of America, accusing the company of negligent conduct that allowed Jackson to escape a medical appointment outside of prison. The company has countered that the shooting was just part of the normal risks associated with being a police officer. The civil case continues in Davidson County Circuit Court.

September 22, 2010 AP
A jury on Wednesday convicted a Kentucky man of attempted first-degree murder for his role in the shooting of a Nashville police officer. Jurors deliberated for about four hours before finding 27-year-old Cortney Logan of Louisville, Ky., guilty. Logan was accused of helping his cousin - Joseph Jackson Jr. - escape from the Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood, Miss., in June 2009 while the prisoner was at a doctor's appointment. Prosecutors said the pair were fleeing to Louisville when police Sgt. Mark Chesnut stopped their vehicle on Interstate 40 west of Nashville because Logan was not wearing a seatbelt. Jackson shot Chesnut, who survived. Jackson, 32, pleaded guilty to attempted murder earlier this week.

September 21, 2010 The Tennessean
Blood trickled from underneath Sgt. Mark Chesnut's bulletproof vest as he sat alone in his patrol car on the side of Interstate 40 near Bellevue. He knew backup was on the way, but he needed help fast. So, the 22-year police veteran coached himself through his own survival. His hands cramped, but, dazed, he somehow reached for his radio. "I've been shot, I've been shot," the father of three announced over the radio. Monday, the 46-year-old began telling a seven-man, seven-woman jury how the day unfolded on June 25, 2009 — when a traffic stop changed his life. His testimony resumes at 9 a.m. today in Davidson County Criminal Court. Minutes before jury selection began, Joseph Jackson Jr., 32, pleaded guilty to attempted murder and two felony weapons charges stemming from Chesnut's shooting. He will be sentenced Nov. 11 by Judge Seth Norman. Jackson was to be a co-defendant with his cousin, 27-year-old Courtney Logan, who also is charged in the June 2009 shooting. He also has one felony weapons charge. Logan, of Louisville, Ky., is accused of helping Jackson escape from a Mississippi prison earlier that day and driving through Nashville on his way to Kentucky when he was stopped for not wearing a seat belt. Chesnut was driving the unmarked patrol car that pulled him over. Assistant District Attorney John Zimmermann told jurors that both men were determined to kill and evade Chesnut that day even though Jackson was the shooter. "The state has to prove that Logan had the same mindset as Jackson," said defense lawyer David Hopkins. Man in the back seat In a composed, methodical delivery, Chesnut testified that he stopped the dark-colored Dodge Magnum driven by Logan, walked to the passenger side window, and asked for his driver's license and vehicle registration. The car was a rental, Logan told him, but he couldn't find the rental papers. Chesnut asked Logan to exit the car, which he did. As Chesnut walked to the back of the car to meet Logan, he noticed another man, in the back seat. "Where did you rent the car?" Chesnut asked. "Thrifty. Or maybe Alamo," Logan said. "Who's the guy in the back?" Chesnut continued. "James Gibbs," Logan said. Chesnut asked the man in the back for his name. "Joseph Jackson," he replied. Then, the officer saw a pair of handcuffs on the car's floorboard. He went to his police car and called another officer for backup. "I've got a good one," he told him. Shouts, shots, flight As he was checking Logan's driver's license against crime databases, he noticed that Jackson had gotten out of the car and was walking toward the police car's passenger-side window. Jackson asked the sergeant if he would like his father's phone number to verify the information. Chesnut said he would. Jackson walked back to the Magnum and returned moments later. "I remember he shouted something about wanting me dead and something about me being white," Chesnut testified. "He pulled his gun from his waistband and started shooting." Jackson walked back to his car, with Logan in the driver's seat. "I remember seeing blood squirting out of my shirt," he said. "I was sitting there, trying to breathe, when I saw (Jackson) walking back toward my window. "I just thought, 'Don't be paralyzed.' " Chesnut said he somehow put one of his hands on the steering wheel and the other on the gear shaft. He reversed his unmarked patrol car as Jackson and Logan drove away. Jurors are expected today to see a video of the traffic stop and shooting taken from the officer's dashboard camera. Chesnut has not been able to return to work as a full-time patrol sergeant since the shooting.

September 20, 2010 News Channel 5
The prosecution called Metro Sergeant Mark Chesnut to the stand Monday afternoon in the trial of Courtney Logan. He is one of two men charged with shooting Chesnut in 2009. The jury was seated in the trial around 2 p.m. The other man charged, Joseph Jackson Jr., pleaded guilty Monday morning to attempted first degree murder and two lesser charges. Jackson shot Sergeant Mark Chesnut during an I-40 traffic stop in June of 2009. Investigators said Chesnut had no idea when he pulled over the two men that Courtney Logan had just helped Jackson, his cousin, escape from a prison in Mississippi. While checking their licenses, Jackson walked up to Chesnut's police car and shot him. Police caught both Jackson and Logan just a short time later. Jury selection for Logan's trial began Monday morning. Jackson will be sentenced by Judge Seth Norman on November 10. Chesnut has still not fully recovered from his injuries. Sergeant Chesnut has also filed a civil lawsuit against the Corrections Corporation America. The CCA allegedly did not follow their rules allowing Logan to help Jackson escape.

February 15, 2010 Greenwood Commonwealth
Joseph Leon Jackson Jr., a former inmate at Delta Correctional Facility who escaped from custody in June during a visit to a Greenwood optician’s office, and his alleged accomplice will face trial on Sept. 20 in Nashville, Tenn. Jackson and his cousin, Courtney Logan, were accused of shooting a Nashville police officer during a traffic stop. The two are facing charges of attempted murder and evading arrest for the June 25 shooting of Sgt. Mark Chesnut. Both pleaded not guilty in November and declared they were indigent. A judge appointed defense attorneys to represent them. Chesnut, 44, has returned to light duty with the police department since the shooting. Police say Chesnut stopped the men on Interstate 40 near Bellevue, Tenn., hours after Logan helped Jackon escape. Chestnut was shot five times while checking the suspects’ driver’s licenses. Jackson, 30, and Logan, 25, were caught a short time later after Chestnut backed his car away from the shooters and radioed descriptions of the men and the car they were driving. Chesnut has also filed a civil suit against Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Delta Correctional Facility, alleging the company failed to follow its own security policies and was responsible for the shooting. CCA has denied liability in the shooting. Chestnut is seeking $14 million and his wife, Michelle Chestnut is seeking $2.5 million.

February 5, 2010 Greenwood Commonwealth
The Leflore County Jail is awaiting autopsy results for an inmate who died Thursday in his cell. Eddie Moore, 43, 214 E. Percy St., did not respond when called to eat at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Sheriff Ricky Banks said. The jail issued a medical alert and tried unsuccessfully to revive Moore. MedStat also responded and finally the coroner. The body has been sent to Mississippi Mortuary Services in Jackson for an autopsy, which Banks said is required for all inmates who die in jail. Moore had been arrested about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and charged with public drunkenness, public profanity and disturbing a family. Banks said Moore had been arrested five times in the past year and a half on similar charges. “From what we know about him, he has a history of seizures,” Banks said. “He’s been in and out of here a good bit.” A nurse checked Moore when he entered jail Wednesday and said he was quite drunk but did not have any other apparent symptoms, according to the sheriff. Banks said corrections officers said when Moore came in he was typically drunk and would sleep for quite a while. He had been counted in several bed checks but was not called upon to respond until the chow call, Banks said. Moore was alone in a two-bunk cell, Banks said. Corrections Corp. of America contracts with Leflore County to run its jail. CCA also operates the state-owned Delta Correctional Facility at the same location on Baldwin Road. Banks said it was the first death of a prisoner at the jail since the facility moved from the courthouse in 2004.

February 5, 2010 Greenwood Commonwealth
The Leflore County Jail is awaiting autopsy results for an inmate who died Thursday in his cell. Eddie Moore, 43, 214 E. Percy St., did not respond when called to eat at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Sheriff Ricky Banks said. The jail issued a medical alert and tried unsuccessfully to revive Moore. MedStat also responded and finally the coroner. The body has been sent to Mississippi Mortuary Services in Jackson for an autopsy, which Banks said is required for all inmates who die in jail. Moore had been arrested about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and charged with public drunkenness, public profanity and disturbing a family. Banks said Moore had been arrested five times in the past year and a half on similar charges. “From what we know about him, he has a history of seizures,” Banks said. “He’s been in and out of here a good bit.” A nurse checked Moore when he entered jail Wednesday and said he was quite drunk but did not have any other apparent symptoms, according to the sheriff. Banks said corrections officers said when Moore came in he was typically drunk and would sleep for quite a while. He had been counted in several bed checks but was not called upon to respond until the chow call, Banks said. Moore was alone in a two-bunk cell, Banks said. Corrections Corp. of America contracts with Leflore County to run its jail. CCA also operates the state-owned Delta Correctional Facility at the same location on Baldwin Road. Banks said it was the first death of a prisoner at the jail since the facility moved from the courthouse in 2004.

January 22, 2010 Tennessean
A jury will decide the fate of two men accused of shooting a Metro police officer during a traffic stop last summer. The trial of Joseph Jackson Jr. and Courtney Logan has been scheduled for Sept. 20, Judge Seth Norman said. The pair did not appear in court on Thursday for the short hearing. "Typically when all the attorneys are going to do is set a date, both sides have already decided they're going to trial," Davidson County District Attorney spokeswoman Susan Niland said. "The hearing only takes about 30 seconds at the most." Jackson and Logan are accused of attempted murder and evading arrest in connection with the June 25 shooting of Metro police Sgt. Mark Chesnut. The men entered pleas of not guilty to the charges in November. Both declared that they were indigent, and a judge appointed defense attorneys to represent them. Chesnut, 44, is still recovering and has returned to light duty with the Metro police department. On the day of the shooting police say Chesnut stopped the men on Interstate 40 near Bellevue just hours after Logan helped Jackson, his cousin, escape from a prison in Mississippi run by the Corrections Corporation of America. While Chesnut was checking their licenses, according to police, Jackson walked up to the car and shot Chesnut, who suffered life-threatening injuries. Chesnut was shot five times. Jackson, 30, and Logan, 25, were caught a short time later after Chesnut backed his car away from the shooters and radioed in descriptions of the men and the car they were driving. Chesnut, a 22-year police veteran, has since filed a civil suit against CCA, alleging the company failed to follow its own security policies and was responsible for the shooting. Chesnut is seeking $14 million and his wife, Michelle Chesnut, is seeking $2.5 million.

December 9, 2009 Tennessean
The Corrections Corporation of America has responded to allegations that Sgt. Mark Chesnut's shooting was because of its negligence, saying that it wasn't reasonable to foresee that their escaped prisoner would shoot him. What happened to Chesnut, the private prison giant said in its response to the lawsuit, is part of the risk inherent to being a police officer. Chesnut filed suit in October, alleging that Nashville-based CCA's negligence contributed to him being shot multiple times. Joseph Jackson Jr., who was serving a life sentence at a CCA-operated prison in Greenwood, Miss., and his cousin Courtney Logan have been charged with attempted murder in the shooting. David Raybin, Nashville attorney representing Chesnut, declined to comment on the response. CCA spokesman Steve Owen also declined to comment. Jackson had escaped from prison hours earlier — with the help of Logan — after Logan showed up armed to Jackson's off-site doctor's appointment, police say. Chesnut alleged in the suit, filed by Raybin, that Jackson was told in advance about the appointment and had access to cell phones to arrange the escape. CCA denied in the court filings that Jackson was told in advance about his doctor's appointment by a prison nurse or that he had access to a cell phone. They also denied that the armed guard went for her cell phone instead of her gun, though they admitted that the gun and phone were taken from her by Jackson and Logan. The company overall denied that its actions caused Chesnut's shooting and said the liability rests more with the two men charged. Chesnut, who is still recovering, has returned to work on light duty.

November 10, 2009 WSMV
The two men accused of trying to kill a Metro police officer during a traffic stop received public defenders at a Tuesday arraignment. Courtney Logan and Joseph Jackson were in court, where attorneys entered not guilty pleas in their defense. Investigators said Logan helped Jackson escape police custody in Mississippi in June. When Sgt. Mark Chesnut pulled the pair over for a traffic violation in west Nashville, Logan is accused of grabbed a gun and shooting Chesnut several times. Logan and Jackson both face charges of attempted first-degree murder. Chesnut filed a lawsuit Oct. 30 against Corrections Corporation of America for $14 million. CCA operates the prison that held Jackson before his escape in June. According to the lawsuit, Jackson was given two weeks advance notice of the appointment and was able to access a cell phone to plan the escape with Logan. The weapon used to shoot Chesnut was taken from one of the CCA guards who accompanied Jackson to the appointment. Chesnut's attorney said the entire incident wouldn't have occurred if CCA hadn't been negligent with its policies.

November 10, 2009 NewsChannel 5
The two men accused of critically injuring a Metro police officer during a traffic stop have been scheduled to answer to the charges in court Tuesday. Joseph Jackson and Courtney Logan will be arraigned Tuesday on attempted first degree murder charges. Police said Jackson, an escaped inmate from Mississippi, shot Sgt. Mark Chesnut several times in June 2009 while the officer was sitting in his patrol car on Interstate 40 near Bellevue. Chestnut had just stopped the pair for a seatbelt violation. Chesnut has since returned to work following his recovery. Chesnut also filed a $14 million lawsuit against the Corrections Corporation of America, claiming they are responsible for his injuries because Jackson escaped from custody under the supervision of their guards at a doctor's appointment.

October 30, 2009 Tennessean
Sgt. Mark Chesnut, the Metro police officer shot by an escaped prisoner in June has filed suit against the Corrections Corporation of America, alleging the company is responsible for the failures that led to the escape and subsequent shooting. Chesnut was critically injured on June 25 when he was shot five times during a traffic stop. Police later arrested Joseph Jackson, Jr., who escaped from prison in Mississippi earlier that day, and his cousin Courtney Logan, accused of helping Jackson escape, for the shooting. Chesnut is still recovering from the injuries. CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company has not been served with the suit and is not in a position to comment. According to the lawsuit, filed late Friday by Nashville attorney David Raybin, the company was negligent in following its own policies to prevent and respond to an escape. Chesnut is seeking $14 million from the Nashville-based private corrections giant, and his wife, Michelle Chesnut, is seeking an additional $2.5 million. “They give (Jackson) advanced warning, the means to escape, they give him a gun and he’s out in a few hours shooting a police officer,” Raybin said. “To me, it’s foreseeable that any police officer who stopped these guys was in mortal danger.” Jackson had two weeks notice that he was going to an off-site doctor’s appointment and didn’t prevent him access from cell phones that he used to plan his escape, the lawsuit said. The advance notification was against the policies of CCA, which operated the Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood, Miss., where Jackson was held. Police said that Logan entered the doctor’s office during the scheduled time to help Jackson escape. Logan fired several shots into the ceiling, and ordered everyone to get down. The lawsuit adds new details about the escape, saying that Jackson, who was in prison for violent offenses and serving a life sentence, was escorted by an armed female guard and two unarmed male guards. When Logan pulled the gun, according to the lawsuit, the armed guard reached not for her gun but for her cell phone. Jackson took the gun and the phone, and the two fled toward Nashville. Just a few hours later, they were pulled over by Chesnut. “For the few extra dollars it might have cost this for-profit institution to have a house call, Sgt. Chesnut wouldn’t have eight bullets in him,” Raybin said. Chesnut was running Logan’s driver’s license when Jackson walked back to talk to the officer. He walked away, but came back and drew the gun he took from the CCA guard, shooting Chesnut five times. Two bullets lodged in his bulletproof vest, but he was struck by the other three. Despite the injury, Chesnut threw the car into reverse when the gunman returned and radioed in the shooting, giving a description of the suspects and the car to officers that were looking for them within minutes. They were arrested within hours by Metro police and taken into custody without incident. “He radioed in not only to report own injury, but in hope that other officers could stop these guys,” Raybin said. “It’s about as heroic a thing as I’ve ever seen.” CCA was under heavy criticism for security in February 2008, when Terrell Watson escaped from the Metro Detention Facility in Nashville. When Watson was discovered missing, jail employees notified authorities and put the jail on lockdown, and an exhaustive search inside the prison and around the grounds went on for two days. They didn’t file an escape warrant that would let other police agencies know he was an escaped prisoner for two days. The internal procedure to handle a possible escape dictates only that police should be notified, CCA officials said at the time.

September 26, 2009 AP
An escaped inmate from a Mississippi prison and another man have been indicted on attempted first-degree murder charges in the wounding of a Nashville police officer during a traffic stop. Joseph Jackson, 29, the escapee, and Cortney Logan, 25, of Louisville, Ky., were indicted by a Davidson County grand jury in the June 25 shooting of Sgt. Mark Chesnut. Chesnut, 44, was shot in the abdomen after he pulled Jackson and Logan over along Interstate 40 west of downtown Nashville. Chesnut has been in a rehabilitation center since then and says he'd like to return to work. Jackson was serving a life sentence at the Delta Correctional Facility for two aggravated robberies and aggravated assault. According to Mississippi prison officials, Jackson escaped earlier June 25 during a visit to an eye doctor in Greenwood, Miss. Police have said Logan entered the office, fired a shot into the air and one of them took a weapon from Jackson's guard.

September 9, 2009 Greenwood Commonwealth
Another violent incident involving a Delta Correctional Facility inmate serving a life sentence has brought increased intensity to concerns about the level of prisoner held there. Leflore County Supervisor Wayne Self said during a board meeting Tuesday that an inmate assaulted a guard at the medium-security Greenwood prison a couple of weeks ago. Accounts of the altercation leaked out of the facility, and Self heard about it recently, he said. He called for the Board of Supervisors to put standards in place for Corrections Corp. of America, the private company that manages Delta Correctional for the state. “I don’t think a life-sentence or two-or-three-life-sentence person should be at that facility,” Self said. “I just don’t think it’s safe out there — not only for a lot of the officers that’s there, but I don’t think it’s safe for this community.” The supervisors passed an order Aug. 24 requesting Chris Epps, who is the Mississippi Department of Corrections commissioner, and CCA officials to appear before it to explain how classification works at Delta Correctional. Self asked County Administrator Sam Abraham to get Epps and CCA personnel to come to the next board meeting on Monday. Steve Owen, director of marketing for Nashville-based CCA, said this morning that company guards treat every inmate as potentially dangerous, regardless of classification. “We train our folks to be extra safe and to be prepared,” he said. Owen, a former corrections officer, said inmates classified as minimum-security often pose a greater threat than those classified as medium-security. “The sentence alone isn’t the only factor,” he said. The June escape of Joseph Leon Jackson Jr. from a Greenwood eye doctor’s office prompted the initial inquiry. Jackson, who was serving a life sentence at DCF for armed robbery, later shot a Nashville, Tenn. police officer during a traffic stop. He remains jailed in Tennessee along with Courtney Logan, his cousin who helped spring him, on charges of attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a felon. CCA officials have remained tight lipped regarding the escape, but Epps told the Clarion-Ledger that Jackson used a cell phone to craft his scheme. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is leading an investigation. Self echoed comments made last week by Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks that inmates who receive life sentences have their status level reduced based on good behavior. “This is a serious issue that’s going on out there at that facility that I think we need to try to get our hands on before it goes too far,” Self said. District 2 Supervisor Robert Moore asked Board Attorney Joyce Chiles to prepare advice on how the county can influence its contract with Delta Correctional and the agreement CCA has to manage the prison.

August 25, 2009 Greenwood Commonwealth
The Leflore County Board of Supervisors is asking the head of the state Department of Corrections and the private company that runs Delta Correctional Facility to appear before it and explain what classifications of inmates are housed at the Greenwood prison. Supervisor Preston Ratliff said the coordinated June escape of Joseph Leon Jackson Jr., who was serving a life sentence for armed robbery, raised concerns that more dangerous criminals are present than the specified medium security. “What happened in Nashville could have easily happened in Greenwood,” Ratliff said, referring to the Nashville police officer whom Jackson has admitted to shooting after fleeing Mississippi. The board voted Monday to request an explanation from MDOC Commissioner Christopher Epps and Corrections Corp. of America officials from its Nashville headquarters. “It might be a good idea at some point for them to come and address the local community and assure them that they done closed the gate,” Supervisor Robert Moore said. “Couldn’t hurt, could it?” The local CCA warden, Danny Scott, appeared before supervisors earlier this month but provided few answers.

August 13, 2009 Greenwood Commonwealth
A man arrested in June for aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon was inadvertently released from custody Monday, but his mother later returned him to jail, Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks said. Cedric Gordon, 30, 505 Cypress Ave., was returned to the Leflore County Jail around noon Tuesday, the sheriff said. Gordon, who goes by the street name “Main Jones,” is the suspect in the June 16 shooting of Christopher Young in the 200 block of Noel Street. In addition to aggravated assault and the weapons charge, Gordon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence on June 17. Banks said the mix-up on Gordon’s jail status started Monday when Gordon was taken to Greenwood Municipal Court in connection with the domestic violence charge. Once his case was heard, the court sent a fax ordering his release from jail, the sheriff said. Corrections Corp. of America, which runs the Leflore County Jail, released Gordon around 10:30 p.m. Monday, Banks said. Banks said the slip-up could have been avoided if jailers had looked at the docket before releasing Gordon and noticed the more serious charges still pending against him. On Wednesday, Gordon was awaiting transfer to a Mississippi Department of Corrections facility before his trial for aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

August 4, 2009 Greenwood Commonwealth
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is in charge of finding out how an inmate planned an escape from a Greenwood eye doctor’s office June 25, according to Delta Correctional Facility’s warden. When asked Monday outside a Leflore County Board of Supervisors meeting about the results of an internal investigation into Joseph Leon Jackson Jr.’s escape, Warden Danny Scott referred questions to MBI. Jackson, who was serving a life sentence at DCF for armed robbery, was sprung by his cousin, Courtney Logan, from The Eye Station on Park Avenue during a routine exam. Logan fired a shot into the building’s ceiling and helped Jackson free himself from shackles. They fled in a Dodge Magnum. Some five hours later, Nashville Police Sgt. Mark Chesnut was shot five times after making a traffic stop of the vehicle. Jackson later admitted to the shooting, which was captured on video from Chesnut’s cruiser. Jackson and Logan face charges of attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Supervisor Preston Ratliff said Monday that citizens had voiced concerns to him since the escape about the level of inmates housed at the prison. After Scott told him Delta Correctional is a medium-custody facility, Ratliff asked how that status is defined. Scott responded only that “in MDOC, inmates are either minimum, medium or a higher custody level, and our inmates that we receive from MDOC are medium custody inmates.” Ratliff then asked if the length of convicts’ sentences had anything to do with classification. Scott said inmates are assessed after they are sentenced. “When inmates are classified, their length of sentence and their history of offenses is taken into consideration,” he said. The prison is run by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America (CCA). CCA officials were at the meeting to amend their annual contract to house state prisoners. The money is routed from the state through the county and requires supervisors’ approval. The board approved increasing the daily charge per state prisoner from $32.07 to $32.56 beginning Aug. 1. The rate change will not affect what the county pays CCA, which also contracts to manage the Leflore County Jail. County Administrator Sam Abraham said the county’s rate had already been increased for next year.

July 14, 2009 Nashville City Paper
Moments after Metro Police Sgt. Mark Chesnut was shot five times by an escaped Mississippi convict on June 25, accomplice Cortney Logan smiled before getting into a rental car along with his cousin and speeding away, according to police. “I’ve seen the video,” Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas said of the onboard video camera, which captured virtually the entire traffic stop made by Chesnut on I-40 near Bellevue. “It’s disturbing. It’s very disturbing that [Logan] could call himself a human with the face he made.” Logan and alleged trigger man Joseph Jackson had their preliminary hearings in General Sessions Court on Tuesday where Judge Leon Ruben forwarded the case to the Davidson County Grand Jury. The pair stand charged of attempted murder of a police officer. Chesnut remains in stable condition and has been moved from Vanderbilt University Medical Center to a rehabilitation facility. He is expected to make a full recovery, according to Metro Police. It was Jackson who approached Chesnut during the traffic stop while the 22-year police force veteran sat in his unmarked car. According to Metro Detective Norris Tarkington, Jackson first approached the car to see if there was another officer present and then circled back a second time with a 38-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun. Jackson then fired five shots at Chesnut. Two of those shots were absorbed by protective body armor, but three hit Chesnut’s arm and abdomen area. Jackson dropped the gun inside the police car and ran back to the rental car, which Logan had allegedly rented to help his cousin escape from a Mississippi prison. Tarkington said the video on Chesnut’s camera shows Logan smiling and “almost laughing” before boarding the rental car and driving away. Logan and Jackson were apprehended a short while later and are being held in lieu of $3 million bond. During his testimony at the preliminary hearing, Tarkington shed some light on Jackson’s escape from the custody of prison guards employed by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. According to Tarkington’s testimony, Logan entered a Greenwood, Mississippi optometrist office where Jackson was receiving care. Logan fired two shots into the ceiling and demanded at gunpoint that a CCA guard remove the handcuffs from Jackson. Logan then took one of the CCA guard’s weapon, which was the Smith and Wesson gun used to shoot Chesnut. Multiple investigations by state and local authorities in Mississippi continue into Jackson’s escape from custody. Jackson was serving a life sentence for robbery and aggravated assault.

June 28, 2009 Hattiesburg American
IT SOUNDED LIKE THE SCRIPT FROM HOLLYWOOD. But it was real. Here's the scenario: Mississippi inmate Joseph Jackson, 29, serving a life sentence for armed robbery and aggravated assault at the Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood, was taken to a Greenwood optometrist's office Thursday after he had complained about having eye problems. Shortly after arriving at The Eye Station guarded by at least three armed transportation officers, an armed man walked into the office, fired his gun into the air and ordered everyone on the floor. They grabbed one of the officer's guns and fled in a waiting car. Witnesses said another person was in the car. Mississippi law enforcement agencies began an intensive search for the men but Jackson and his accomplices managed to leave the state and make their way to Tennessee. The scene then shifted to Nashville, where the rental car in which Jackson and Courtney R. Logan, 25, of Louisville, Ky., were in was stopped by Sgt. Mark Chesnut on Interstate 40 Thursday afternoon. Logan, who was driving the car, was not wearing a seat belt. According to The Tennesseean newspaper in Nashville, while Chesnut, a 22-year police veteran, checked the license plate on a computer, Jackson walked back to the officer's car and shot him multiple time through the passenger window. He dropped the gun on Chesnut's front seat. It was described as a routine stop that turned into something that was anything but routine. Chesnut was shot in the abdomen. Jackson and Logan fled but were later cornered by police and surrendered. Chesnut remained in critical condition on Saturday. Nashville police later said that Jackson confessed to shooting Chesnut because he "didn't want to go back to prison." The incident raises some serious questions, such as: How could the three armed transportation officers allow Jackson's armed accomplice to get inside the optometrist's office? Why was Jackson brought to a private optometrist instead of having an optometrist go to the correctional facility? A prison spokesman said the transportation procedure is under investigation. We would hope so. Prison officials need to alter their procedures to ensure that the public and law enforcement officials are not put at risk.

June 27, 2009 Greenwood Commonwealth
Police are continuing the search for a third suspect wanted in connection with the freeing of an inmate from a Greenwood eye doctor’s office Thursday. Joseph Jackson, 29, who was serving a life sentence for armed robbery and aggravated assault at Delta Correctional Facility, and Courtney R. Logan, 25, of Louisville, Ky., have been charged with attempted murder and weapons charges in the case. The Tennessean reported Saturday that Jackson and Logan are cousins. Jackson admitted to Nashville police Thursday night that he shot Sgt. Mark Chesnut after Chesnut pulled Logan over for not wearing his seat belt, according to a release issued Friday by the Nashville Police Department. Chesnut, who was wearing a Kevlar bullet-resistant vest, was struck at least once in the abdomen. The Tennessean also reported that Logan attempted suicide early Friday morning in his Nashville jail cell and is under a suicide watch. Jackson has been charged with attempted murder, unlawful gun possession by a convicted felon, being a fugitive from justice and theft of a correction officer’s gun. His bond was set Friday at $3.36 million. Logan has been charged with attempted murder and unlawful gun possession by a convicted felon. His bail was set at $3.1 million. A hearing for the men is scheduled for Wednesday. A third suspect, seen leaving in the car from The Eye Station, has not been identified. Jackson was one of two inmates taken to office on Thursday by three armed transportation officers who were employees of Delta Correctional Facility. He had complained of an eye problem, according to Carolyn McAdams, public information officer with Delta Correctional Facility. While Jackson and the other inmate were waiting inside, a man armed with a handgun came in and fired several rounds into the ceiling of the building and then ordered everyone to get on the ground. Steve Owen, a spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America in Nashville, Delta Correctional’s parent company, told the Tennessean that inmates are taken off grounds for specialized doctor visits because the prison’s medical facilities contain only basic equipment. “For obvious reasons, protocol is that inmates are not notified of such information until the day of the appointment, at which time they are notified just enough in advance to get it cleared (and) dressed before being transported,” Owen told the newspaper. “As far as we know right now, everything that was done followed policy and procedure,” Owen told the Tennessean. “Of course, all the circumstances and what might have contributed to it (the escape) are under investigation right now.”

June 27, 2009 WZTV
Authorities say one of the men charged with shooting Sergeant Mark Chesnut tried to hang himself Friday with some string from a laundry bag. Correctional Officers stopped Courtney Logan before he was successful. "When a person comes in off the street with such a violent act and charged with such a crime close to those of us in the business, very, very proud of the way our folks handled it," said Sheriff Daron Hall. Logan faces attempted murder charges along with Joseph Jackson in Thursday's shooting along I-40 in Bellevue. Authorities say Jackson shot Sergeant Chesnut multiple times in the abdomen and arm after he pulled the pair over for a seatbelt violation. Chesnut remains in critical condition at Vanderbilt Medical Center where a steady stream of officers continue to visit him. He's expected to have surgery sometime in the next few days. "Mark was a friend of mine and the prognosis sounds good and my thoughts and prayers continue to be with them," said Captain Todd Henry. Chesnut could not have known at the time he was pulling over two men police say are wanted for serious crimes in Mississippi. Authorities say Logan busted Jackson out of state custody during an optometrist visit. He was under the supervision of three armed Corrections Corporation of America Guards at the time. "It seems pretty obvious this was a well conceived plan," said Spokesperson Steven Owen. "Come storming in with a firearm and certainly by all accounts our officers followed the policies as it relates to the transport itself and the reaction under the circumstances."

June 26, 2009 WSMV
The company that operates the Mississippi prison where a man escaped and later was arrested in the shooting of a Metro officer admits there was some sort of breakdown that allowed Joseph Jackson to escape custody. Police and prison officials are trying to determine how Jackson, and his suspected accomplice, Courtney Logan hatched a daring plan that led to Jackson's escape from custody and ultimately the shooting of Metro officer Sgt. Mark Chestnut on Thursday. "Without a doubt, there is a breakdown somewhere. We definitely want to determine where that is," said Steven Owen of Corrections Corporation of America, the company that operates the Mississippi prison that housed Jackson. Metro police said Jackson and Logan know each other from living in Louisville, Ky. The Channel 4 I-Team obtained a list from who has visited Jackson at the Delta Correctional Facility in Mississippi where he was imprisoned. Logan's name doesn't show up as visitor or even an approved visitor. Inmates are not allowed e-mail, and all mail, except for legal documents, is read by prison staff. As for phone calls, how did Logan know that Jackson would be at an eye doctor appointment to not only stage the escape but have clothes ready for him to change into? "Without a doubt, he knew how to be there. This was obviously a very elaborate plan that was carried out," said Owen. This is not the first time a CCA inmate has escaped from an outside medical unit. In fact, the last time it happened was in Jackson, Tenn., in 2005. The escapee was caught and prison employees were later disciplined. "When something like this happens, we try to learn from it and take the appropriate steps to make sure it doesn't happen again," said Owen. Metro police said the information about Jackson's escape was entered into a national database of escaped inmates, but it was unclear if a description of the car that the suspects were driving was sent out. Both of the suspects' bonds have been set for more than $3 million. Jackson was charged with attempted homicide of a police officer, gun charges and for being a fugitive from justice. A hearing for the men was scheduled for July 1.

June 25, 2009 Nashville City Paper
Metro police say two suspects — one an escapee from Mississippi — taken into custody in the shooting of veteran officer Mark Chesnut have lengthy criminal records. The two were arrested at Hermitage and Fairfield avenues less than an hour after the incident. Joseph Jackson, 29, who allegedly escaped from a private prison facility in Greenwood, Miss., was serving a life term for armed robbery and aggravated assault. Officials say his accomplice, Courtney Logan, stormed an eye doctor's office Thursday morning and broke Jackson out of custody. Both men are from Louisville, Ky. The pair took off in a black Dodge Magnum — the same kind of vehicle they were driving when officer Chesnut was shot about 1:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. "Courtney Logan essentially busted into the office fired several shots in the roof, ceiling fan tile area, made everyone get on the ground and freed Joseph Jackson from custody," said Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas. Chesnut, 44, was driving an unmarked car as part of an interstate highway traffic enforcement effort, Metro Police spokesperson Don Aaron said, adding it is unclear why he stopped the vehicle. "These were some dangerous, dangerous, dangerous people who cowardly attacked Sgt. Chesnut while he sat in his car running their license plate," Serpas said. Chesnut, a 22-year veteran of the Metro Police Department, was wearing body armor. John Morris, director of Vanderbilt Medical Center's Trauma Division, said Chesnut was shot in the stomach, colon, gall bladder and liver. "This is a life-threatening injury," said Morris. "He's on the ventilator, he's on life support, but we're all very hopeful that ultimately he will return home to his family and ultimately return to work." Chesnut's wife and family had been on vacation in Alabama and were airlifted to Nashville by a THP helicopter. Police say Jackson will be charged with attempted murder, stealing a Mississippi correction officer's gun, unlawful gun possession by a convicted felon. Logan will be charged with attempted murder and unlawful gun possession by a convicted felon. He had been convicted in Kentucky of robbery, theft and evading police.

June 25, 2009 News Channel 5
Metro police have taken into custody the two suspects in the Metro Sgt. shooting, arresting them at Hermitage Avenue and Fairfield Avenue. One of the suspects was an escaped inmate from Mississippi. Joseph Jackson, 29-years-old, escaped from a private prison facility in Greenwood, Mississippi. Jackson was serving a life term for armed robbery and aggravated assault. He escaped Thursday morning during a doctor's appointment. Officials there said an unknown accomplice stormed the doctor's office and was able to free Jackson. The pair took off in a black Dodge Magnum - the same kind of vehicle they were driving when officer Chesnut was shot late Thursday afternoon. Within an hour of Sergeant Mark Chesnut being shot the suspects were chased down. The two men were escorted by several patrol cars to the criminal justice center in Downtown Nashville for questioning. They have not yet been charged, but police expect it will likely be soon. Officers said both suspects are from Louisville and both have criminal backgrounds.

February 22, 2007 WMC TV 5
A jailer at the Leflore County jail has been arrested and charged with introducing contraband after money and marijuana was found in his mashed potatoes. 37-year-old Robert Earl Hannon, a Corrections Corporation of America jailer, was arrested over the weekend. Sheriff Ricky Banks says an unknown woman brought Hannon's lunch to him. Upon examination, authorities found 200 dollars and two ounces of marijuana inside his mashed potatoes. Hannon was released on a 15-thousand dollar bond Tuesday. Hannon was arrested by agents from the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics following an investigation into how contraband is entering the facility. Investigators became suspicious when Hannon made a statement that he didn't eat potatoes but had a large portion delivered to him at the jail.

May 23, 2006 Greenwood Commonwealth
Leflore County has taken another step to comply with a federal court order regarding prisoners in its jail. The Leflore County Board of Supervisors will pay half of the additional cost of the construction of a 45-foot-long concrete wall at the combined Leflore County Jail and Delta Correctional Facility complex on Baldwin Road. The wall will separate the jail's inmates from the the inmates of the privately-run prison, said Leflore County Chancery Clerk Sam Abraham. The project will cost the county $1,850. Corrections Corporation of America, which operates Delta Correctional Facility, will pay the other half, according to Abraham.That's on top of about $27,140 that has already been spent on the wall jointly by the county and CCA. Abraham said the county and CCA are awaiting bids for additional fencing needed to complete the jail work. He said that in addition to complying with requirements of the 1971 federal suit Gates v. Collier, which set guidelines for county jails and state prisons, the work will conform to the state fire code.

October 25, 2005 Greenwood Commonwealth
A new contract between Leflore County and Corrections Corporation of America outlines plans for tighter security at the Leflore County Jail. The Board of Supervisors renewed the agreement Monday after Willie Perkins, its attorney, said he is comfortable with the contract. The contract calls for upgrading the jail's security system, building management walls between each cell block and extending the deadline for American Corrections Association accreditation. The issue over accreditation was largely responsible for the delay in contract renewal. Accreditation means the jail would meet national criteria for safely operating a jail. The corrections company will pay the annual $15,000 fee, but it ultimately cost the county with other increases. In the earlier, one-year contract, the county asked for accreditation, "within a reasonable amount of time." The correctional association argued accreditation for a small jail would be a waste of taxpayer's money.

October 4, 2005 Greenwood Commonwealth
The contract between Corrections Corporation of America and Leflore County continues to be pushed back after four months of negotiations. On Monday, The Board of Supervisors approved another extension of the contract until Oct. 10 as the board attorney and CCA ironed out their differences. Within that contract was a clause stipulating that the jail acquire accreditation by the American Corrections Association, "within a reasonable amount of time." Jeb Beasley, who represents the company, said to comply with accreditation standards would cost much more than the annual $15,000.

September 28, 2005 ZWire
Corrections Corporation of America and the Leflore County Supervisors can't seem to find a solution to the issue of national accreditation for the Leflore County Jail. Supervisors want the question answered before they agree on a new contract for CCA to operate the jail. Accreditation means the jail would meet national standards established for operation of a jail, including safety of prisoners and education of corrections officers. The American Corrections Association would provide accreditation for the jail. "Accreditation is a certificate that basically verifies you are staying within the standards," said Jerry Parker, warden of the jail and its neighbor, Delta Correctional Facility. But the jail's designation comes with a $15,000 yearly fee, which CCA says would be better spent elsewhere. For instance, said Parker, the 12-year-old indoor locks could be replaced for the cost.

September 7, 2005 Greenwood Commonwealth
A representative of an architectural firm has received the authority to negotiate with Malouf Construction over the cost of the Leflore County Justice Center project. Also Tuesday, the supervisors delayed a decision on whether to allow the removal of a clause in the county jail's contract that requires accreditation by the American Correctional Association. Jerry Parker, warden of Delta Correctional Facility, which houses the jail, asked the board that the clause be removed. Parker said that the jail adheres to the ACA standards already and that removing the accreditation requirement would save $10,000 that could be used to improve the jail. Improvements he suggested included an upgrade of the security system and construction of an interior wall to separate pods. Removing the requirement wouldn't change the way the facility operates, Parker said. Plus, he added, jails of this size seldom are accredited anyway.

August 24, 2004 Greenwood Commonwealth
The Leflore County Board of Supervisors will likely consider raising taxes to meet expenses relating to the operation of the new county jail, says Sam Abraham, chancery clerk.  "It is going to be hard not to suggest an increase," Abraham told the the board Monday.  Abraham estimated the additional cost of the jail at $300,000 to $400,000.  "This is the cost for having a jail that is in compliance. The county taxpayers are going to have a heavy burden unless someone collects a lot of money from somewhere else. We're looking at ways to collect additional money," Abraham said.  The jail expenses run $25 per day per inmate as managed by the Corrections Corporation of America.

April 4, 2004
Greenwood Commonwealth
Prisoner rights attorney Ron Welch says he is tickled over the reopening of Delta Correctional Facility. He is wondering, though, how Mississippi intends to jam 950 inmates in a space designed for 780 and stay in compliance with a federal court order that regulates prison conditions.

December 8, 2003
Greenwood Commonwealth
Delta Correctional Facility will be reopened, although what form it will take is still uncertain, a Greenwood state legislator announced today.  "It will be reopened," said state Sen. Bunky Huggins, R-Greenwood, a member and former chairman of the Corrections Committee. Huggins made the remarks during the Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce's annual Legislative Review/Preview Meeting. Other state legislators at the meeting were Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood; Rep. May Whittington, D-Schlater, and Rep. Bobby Howell, R-Kilmichael.  Delta Correctional Facility was closed in September 2002 at the direction of Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. Its closing resulted in the loss of 204 jobs in the county. Governor-elect Haley Barbour campaigned on a pledge to reopen the prison. The Republican has claimed that the state could save money by moving inmates out of state-owned facilities into private prisons and regional jails.

May 7, 2003
The latest design for converting part of a now-vacant prison into a jail and sheriff's department for Leflore County requires at least two major changes left out of a cheaper plan proposed earlier by the state.  Architects and county supervisors agreed last week that the renovation of a portion of 1,000-bed the Delta Correctional Facility complex will require replacing the entire lock system of Building F and overhauling at least 14 cells.  Those changes, plus repairs, account for the jump in price from $1.6 million to the current $4 million, county officials say.  The state prison, which had been operated by a private company, closed last year and the inmates were sent to other facilities.  "The architect the state sent down did what I would call a 'courtesy survey,"' said Board of Supervisors President Robert Moore. "He didn't do any in-depth walk through."  In an August letter sent to state Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps, Ocean Springs architect William V. Lack sized up renovations to the facility for a county jail and construction of a new sheriff's department at $1.6 million.  However, that estimate was "based on the assumption that all systems (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, locks, etc.) are in working order and could be restored to like new condition with minor effort," Lack wrote.  (Clarion-Ledger)

March 6, 2003
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove on Wednesday signed a bill transferring part of the Delta Correctional facility to Leflore County.  The state shut down the Delta prison last summer in an effort to downsize the state's prison system.  The conversion to county use is expected to cost $1.6 million, as opposed to an estimated $6.5 million to build a facility.  (The Clarion Ledger)

November 6, 2002
Leflore County supervisors are negotiating with state officials to possibly use former Delta correctional Facility as a county jail.  Supervisors, who toured the empty prison last week, voted Monday to move on an official offer Gov. Ronnie Musgrove made last month to gibe the county use of the facility.  The Delta Correctional Facility closed Oct.9.  Musgrove cited a lack of funding because of his veto of the Corrections Department budget for private prisons when he closed the private prison that once housed more than 800 inmates and employed 200 workers.  (Clarion Ledger)

October 11, 2002
With Gov. Ronnie Musgrove determined not to use the $54.7 million appropriated for private prisons, state corrections officials are dipping into money meant for regional jails, medical care and other obligations to pay those bills.  Mississippi Department of Corrections confirmed that last week they transferred a $23 million second allotment, scheduled to be spent starting Jan. 1, on those other services and contractual obligations, to allow private prisons to begin receiving the money.  The governor has frozen the private prisons funds pending the appeal, said Lee Ann Mayo, spokeswoman for Musgrove.  "I know that (MDOC) will continue to fill their contractual obligations," she said.  (Clarion Ledger)

October 10, 2002
As Delta Correctional Facility prepared to close Wednesday, training officer Danny Fairley took out his camera to snap one last picture.  "I want you to say one word, and don't choke when you say it-- Musgrove," Fairley said to 23 remaining workers and two inmates at the private prison.  "And that is for the record," he told a Clarion-Ledger reported as the others, who were eating their lunch, laughed.  Such was the mood on a rainy, gray day as the last of the CCA employees railed against Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for closing the prison.  Delta Warden Don Grant said he can't believe that state will let the 1,000 bed facility remain empty.  Musgrove said Delta was closed because the state has too many prison beds and that the state's resources need to go to education  and jobs.  "Philosophically, I don't believe in creating jobs based on having people commit more crimes," Musgrove said.  "That is not the direction we should take in our state.  "Delta's last 50 prisoners got into vans and buses Wednesday bound for Parchman, South Mississippi Correctional Institute and regional jails in Carroll,  Holmes, Winston, Stone, Leake and Jefferson counties.  Epps said there is a chance Leflore County could reopen part of the Delta facility instead of building a county jail.  Leflore County is under a court order to relieve overcrowding with a new 150-bed jail by July 2004 and had been looking at building a $6 million facility.  (Clarion Ledger)

October 4, 2002
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove says closing Delta Correctional Facility is part of a plan to shrink the state corrections system and invest more in education - a transfer that will eventually replace the prison jobs and others leaving Leflore County.   Musgrove, speaking Tuesday at the WIN Job Center in Greenwood, asked business leaders, elected officials and citizens to band together to create positive economic development. The prison industry is not part of that picture.   "I don't believe philosophically in creating jobs based on having people commit more crimes," Musgrove said.  Still, with the prison's closure compounded by the loss of jobs at Irvin Automotive and Uniek Inc., the state needs to do more, said state Sen. David Jordan.  "I feel that special consideration ought to be given to the poorest region of the state of Mississippi," he said. "I agree with you; it shouldn't be built on the backs of prisoners. But that's all we could get."   Prior to the meeting, Musgrove accused the Legislature of taking money away from education and funneling it into prisons at a time when the national crime rate is down. He referred to his veto of legislation in 2001 that would have added 1,000 more prison beds. "While we already had too many prison beds, the Legislature was still trying to build more."   He estimated savings of about $4 million to result from Delta Correctional's closure and the renegotiation of other private prison contracts. That will happen, he said, as the state Department of Corrections continues to reduce its incarceration costs, which have been cut about $1,500 per prisoner a year.  (Clarion Ledger)

September 20, 2002
Delta Correctional Facility in greenwood will lay off 59 workers today as the private prison heads toward closure next month.  The layoffs follow inmate reductions from 843 to 412 since Sept.9.  The staff had numbered 192, but will now fall to 67 at the prison in Greenwood, which is already experiencing job losses.  The entire facility is expected to be empty by Oct.9.  State officials are closing the facility because there's no need for a medium-security prison in the system at the moment, said Chris Epps, acting corrections commissioner.  Total savings for closing Delta for 18 months could be close to $1 million Epps said.  That dispute aside, Musgrove still has authority to close the Delta facility since the prison didn't have a requisite number of guaranteed inmates after June 30, according to its contract.  Steven Owen, spokesman for Nashville-based Correctional Corp. of America, said his company will operate the prison in an exemplary manner until the final inmates leave.  Owen has heard that MDOC has plans to reopen Delta, but he does not know if CCA will be involved.  (Clarion Ledger)

September 16, 2002
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court could mean the state's private prisons may go months without being paid.  Musgrove is appealing a Sept.3 ruling by Coahoma Circuit Judge William Willard that found Musgrove's partial veto of a $54.7 million appropriation for private prisons was invalid.  Musgrove maintains the money was obliterated by his partial veto.  And if the governor authorizes spending any of the $54.7 million in private prison funds Willard ruled as appropriated, Musgrove's Supreme Court appeal likely is moot.  Legislatures say they will not consider another private prison appropriation in the special session that began Sept.6 - a session Musgrove had originally called expressly to seek passage of his $48 million private prison package.  Money coming from other budget sources in the Mississippi Department of Corrections for private prisons will run out in the next few months, officials say.  Steven Owen,a spokesman for Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America, which runs Delta, said his company will be paid according to contract.  The state could have effectively closed Delta without canceling its contract.  Delta is not guaranteed any inmates by contract after June 30, 2002, so the state can withdraw inmates until there are none remaining.  (Clarion Ledger)

September 6, 2002
House and senate leaders say they won't bring a prison spending bill up for consideration, killing one of Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's top wishes in a special legislative session.  Musgrove targeted Delta Correctional Facility in Leflore County for closure as he renegotiated contracts with five privately managed prisons.  He wanted lawmakers to cut the appropriations to the private prisons from $54.7 million to $48.6 million to match the contracts renegotiated with Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut.  State corrections officials say Mississippi's prison system has too many medium-custody beds like those at Delta Correctional.  Musgrove had asked lawmakers to back his decision by cutting spending to the private facilities.  Earlier this week, a chancery judge ruled that Musgrove had unconstitutionally vetoed part of a prison spending bill in the spring.  Because the veto was invalid, money is available to operate private prisons, the judge said.  Atty. Gen. Mike Moore has said Musgrove can close the Delta facility without any legislation.  MDOC officials told members of the House Penitentiary Committee that the shutdown of the facility is going ahead.  "There's no reason to have those beds filled when it's not necessary," Rick McCarty, deputy corrections commissioner for administration and finance, said Thursday.  McCarty said the state owns the facility and will keep some employees on hand to make sure utilities continue to operate.  (Go Memphis.com)

September 5, 2002
Mississippi Department of Corrections officials are going ahead with the transfer of inmates out of the privately run Delta Correctional Facility in Leflore County.  Coahoma County Chancery Judge William Willard ruled Tuesday that Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's partial veto in April of the $54.7 million budgeted for private prisons was unconstitutional.  Willard siad the contract between Delta Correctional and the MDOC was still in force.  A one-year provision in the contract that guaranteed a minimum of 843 inmates expired June 30.  Delta Correctional authority officials are hoping lawmakers will reinstate the guarantee during the special session of the Legislature that begins today.  State Sen. David Jordan (D-Greenwood) said that was unlikely because Musgrove controls the agenda of a special session.  :Unless the governor has a change of heart about the facility then there's not much anyone else can do," Jordan said.  Willard did not bar MDOC from transferring state inmates to other facilities.  MDOC spokesman Jennifer Griffin on Wednesday said the agency was proceeding with its plans to move inmates.  The prison is operated by Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) of Nashville.  (Go Memphis.com)

September 4, 2002
A judge ruled Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's partial veto of funding for private prisons, ruling a contract with a prison the governor had targeted for closure remains in force.  Musgrove said he would appeal Tuesday's ruling.  But he backed off an ultimatum that he would hold up debate on medical lawsuit reform at Thursday's special legislative session unless lawmakers pass an alternative prison appropriation.  The Legislature never tried to override the veto because state Attorney General Mike Moore advised that it was not valid.  On Tuesday, Coahoma County Judge William Willard ruled in a breach of contract suit by the Delta correctional Facility Authority that the money set aside by the Legislature remains in the budget.  The governor, however, still maintains legislators need to pass a new $48.7 million appropriation for the private prison.  Moore called the situation "nonsense."  "The appropriation bill reads that up to $54.7 million may be spent for private prisons," Moore said.  "Since $48 million is less than $54 million, spend that amount.  Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, said the vote isn't necessary.  "They need to look at what it really costs to close Delta," Jordan said.  "Epps testified that the state could not house inmates as cheaply as Delta, so why close it?"  But Musgrove still has the authority to close Delta because the contract does not provide for a minimum number of inmates after June 30, 2002.  The state also could have negotiated lower per-diems for prisoners above 500, which Musgrove did, without canceling contracts, according to contract terms.  During a press conference Tuesday, Moore passed out letters from the Department of Corrections to Walnut Grove Youth Facility and East Mississippi Correctional Facility that indicated such transactions were under way in May, before contracts were cancelled at the end of June.  (Clarion Ledger)

September 3, 2002
As lawmakers prepare to convene in a special session Thursday, they're keeping on an eye on today's expected court ruling on whether Gov. Ronnie Musgrove had the right to partially veto a prison appropriations bill.  Judge William Willard is expected to rule today whether Musgrove's partial veto of a $54.7 million private prison appropriation bill is valid.  Legislators did not override the veto during this year's general session after receiving an opinion from Attorney General Mike Moore that the veto was invalid.  But Musgrove insists the veto is valid, and he renegotiated four private prison contracts and cancelled one with the Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood, which he plans to close, at least temporarily.  The governor is putting a proposed $48.6 million private prison appropriations bill at the top of the special session agenda beginning Thursday.  In testimony during the hearing in Willard's court, now acting Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps acknowledged the contract allowed for MDOC to renegotiate lower rates for more than 500 inmates at private prisons without canceling contracts.  In addition, MDOC has had the power since June 30 to withdraw prisoners without a contract cancellation.  State Sen. Willie Simmons said even if the judge rules the veto invalid, lawmakers should look at changing the prison legislation to free up the $6 million in renegotiated contracts.  If they don't, then the $6 million in saving could only be spent with the Department of Corrections and not other agencies that may need the money, said Simmons, D-Cleveland.  "We still have some work to do, in my opinion, even if the judge rules it is not a legitimate veto," Simmons said.  (Clarion Ledger)  

August 30, 2002
Mississippi Department of Corrections officials say they are working on a transfer plan for the 794 inmates now housed at a private prison in Leflore County.  Deputy Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said he does not expect the prison to complete the shutdown process by the original target date of  Sept. 20.  Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and the MDOC are involved in a court fight over closing the Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood.  Delta Correctional administration have said that so far about 40 of the 200 employees at Delta Correctional have been offered jobs at state facilities.  (Clarion Ledger)

August 27, 2002
A Coahoma County judge says a ruling on a motion in a lawsuit filed against Gov. Ronnie Musgrove cannot legally stop the governor from effectively shutting down a private prison in Greenwood.  A lawsuit was filed to keep the prison open by the Delta Correctional Authority, which operates the private prison.  Willard said any ruling he makes about the validity of Musgrove's partial veto is irrelevant to the fate of the Delta Correctional Facility.  The state's contract with the private prison still allows Musgrove to remove as many prisoners as he wants, Willard said.  "If I rule that Governor Musgrove acted improperly, all that would do would be to re-implement the contract," Willard said.  "And the governor and the Department of Corrections could do whatever they deem fit as long as it's within the terms of the contract. "  (AP)

August 27, 2002
The clock is ticking on the fierce battle over the closure of Delta Correctional Facility.  Judge William Willard Monday set a noon Friday deadline for final filings he will use to reach a decision by Sept. 3 on a breach of contract suit against Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and the state Department of Corrections.  That deadline was set over objections from attorney John Maxey, representing Musgrove and MDOC, but at the insistence of Attorney General Mike Moore.  Moore, intervening for the state, accused Musgrove of setting special session for Sept. 5 so legislators would not have a court decision on the validity of Musgrove's closing of Delta after canceling its contract due to a lack of funds.  Willard must decide if Musgrove's partial veto of a $54.7 million private prison appropriation bill is valid.  Musgrove upheld its validity, declared the money unappropriated and canceled the contract of Delta and four other private prisons.  The governor renegotiated lower future rates with four prisons, but set Delta for closure by Sept.20. (Clarion Ledger)

August 24, 2002
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove is calling lawmakers into special session Sept. 5 to address rising medical malpractice premiums and general civil justice reform — but he says they can't take up those issues unless they pass his private prison appropriation bill first.   The move prompted an angered Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck to accuse the governor of playing games, while House Speaker Tim Ford said he was "bewildered."   Musgrove said Friday he is asking legislators to pass a $48.6 million appropriation bill for the state's private prison contracts during the special session — the same bill that failed to pass during last month's special session. Only if he is able to sign that bill will he expand the session to include the issue of medical malpractice premiums for doctors who can't find or afford insurance.   "It's absolutely essential to deal with the first issue before we get to the second issue," Musgrove said at a news conference at Mississippi Blood Services, where he donated blood. Ford said there was no guarantee the private prison appropriations bill would pass the House, where it failed 44 to 71 during the last special session. The Senate passed the bill 34 to 14. "I'm certainly not opposed to that bill, but the members obviously voted against it," he said.   But House Penitentiary Chairman Bennett Malone, who voted against the bill last month, said he's prepared to support it now. He said he sent a letter to other House members urging them to do the same.   The governor, who says the veto remains valid, then canceled five prison contracts, stating a lack of appropriated funds. He re-negotiated four contracts at lower rates for additional inmates and set the Delta Correctional Facility for closure. The dispute has since been taken to court. A hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday in Coahoma County on a lawsuit filed by the Leflore County Prison Authority to keep the Delta prison open.   Musgrove said Friday that the private prisons are currently not being paid.   Musgrove has said closing the Delta prison and renegotiating the contracts will yield a $6 million savings. Of that savings, however, $5 million is one-time money derived by purchasing a surety bond to prevent the state from making a bond payment on the prison. The money will have to be repaid in the future.  But House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Ed Blackmon, also a member of the tort reform committee, said he has no problem with Musgrove's plan.   "The governor has limited powers in this state and he's using what limited powers he has," said Blackmon, D-Canton. "And I don't criticize him for that."  (Clarion Ledger)

August 23, 2002
A hearing set for today in Clarksdale on a lawsuit against Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and the state Department of Corrections over the planned closure of a private prison has been delayed as state officials seek to resolve the dispute out of court.   Judge William G. Willard, who was appointed to hear the Delta Prison Authority's breach of contract claim over the closing of Delta Correctional Facility after Leflore County Chancery judges recused themselves, granted a continuance Thursday until 9:30 a.m. Monday.   That could give officials more time to work out a compromise. Attorneys held a conference call with Willard on Thursday and more talks are planned today.  (Clarion Ledger)

August 22, 2002
Attorney General Mike Moore has asked a judge to rule that the state Department of Corrections doesn't have the authority to cancel a contract with a private prison in Greenwood.   Moore filed the court motion Wednesday, just two days before a judge is set to hear a breach of contract suit filed against Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and the Department of Corrections by the Delta Prison Authority.   Moore said he still hopes the case is settled out of court. The motion was filed in Leflore County Chancery Court, but the case will be heard in Clarksdale.   The attorney general contends Musgrove's veto of a provision earmarking up to $54 million for private prisons is void.   Arguing the money was no longer available, Musgrove renegotiated cheaper contracts with four private prisons and ordered the closure of Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood.  (Clarion Ledger)

August 14, 2002
Sen. Rob Smith, D-Richland, said Epps is willing to take the job despite three lawsuits facing the department and the fact Musgrove has just one year left in his term.  The state faces lawsuits from the Leflore County Prison Authority over the scheduled Sept.20 closing of Delta Correctional Facility and suits from prisoners' right attorney Ron Welch and the American Civil Liberties Union over prison conditions.  "Anyone who came in from the outside could find themselves on the street after a year if the governor is not re-elected or has a change of heart," Smith said.  "Epps could provide continuity."  South Mississippi Correctional Institute in Leakesville received American Correctional Association accreditation in May, with Parchman and Central Mississippi Correctional Facility to follow by October.  "Accreditation makes our facility safer for inmates, guards and the public," Epps said.  "There are hundreds of standards that must be met."  (The Clarion Ledger)

August 13, 2002
Johnson's last day on the $85,000-a-year job is Aug,30.  His departure comes as he and Musgrove are embroiled in legal battles as well as a stand-off with the state Legislature over closing the Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood.  The governor also renegotiated lower per-inmate, per-day rates with four private prisons in efforts to save the state money.  State prisoner rights attorney Ron Welch said leading the Corrections Department "takes a lot of skill politically, administratively and intuitively."  Welch is asking a federal court in Greenville to prevent MDOC from closing the Delta prison and to rule the Musgrove's April veto of a $54.7 million appropriation bill for private prisons is invalid.  Welch said he hopes the governor appoints a new commissioner from within the department who would be familiar with the issues it faces.  (The Clarion Ledger)

August 7, 2002
An Aug.14 trial date has been set for a lawsuit seeking a halt to the closing of a private prison in Leflore County.  The Delta Correctional Authority, a five-member board that oversees Delta Correctional Facility, filed the lawsuit in chancery court after Gov. Ronnie Musgrove announced plans to close the facility.  The authority says it never received a certified letter from the state providing notification of the impending closure.  The letter is required by state law, according to the lawsuit.  The governor's plan also would be a breach of contract, said Edgar Bland, chairman of the Delta Correctional Authority board of directors.  Musgrove attempted this year to veto $54.7 million for private prison contracts.  The governor declared the private prison contracts void July 1 because lawmakers did not override his veto, and he said the money was left unappropriated.  The governor then re-negotiated lower per-prisoner, per-day rates with four private prisons and moved to close the delta Facility.  Prisoner rights attorney Ron Welch also has filed a lawsuit against Musgrove to keep Delta Correctional open.  (The Clarion Ledger) 

August 1, 2002
State prisoners' rights attorney Ron Welch said he is resorting to "sabotage" against the Mississippi Department of Corrections and Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.   Welch, whose filing to reopen the Gates vs. Collier federal lawsuit on prison overcrowding was in the media Tuesday the morning lawmakers defeated a reduced funding bill for private prisons, laughed when told Musgrove's attorney, Peyton Prospere, considered his timing "like sabotage."   "That is exactly what it was," Welch said. "I am proud he recognized it." A second motion Welch sent Wednesday to federal court in Greenville seeks to prevent MDOC from closing Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood and asks for a declaratory judgment that Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's April veto of a $54.7 million appropriation bill for private prisons is invalid.   But Attorney General Mike Moore, who would have to defend the state against such a declaratory judgment, says the veto is partial and invalid because it included only a provision to prevent Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson from moving money to other areas of the budget.   Johnson, incensed at Welch's newest court filing, says the state will seek sanctions against the prisoners' rights attorney.   "It is frivolous and has nothing to do with Gates vs. Collier," he said. "We have paid him $678,000 in the last five years to sue us.   "I don't know if he wants to get his name in the news or is just trying to have a record earnings year, but I am beginning to doubt his motives."   "We are asking the court to make (the state) prove that shutting down Delta will not have a negative impact on prisoners," he said of Wednesday's motion. "It is my duty to look after their well-being, yet the state did not tell me about closing Delta until the last minute."  (The Clarion Ledger)

July 31, 2002
Mississippi lawmakers on Tuesday rejected a proposal to reshuffle the state's prison budget to match Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's plans to close a 1,000 bed, privately run prison in the Delta.  While the Senate approved a reduction in the state's $233 million prison budget by $6 million, a coalition of Delta, black and even some Republican lawmakers in the House blocked the proposal with a 64-51 vote.  Their actions capped a one-day, three-issue special session called by the governor.  But the impasse over the state's prison budget-specifically a section that deals with prisons run for the state by contract with private companies-immediately raised the specter of litigation and/or another special session as early as this fall.  "It's unfortunate that a majority un the House choose to fund private prison beds that aren't needed," Musgrove said.  In 2001, the governor vetoed efforts to build still more privately run prisons.  And critics have complained for years that new prisons were increasingly being viewed by local officials as a toll for economic development.  As the 2002 legislative session concluded, the governor vetoed part of the state's $233 million prison budget that pertained to private prisons.  Specifically, he vetoed a provision that prevented him form transferring $54 million appropriated for privately run prisons to fund beds at state-run institutions.  Based on his belief that his veto stood, the governor terminated contracts with Wackenhut and Corrections Corporation of America to run five prisons.  He negotiated new contracts his administration claims will save $6 million this year.  Part of those savings comes from plans to close, beginning next month, the 1,000-bed medium security Delta Correctional Facility in Leflore County, run by Corrections Corporation of America.  By the end of the day Tuesday, Atty, Gen. Mike Moore confirmed that the governor had authority to re-negotiate private prisons contracts and even to close the Delta Correctional Facility.  (GoMemphis)

August 30, 2002
The governor's special session is quickly approaching and, by some accounts, is becoming less about issues and more about a political quagmire.  While lawmakers mull over medical malpractice proposals, saying he should be prepared to take the blame if tort reform is not addressed.  Musgrove said the prison bill needs to be passed because the state Department of Corrections has no spending authority, and he is using his right to steer the agenda for the special session.  "The governor has the constitutional authority to expand the call whenever he deems appropriate," said Musgrove spokeswoman Lee Ann Mayo.  During the general session, Musgrove vetoed the MDOC budget set-aside for private prisons.  Legislators did not seek to override the veto because Attorney General Mike Moore said it was invalid.  The governor, who says the veto remains valid, the canceled five prison contracts stating a lack of appropriated funds.  He renegotiated four contracts at lower rates for additional inmates and set the Delta Correctional Facility for closure.  Musgrove has said closing the prison and renegotiating the contracts would save $6 million.  (Clarion Ledger)

July 31, 2002
Mississippi is in possible legal jeopardy after legislators Tuesday voted down a Department of Corrections appropriations bill state officials said would save $6 million in 2003, officials said.  The 71-44 vote in the house against the bill to reduce private prison funding from $54.7 million to $48.7 million was seen by some as a backlash against Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who cancelled five contracts July 1, renegotiated four and moved to close Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood by Sept.20.  House speaker Tim Ford, D-Baldwyn, who voted for the bill, said the vote could result in legal action against the state because legislators refused to validate Musgrove's negotiations.  Moore agreed.  "The state could be sued," he said.  "We have had calls...from private prison operators.  The setback will not prevent Musgrove from closing Delta or from going forward on the renegotiated per-diem rates, but the Mississippi Department of Corrections must pay for private prisons with other revenues.  "It's unfortunate that the majority of the members of the House chose to fund beds we don't need versus saving $6 million for the people of Mississippi," said Musgrove, who lobbied the Senate to turn a 25-20 vote against the bill to a 24-14 approval before the house action.  "They voted against the $6 million, against appropriating money for private prisons and the opportunity to operate more efficiently by putting inmates in appropriate beds."  (The Clarion Ledger)

July 27, 2002
Renegotiation of the state's private prison contracts will save taxpayers $9 million and increase efficiency in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, officials said Friday.   Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who cancelled contracts at the state's private prisons July 1, said successful bargaining with private prison operators has assured the best use of public dollars. Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson confirmed MDOC's intentions to close Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood by Sept. 20 and send more inmates to four other private facilities at a reduced cost. Musgrove wants legislators attending a special session Tuesday to approve a private prison appropriation of $6 million less than the $54.7 million appropriated in April. The governor said $3 million of the savings will be realized in 2004. Rep. Bennett Malone, D-Carthage, who chairs the House Penitentiary Committee, says he believes Musgrove's plan will work. But the MDOC had recruiters at Delta on Friday to talk with prison staff employed by CCA about state employment.  (The Clarion Ledger)

July 26, 2002
Mississippi prison officials will close Greenwood's Delta Correctional Facility by Sept. 20.   Warden Don Grant told The Clarion-Ledger on Thursday that he received a letter from the Mississippi Department of Corrections this week detailing closure plans for the 1,000-bed facility.   But Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson said Thursday that closing the facility, operated by Corrections Corporation of America, is part of Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's efforts to save the state at least $6 million.   Musgrove began renegotiating private prison management contracts after voiding the pacts June 28. He said he could do so because the Legislature failed to override his April 9 veto of a $54.7 million private prison appropriation.   Closing Delta "will address the excess of medium-security beds in the system," said Johnson of the state's 2,600 empty prison beds.   "It will give us the opportunity to redistribute prisoners based on our needs."  (The Clarion Ledger)

July 25, 2002
State Department of Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson said Wednesday the state is considering closing Greenwood's Delta Correctional Facility, one possible outcome of the governor's efforts to renegotiate private prison contracts.   "It's on the table, certainly," Johnson said.   Johnson gave few details, but said he hoped Gov. Ronnie Musgrove would announce soon, if not today, the results of negotiations he has held with private prisons. Musgrove has said that renegotiating the contracts would save Mississippi taxpayers between $6 million and $12 million in 2003, and plans to call a special session to address the issue.  "I think things will make more sense when that announcement comes out," Johnson said.  (Clarion Ledger)

July 22, 2002
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove is apparently weighing his options about the state taking over the operation of Delta Correctional Facility, said state Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood.  As recently as Thursday, Musgrove had told Jordan of his intention for the state to take over the 1,000 bed facility.  Jordan told the Greenwood voters league Wednesday night the governor is likely waiting to see what state Attorney General Mike Moore is going to do in response to a termination letter that was sent to the six privately run prisons.  Jordan, president of the Voters League, was joined at the league's meeting by Don Grant, Delta Correctional's warden and Phillip McLaurin and Jacquelyn Banks, the facility's assistant warden.  Many of those in attendance at the meeting were Delta Correctional employees who came dressed in their Corrections Corporation of America uniforms.  A showdown between the Legislature and Musgrove over the six privately run prisons in the state started when Johnson sent the letters terminating contracts with the prisons effective July 1. The Attorney General has said Musgrove cannot end the contracts summarily.  Musgrove has claimed he wants to trim the budget for the private prisons by $6 million to $12 million by taking over the private prisons, he said.  "If they come in and take this facility over, how are they going to save money, when their employees get 5.7 percent more in salaries than we do?  I'm not a rocket scientist and don't claim to be one, but I can add two and two and it equals four", Grant said.  (Greenwood Commonwealth)

July 19, 2002
Corrections Corporation of America said yesterday that its contract to manage a Mississippi prison has been terminated. Mississippi ended the contract for the Nashville-based company to manage the 1,016-bed Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood, as part of a move to return privately operated prisons in Mississippi to state control. (Tennessean)  

July 14, 2002
State Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, says he met with Gov. Ronnie Musgrove about the prison last week and the takeover is a "foregone conclusion."   Gov. Ronnie Musgrove plans to announce this week a state takeover of Delta Correctional Facility, according to state Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood.   The plan would save jobs of employees there and open 150 beds for Leflore County inmates, Jordan said.   "We are negotiating with the private prison companies, and as soon as we complete the negotiations a public announcement will be made," said John Sewell, a spokesman for the Governor's Office.   Musgrove has canceled all contracts with private prisons, saying he can save Mississippi $6 million to $12 million. The Mississippi Department of Corrections is working with a $19.2 million shortfall.  Jordan's announcement clashes with an MDOC order, which came in April, barring the county from using beds at Delta Correctional. A medium security prison, Delta Correctional does not have the capacity to house inmates convicted of violent crimes or awaiting trial.  Supervisors had looked into converting the prison into a jail facility, a transformation that would save time and money compared with building a new jail.  At this point, the prospect of the county using Delta Correctional brings up a number of questions. "I'm not really sure who would manage it," said Abraham, who posed the idea to supervisors earlier this year.   "Would state manage it or would we manage it? Would we be guaranteed those beds forever or for two years? There are a lot of questions."   And the county is running out of time to look for answers.  (The Tennessean)

July 8, 2002
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's attempt Monday to cancel state contracts with five privately-run prisons has left a Leflore County state legislator looking for answers.   State Sen. Bunky Huggins, R-Greenwood, said he has been discussing the situation with state Attorney General Mike Moore among others.   Musgrove's actions, he said, were irresponsible because they unnecessarily put the public at risk and gave the Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, the company that runs DCF, little assurance it would be paid for continuing to operate the prison.  Huggins said Musgrove did guarantee later that the prison companies would be paid for their services. The governor also has suggested bringing the existing private prison guard force in as state employees through an executive order, Huggins said.  (Common Wealth)  

East Mississippi Correctional Facility
Meridian, Mississippi
MTC (formerly run by GEO Group)
MDOC Sticks with Private Prisons: Jackson Free Press, June 13, 2012. MDOC chooses MTC to take over where GEO failed. What are they smoking?

Sep 27, 2014 clarionledger.com

"The prison is in chaos, with conditions so dangerous — violence, filth, callous denial of prisoners' serious medical and mental health needs — that the only meaningful remedy is an injunction to protect all prisoners," said Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU's National Prison Project. Officials at the Utah-based Management & Training Corp. said they've made significant improvements since they took over the Meridian prison in July 2012. "MTC is very concerned about the well-being of the inmates in our care as well as our staff and the community," said Issa Arnita, director of corporate communications. "We have worked hard to identify areas of improvement and we will continue to do so moving forward." On Thursday, the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center asked the federal court to certify the class of prisoners for the private prison. If a federal judge steps in, the lawsuit would follow in the steps of class-action litigation brought against the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility and the State Penitentiary's Death Row and Unit 32. The case needs to go forward as class-action litigation, Winter said. "No single prisoner acting alone can address all the problems for everyone." This past March and April, former Washington State Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail, an expert for the plaintiffs, inspected the private prison over a period of several days. "East Mississippi Correctional Facility is an extraordinarily dangerous prison," he concluded in his report. "All prisoners confined there are subjected on a daily basis to significant risk of serious injury." He visited where some prisoners are kept in segregation, calling their conditions "barbaric," especially to those suffering from mental illness (more than 70 percent of the 1,200 inmates), he wrote. "They are the worst I have ever seen in 35 years as a corrections professional." He said he found defects in basic security, cell doors that wouldn't lock, a lack of staff training and worse. "This is a prison awash in contraband and easily accessible weapons, where severely chaotic conditions of confinement and no rational, functional way for prisoners to get legitimate issues addressed, put all prisoners as well as staff at ongoing risk of serious harm," he wrote. Asked about Vail's allegations, MTC officials responded they have only been "operating the facility for a little over two years, and have made significant improvements in overall safety and security and offender care. It's important to note that the individual who conducted this report is the plaintiff's witness in a lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center against the Mississippi Department of Corrections." In his report, Vail described "deep and systemic problems" known "at the highest levels of the Mississippi Department of Corrections for a considerable period of time. Those problems were identified and described over two years ago in a letter from the ACLU to Defendant Christopher Epps. MDOC has failed to take reasonable remedial measures and to put in place effective monitoring mechanisms to end the degrading, dangerous, and abusive practices at the facility." Corrections officials said Thursday they don't respond to matters involving litigation. Jody Owens, managing attorney for the SPLC's Mississippi office, said he's been horrified by what he's seen. Two of his attorneys toured the facility, finding such things as blood still standing on the floor of cells. A number of mentally ill inmates there cut themselves. "No one should be forced to endure the dangerous — and even deadly — conditions found at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility," he told The Clarion-Ledger. Through this lawsuit, as they have in the past litigation, "we are demanding that the Mississippi Department of Corrections fulfill its legal obligation to end abuse behind prison walls, especially in private prisons," he said. In his visit, Vail said he found atrocious conditions inside the cells — lights that didn't work, exposed wiring in cells, dysfunctional water faucets and toilets that would not flush. "One man told me he had not had water in his sink for three weeks," he said. "Another said he had been without water for four or five days. Another told me his toilet had not functioned for two weeks." A previous complaint against the prison alleged some prisoners captured rats and sold them to others. Vail said one inmate showed him how he blocked a hole in the wall so rats could not get out, others showed how they blocked the bottom of their cells to keep the rats from getting in and another talked of feeding the rats. According to the litigation, corruption among staff members is widespread with them involved with gangs, extortion and contraband, smuggling in drugs and weapons in return for payment from prisoners. The ligitation talks of widespread sex among officers and inmates, a "buddy" system where officers covered up the beatings of inmates by other officers, the corruption of investigators and the rehiring of former employees for excessive use of force. In November 2012, the president of MTC toured the institution and was quoted as saying "the living conditions were awful." In his report, Vail wrote, "The corporate president was correct. Conditions in segregation are still awful today. It is tragic that nearly a year and a half later, those units and the showers are still in that condition."

Allegations by ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center

• Blood on the floor, lights that didn't work, exposed wiring in cells, dysfunctional water faucets and toilets that would not flush.

• "A prison awash in contraband and easily accessible weapons."

• Widespread sex among officers and inmates, a "buddy" system where officers covered up the beatings of inmates by other officers, the corruption of investigators and the rehiring of former employees for excessive use of force.


Sep 26, 2014 splcenter.org

A prisoner at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF) told the counselor that his heart was hurting and that he didn’t have a reason to live. He was also having hallucinations. As the counselor met with the prisoner in December 2013, he noticed that the man was attempting to cut himself with a small, dull object. There was also a long rope around the prisoner’s neck. The counselor reached a conclusion: This prisoner is not in distress. The counselor then simply walked away. The prisoner would not see a mental health professional for nine more days. An expert reviewing the case for the Southern Poverty Law Center would later describe the incident as “beyond any deliberate indifference I have seen in my entire career; it is the definition of intentional patient abandonment.” The prisoner eventually resorted to a tactic that others at this privately operated, for-profit prison use to get help: He set fire to his cell. Two days later, he was found dead in his cell – the apparent result of a heart condition the staff at the Meridian, Mississippi, prison rarely took seriously. And it appears that attitude at this prison – home to many prisoners with mental health needs – never changed, if an entry in his medical chart is any indication. The entry showed that his vital signs were stable. He had been dead for 10 hours at that point. “I cannot state with certainty that the blatant and callous lack of care that this 43 year old man received during his last months at EMCF caused his death,” Dr. Marc F. Stern, a board-certified internist specializing in correctional care, wrote in a report for the SPLC. “However, I can state that it deprived him of any chance he had for continued survival.” The SPLC in 2013 sued the state over conditions at the prison and yesterday filed a motion to certify the suit as a class action. If certified by the court, the lawsuit would benefit all prisoners at the facility, including the majority who have serious mental health needs. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Law Office of Elizabeth Alexander, and Covington & Burling LLP are serving as co-counsel. The original lawsuit describes a nightmarish, violent prison where lights and toilets often don’t work, prisoners rarely see sunlight and go without showers for weeks, and floors and walls are covered in feces, blood and urine. The prison is operated by Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, which describes itself as the country’s third-largest operator of private adult correctional facilities. Health care is provided by Health Assurance LLC, based in Jackson, Mississippi. “The hellish conditions that have been allowed to fester inside this for-profit prison should shock anyone with any sense of decency,” said Jody Owens, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Mississippi office. “It’s sickening that private companies earn profits through the misery and suffering of mentally ill prisoners who can’t get their most fundamental human needs met. The people of Mississippi should be outraged.” The motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Northern Division, includes hundreds of pages of expert reports that give a glimpse into a dangerous and filthy prison that left experts aghast. “Taken as a whole, the conditions in solitary confinement at EMCF are the worst I have witnessed in my 40 years as a forensic psychiatrist investigating jail and prison conditions,” Dr. Terry A. Kupers wrote in a report examining the prison’s mental health care system. “These conditions can accurately be described as torture according to international human rights agreements and standards. They press the outer bounds of what most humans can psychologically tolerate.” Eldon Vail, former secretary of the Washington State Department of Corrections, also found the conditions in segregation to be deplorable. “They are the worst I have ever seen in 35 years as a corrections professional,” he wrote in his report. “It is my opinion that all inmates confined to the segregation units at EMCF, and most especially those with serious mental illness, are subjected to an ongoing substantial risk of serious harm from the dangerous, filthy, and degrading conditions there.” The dysfunction at this prison literally hangs in the air as the smell of smoke wafts out of segregation units where prisoners have set fires. Thick cell doors are scarred with scorch marks. When Vail visited the facility earlier this year, he found a “smoldering pile of debris in the middle of the day room floor.” Another expert found makeshift wicks in the cells, possibly the only tools prisoners have to get prompt attention from officers. Emergency call buttons in the cells are either broken or unreliable. Even when prisoners get the attention of the staff, it’s unlikely they’ll get the help they need. There are numerous stories of prisoners struggling to get medical care. “There was not a single medical chart I opened … that did not immediately reveal multiple serious examples of dangerous to life-threatening defects in health care,” Dr. Stern wrote. “Every aspect and dimension of health care delivery at EMCF is dysfunctional.” This dysfunction is clear even in a small sampling of prisoner experiences. A 28-year-old prisoner lost vision in his right eye when he didn’t receive his glaucoma medication. He was already blind in his left eye. A doctor failed to respond to a prisoner’s repeated requests to discuss an ultrasound showing a testicular mass. The 25-year-old prisoner has metastatic testicular cancer. A 64-year-old prisoner with schizophrenia and tuberculosis infection was found to have diabetes in 2012, but the doctor did not review the prisoner’s lab reports or see the patient. The prisoner’s diabetes was untreated as of April 2014, and his vision has deteriorated. A 55-year-old prisoner wasn’t sent to the hospital for days after correctional officers used force on him. It wasn’t until he started having seizures that he was sent to the hospital and diagnosed with subdural hematoma from head trauma. Other prisoners may be going without treatment because of the copay they are charged for sick call requests. Often, prisoners pay copays for sick call requests that don’t result in a consultation with a nurse or doctor. “There were numerous incidents in the records I reviewed that documented patients in distress over mental health and psychotropic medication issues but declined to write a sick call request because of the co-pay they would be charged,” Terry Abplanalp, chief psychologist of the Washington State Department of Corrections, wrote in his report. The reports raise other issues as well. For example, a prison van is often used to transport prisoners to the emergency room, even in instances when an ambulance is needed. During the first 10 months of 2013, the van was used in 125 of 168 trips to the emergency room. That means during those 125 trips, the private contractors did not have to pay for an ambulance. “Based on the cases I reviewed, many of these transportations by van were dangerous and placed the inmates at risk,” Dr. Stern wrote. Prisoner medical records are another concern. One expert compared the medication records to “Swiss cheese” because there are so many holes. Entries documenting rounds by personnel frequently appear to be nothing more than a summary stating the prisoner is fine that has been repeatedly copied and pasted. “I found, almost literally without exception in each of the mental health charts I reviewed for patients with serious mental health needs at EMCF that their charts were grossly incomplete, unreliable, and in many cases with entries that were apparently fabricated,” Abplanalp wrote. Since prisoners can only get their most basic needs met by setting fires, breaking rules or cutting themselves, there is “an overwhelming number of unnecessary and dangerous use of force events and abusive practices.” Vail reviewed video of such incidents, including an encounter where a prisoner was speaking to corrections officials through the tray slot of his cell door. As the prisoner complains about being “treated like a dog,” an officer sprays his face with pepper spray. “Such a ‘sneak attack’ completely destroys any trust the inmate might have in speaking with mental health staff and will likely make the prisoner much harder to manage in the future,” Vail wrote. In another video, a prisoner warns officers that another prisoner has asthma. He is sprayed anyway. The wheezing prisoner collapses on the day room floor. The prisoner, whose T-shirt is already spattered with blood, coughs blood onto the floor. “This incident illustrates a complete callous disregard for the health and safety of the inmate who was suffering from the effects of the gas and illustrates the risk of substantial harm for every prisoner in the facility,” Vail wrote. Even without these issues, the prison is a dangerous place. A December 2013 video reviewed by Vail demonstrates that cell doors can’t be counted on to work. It shows an officer attempting to place a prisoner in three different cells with broken locks. “This sequence would almost be comical were it not for the serious risk of harm unsecure cell doors present to the prisoners,” Vail wrote. Vail also found the prison to be filthy. Inmates within a segregation unit are apparently instructed to throw their Styrofoam meal trays through their tray slot after eating. The trays land on the day room floor, which may explain why prisoners complain of rats. “[Prisoners] told me they block the bottom of their cells with clothing or towels so that rats cannot get in,” Vail wrote. “One told me he fed them.” Prisoners also appear to live for weeks or months in dark segregation cells with broken or missing light bulbs. “During my tour of EMCF, a large majority of the cells in the segregation units were dark in the middle of the day, and most of the inhabitants of the cells were lying on their bunks in darkness,” Dr. Kupers wrote. “I have never, in my 40 years touring prisons, seen anything like this.” Broken lights were even found in the shower area, forcing prisoners to bathe in dark and dangerous conditions. Exposed electrical wires were found in the shower area. In one dimly lit area, prisoners were in danger of stepping out of the shower into dried blood. An expert touring the prison also found blood smeared on a cell window and left there for days, potentially exposing prisoners to blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis and HIV. When an inmate worker was summoned to clean a blood-stained cell, he was not provided with protective gear to guard against such dangers. But the dangers at the prison shouldn’t be news to Management and Training Corporation. As Vail noted in his report, records from late 2012 show the company president toured the prison and found conditions in long-term segregation concerning. The pages of reports submitted to the federal court show that little has changed. “Conditions in segregation are still awful today,” Vail wrote. “It is tragic that nearly a year and a half later, those units and the showers are still in that condition.”


July 25, 2014 blog.gulflive.com
MERIDIAN, Mississippi -- Two inmates could face charges after injuring three prison guards in a fight at East Mississippi Correctional Facility. Issa Arnita, a spokesman for prison contractor Management & Training Corp., says three guards were moving a prisoner to solitary confinement Thursday when the fight began. After guards told the prisoner to gather his belongings, Arnita says the prisoner stabbed one officer in the back with a homemade knife. As two officers used pepper spray to subdue that prisoner, another inmate stabbed a second officer in the back and arm. A third officer's hand was cut. The officers were treated and released from a Meridian hospital. Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said deputies are investigating, but declined Friday to release inmate names. A 2013 lawsuit was filed over the prison's conditions.

Jun 7, 2014 capecodonline.com

JACKSON, Miss. -- Open fires sometimes burn unheeded in the solitary-confinement units of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, a privately run state prison in Meridian, 90 miles east of here. Inmates spend months in near-total darkness. Illnesses go untreated. Dirt, feces and, occasionally, blood are caked on the walls of cells. For years, the prison, the state's primary facility for prisoners with mental illnesses, has been plagued by problems. When a previous private operator, the GEO Group, left in 2012 after complaints to the state about squalor and lack of medical treatment, hopes rose that conditions would improve. But two years later, advocates for inmates assert that little has changed under the current operator, Management and Training Corp., a Utah-based company. Civil rights lawyers and medical and mental health experts who toured the facility recently painted a picture of an institution where violence is frequent, medical treatment substandard or absent, and corruption common among corrections officers, who receive low wages and minimal training. Photographs taken during the tour and obtained by The New York Times showed charred door frames, broken light fixtures and toilets, exposed electrical wires, and what advocates said were infected wounds on prisoners' arms and legs, offering an unusual window into a prison at the center of a legal controversy. “Photographs don't lie,“ said Margaret Winter, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, which joined with the Southern Poverty Law Center to file suit a year ago over conditions at the prison. “I've been doing this for more than 20 years, and I'm pretty convinced that there is nothing out there that has been made public that is this shocking.“ The Mississippi corrections commissioner, Christopher B. Epps, who won praise several years ago for reducing the use of solitary confinement in the state, and the other defendants have denied the lawsuit's allegations. Epps declined to answer questions about the prison but said by email that conditions there had “improved tremendously“ since Management and Training Corp., or MTC, began running it. “I have toured the facility and have seen the improvements firsthand,“ he said. “We are committed to running a constitutionally sound prison and look forward to communicating that point in court.“ But current and former inmates described an atmosphere in which prisoners lived in fear of attacks by gang members allowed to move freely through prison units and were forced to beg for basic medical treatment. They said some set fires - using contraband matches or loose wires, according to advocates - to get the attention of guards, who sometimes ignored the flames, simply allowing them to burn out. Christopher Lindsey, 28, who was released from East Mississippi in July, said in an interview that he had gone blind after months of not receiving appropriate treatment for the glaucoma he has had since childhood. “I was crying in the cell, my eyes were hurting, bloodshot red, and I was slowly losing my eyesight,“ he said. Willie Hughes, 49, who was released in December, said in an interview that an infected sore on his leg had become gangrenous from neglect while he was in prison, and that a doctor had told him after his release that he narrowly escaped needing amputation. The 1,362-bed facility is one of five private prisons in the state system; Mississippi, like other states, has turned to private operators to cut costs. But advocacy groups that oppose the trend say the for-profit companies often economize at the expense of inmate and public safety. They point to private prisons in several states that have had problems with violence, abuse or escapes that official reports attributed to understaffing, lax security and poorly trained corrections officers. In a deposition given in March to the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Matthew Naidow, a shift captain at East Mississippi, said that conditions at the prison had improved since MTC took over the contract from the GEO Group, but that low wages and high staff turnover contributed to the persistence of security problems and corruption, which he said were more prevalent than at other prisons where he had worked. Correctional officers at the prison, he said, are paid around $10 an hour. “If you're getting people off the streets from McDonald's,“ Naidow said, “you're going to have a long road ahead of you to retain staff.“ Issa Arnita, a spokesman for MTC, said the company could not comment because of the pending litigation. LaGrand Elliot, senior vice president at Health Assurance, a Jackson-based company hired to provide medical and psychiatric services for the prison, also declined to comment. Dr. Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist in Oakland, California, and an expert on the psychological effects of solitary confinement, toured East Mississippi with the plaintiffs' lawyers in late April. He said the mental health treatment he saw at the prison was severely deficient. Inmates were given little therapy and had few activities, and interviews with prisoners and a review of records indicated that many were forcibly injected with Haldol, a tranquilizing antipsychotic drug, even though “a lot of those people were not acutely psychotic at the time of the injection,“ Kupers said. Record keeping was spotty or nonexistent, with a “complete absence“ of accurate diagnoses and no evidence of informed consent for treatment, Kupers said. Mental health exams were sometimes conducted when inmates were asleep, and self-injurious behaviors like cutting were an almost daily occurrence. Medical care was also deficient, with inmates receiving delayed or inappropriate treatment, according to a medical expert who reviewed inmate records and was not supposed to discuss them publicly until a formal report was released. One patient had a documented history of a slow-growing brain tumor, but the tumor was not included on his list of medical problems at the prison. A nurse noted that the inmate had reported having a brain tumor - the prisoner “has a wild story to tell,“ the nurse wrote - and ordered a muscle rub, ibuprofen and shampoo for him. At the time of the review, the inmate had not been referred to a neurosurgeon, the expert said. MTC, the third-largest private prison operator in the country, runs 24 correctional institutions nationwide and holds the contracts for three other prisons in Mississippi. Winter, the ACLU prison project associate director, said the Mississippi Department of Corrections bore the ultimate responsibility for the inmates at the East Mississippi prison. Epps, the corrections commissioner, and other department officials are named as the defendants in the lawsuit.  A judge will consider later this year whether to grant the plaintiffs class-action status. Current and former inmates said security was also an issue. They said corrections officers were complicit in or turned a blind eye to contraband trading, and ignored inmate-on-inmate violence. Hughes, who served time for a drug offense, said lockdowns were frequent, as were stabbings and fights. Corrections officers, Hughes said, often kicked food trays out of the hands of mentally ill inmates and did nothing to stop prisoners from roaming the units or carrying on a brisk trade in cigarettes, whiskey, cellphones and other commodities.  “That was big money,“ he said. “They wasn't going to stop it.“ Hughes said he was once sent on a cleanup detail to one of the solitary-confinement units - known to inmates, according to the lawsuit, as the “dead man's zone“ or “dead area“ because corrections officers did not often go there.  “Guys was throwing fire, setting trays on fire, flooding the cells, and the guards were just sitting there like that's normal, that's OK,“ he said.


05/30/2013 aclu.org

East Mississippi Correctional Facility is hyper-violent, grotesquely filthy and dangerous. Patients with severe psychiatric disabilities go without basic mental health care. Many prisoners attempt suicide. This video is the story of a young man who succeeded. Privacy statement. This embed will serve content from youtube.com. EMCF is a cesspool. Prisoners are underfed and often held in rat-infested cells without working toilets or lights. The prison is dangerously understaffed, and prisoners routinely set fires to attract the attention of officers to respond to emergencies. Without sufficient staff to protect prisoners, rapes, beatings, and stabbings are rampant. And some of the most sadistic violence is inflicted on prisoners by security staff. EMCF is supposed to provide intensive treatment to the state's prisoners with severe psychiatric disabilities, but instead locks many in prolonged long-term solitary confinement – often for years – and denies prisoners even the most rudimentary mental health care services. Medical care is grossly substandard. One prisoner is now legally blind after EMCF failed to provide his glaucoma medications and take him to a specialist; another had part of his finger amputated after he was stabbed and developed gangrene. The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), which ultimately bears responsibility, has known about these conditions for years but failed to protect the health and safety of prisoners. In 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center offered to pay for an assessment of the system, but the Mississippi Department of Corrections rejected the offer. Today, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Law Offices of Elizabeth Alexander filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at EMCF. The conditions at EMCF are blatantly unconstitutional and we fully expect to prevail in the lawsuit. We hope that MDOC Commissioner Epps will meet us at the negotiating table very soon to finally end the horrors and suffering at EMCF.

 

May 30, 2013 clarionledger.com

Mississippi’s cash-strapped correctional system came under fire again this week with the filing of a federal lawsuit claiming “barbaric conditions” at a prison for the mentally ill. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed the 83-page complaint against the state Department of Corrections on Thursday in the federal court in Jackson. It alleges numerous gross abuses at the privately-run East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian, which houses some 1,500 inmates. Among the claims are that of a grime-covered facility reeking of feces where inmates spend months in isolated darkness without access to showers or working toilets. It says prisoners routinely are denied medication, ignored by the guards, and use the rats that infest the building as currency to obtain goods and services. “Each of these conditions, by itself, places prisoners at a substantial risk of serious harm,” according to the lawsuit. “Taken together, they create an environment so toxic that they threaten the physical and mental health of all the prisoners exposed to them.” MDOC spokeswoman Grace Fisher said the department doesn’t comment on allegations made in pending litigation, but Commissioner Chris Epps said in a statement that “negotiating will be one of the options we will explore regarding this matter.” This isn’t the first time the ACLU has sued over the conditions at a Mississippi prison. The organization filed suit in 2002 due to inhumane treatment of death row prisoners at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and again in 2010 because of abuses at the Walnut Grove Youth Correction Facility. The Southern Poverty Law Center was co-counsel in the Walnut Grove case. Both cases since have been resolved. But the situation at EMCF “is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Gabriel B. Eber, staff counsel for the ACLU’s National Prison Project, who was in Jackson on Thursday discussing the case. “And I’ve been in prisons all around the country.” The ACLU-SPLC suit was filed on behalf of 16 inmates whose civil rights allegedly were violated while in custody at EMCF. One of them, a 27-year-old man named Christopher Lindsey, reportedly went blind after guards denied him access to treatment for his glaucoma despite his repeated pleas for help between 2011 and 2013. Another inmate, William Eastwood, reportedly was raped four-to-five times at knifepoint in February 2012 by prisoner who snorted cocaine to stay erect during the ordeal. An officer summoned by Eastwood’s cries left when the assailant told him everything was OK, the lawsuit says. Other mentally ill inmates have committed suicide after guards ignored repeated warning signs and, in some cases, had listed them in good condition hours after they’d died. Crime in the prison has become so rampant that Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie asked the state for a full-time investigator to handle the case load, he said. As lead law-enforcement agency for the county, the department must investigate each felony occurrence on the property. “There have been repeated violent incidents,” said Sollie, who also cited inconsistencies with the facility because of its revolving-door management. Three different private contractors have operated EMCF since it opened in 1999. The current operator is Utah-based Management & Training Corporation, which was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. MTC also has a state contract to run Walnut Grove and the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs. MDOC entered into all three agreements last year after the previous private company, the GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., ended its management contracts for the three facilities. MTC spokesman Issa Arnita declined to comment on the lawsuit but said that, since taking over the prison, the company has been “working very hard to improve the conditions and have made a lot of progress over these past ten months.” On Thursday, family members of EMCF and Walnut Grove inmates gathered outside the state Department of Corrections in downtown Jackson to protest what they called inhumane treatment and the oversight of prisons by private contractors. Holding signs with their loved ones’ initials and a description of the alleged abuses they’d suffered while in prison, the family members asked for justice. “I was assured that while serving his sentence, my son would get the help he so separately needs,” said Katie Autry while choking back tears. “This turned out to be false. Since my son has been in east Mississippi, I have seen his mental state – his mental state got worse, not better.” Autry declined to name her son, providing only his age and initials – 28 years old and B.A . The state Department of Corrections lists a man of the same age named Bilethon Autry serving a 24-year sentence for manslaughter at EMCF. Autry said her son, who has bi-polar disorder and a form of schizophrenia, had been denied medication for the first six months of his sentence and repeatedly placed in isolation as a result of his erratic behavior. “He has been in isolation, in chains, for the past three months,” Autry said. “I saw him yesterday, and he looks horrible. He’s lost probably 100 pounds.” Fisher couldn’t comment on Autry’s situation, citing the federal HIPAA privacy rule. EMCF Warden Frank Shaw was out of the office Thursday and couldn’t be reached for comment. EMCF was criticized by a national correctional health-care expert in 2011 for inadequate psychiatric staffing, according to the lawsuit. At the time, it had one full-time psychiatrist at the facility. But one year later, the hours dropped to two days per week after the state hired another for-profit contractor, Health Assurance, to provide mental health and psychiatric services at the prison. The lawsuit also alleges youth prisoners are housed at the facility alongside adults and that, in at least one case, a 16-year-old was raped while in the facility’s general population. “We have a moral obligation to take care of our mentally ill,” said Jody Owens II, executive director of SPLC’s Mississippi office. “This is fixible.” Owens said the ACLU and SPLC raised their concerns with MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps last year but got nowhere. He provided a copy of a May 15, 2012 letter reportedly sent to Epps detailling the problems and asking for a response within two weeks, but none was received. Epps said through his spokeswoman that he never saw the letter. “We have sat down with the ACLU and SPLC on numerous occasions in the past and have taken their suggestions on other units,” Epps said in a statement. “Negotiating will be one of the options we will explore regarding this matter.” The department had a $29.5 million deficit during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and faces additional budget crunches next year. It’s unclear whether funding has had anything to do with the prison’s current situation, but Owens said it shouldn’t matter. “Budget constraints,” he said, “doesn’t relieve constitutional obligations.”

October 22, 2012 San francisco Chronicle
MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — Three guards at the privately run East Mississippi Correctional Facility are charged with embezzlement after authorities say the men lied about their work hours. Lauderdale County sheriff's deputies arrested 22-year-old Markiezth Tillman, 27-year-old William David Smith and 24-year-old Derrick Brown on Thursday. Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun says Monday that the men found a way to manipulate an electronic time-keeping system to show they were working when they weren't. He says Management & Training Corp., the Utah company that recently took over management of the prison, discovered the violations and called law enforcement. Calhoun says the violations had been happening for less than a month. Issa Arnita, a spokesman for MTC, says the men are on leave while the investigation continues. The prison is in Lost Gap, west of Meridian.

June 12, 2012 WTOK
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration says it has cited The GEO Group Inc. with six safety and health violations, totaling $104,000 in fines, at East Mississippi Correctional Facility. A report released by OSHA Tuesday says the GEO Group exposed prison employees to workplace violence and failed to take measures to reduce the risk. It says while prisons are obviously dangerous workplaces, the employer is still required to take every reasonable precaution to protect corrections officers and other staff against safety hazards. OSHA's findings were based on a December 2011 inspection stemming from a complaint about the facility. The report goes on to say the GEO Group also failed to provide adequate staffing, to fix malfunctioning cell door locks, or to provide proper safety training. OSHA says these were all willful violations, meaning there was intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements. The GEO Group has 15 business days to respond to these charges. Newscenter 11 has reached out to GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez for a comment, but we have yet to receive a response.

June 7, 2012 WTOK
MTC will officially take over operation at East Mississippi Correctional Facility on July 9th. The company got its start working with young people outside the corrections system. The Vice President of Corrections at MTC explained the company's history via a video news release. "We started 30 years ago by providing training for young adults to succeed in life," says Odie Washington, "we've taken that and applied it to our corrections division. "All you are going to see is a change in the name over the door," that's the opinion of Frank Smith, a private prison watchdog, "it's not going to be a change in operations." Smith works as a consultant for Private Corrections Working Group. "The problem is there is such turnover that there is no mentoring process so everybody is just kind of new on the job, and they don't know what to do when the problems arise." MTC officials say they plan on providing EMCF with all the resources it needs to operate effectively. "We'll provide each facility the resources necessary for them to operate safely and effectively," says Washington, and we look forward to applying these high standards to our new Mississippi facilities as well." Only time will tell whether MTC will have a successful run in the Magnolia State.

June 7, 2012 AP
A Utah-based private prison operator will take over management of three Mississippi correctional institutions beginning in July. Management & Training Corporation of Centreville, Utah, has signed 10-year operating contracts for the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near the Lost Gap community beginning July 2; Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove on July 9; and the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs on Aug. 13. Financial details of the contracts were not made public. The announcement came Thursday by the company and the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The Corrections Department and the GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., in April agreed to end GEO's management contract at the three prisons. At the time Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps told the AP that the department felt it might get a better price if all three prisons were presented as a package to other corrections management companies. "The Mississippi Department of Corrections is looking forward to a great partnership with MTC," Epps said in a statement Thursday. "There is a need for different types of prisons, including state and regional as well as private facilities in Mississippi. MTC will be held to the same high standards as set by MDOC and I feel extremely confident that MTC will do a great job." "We look forward to the opportunity to work in Mississippi," said MTC senior vice president of corrections Odie Washington in the statement. "We have partnered with state and federal governments in operating correctional facilities for the past 25 years, and have a strong record of providing safe, secure and well-run facilities."

May 20, 2012 WLBT
A celebration in Smith Park commemorated changes at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. The Friends and Family Members of Youth Incarcerated at Walnut Grove held a rally Sunday morning. Parents of children at the facility thanked department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps for ending the private prison contract with the GEO Group. They said their children were mistreated under the company's management from being denied medical treatment to education. "I would like to urge the commissioner to continue to do the right thing by our children and to not allow another private, for profit company to take over Walnut Grove," said Walnut Grove parent Kimberly Carson. "The GEO Group is making money off of these young men. They don't seem willing to spend any of that money to make sure they have been properly rehabilitated," said Walnut Grove parent Marietta Larry. GEO managed Walnut Grove and the East Mississippi and Marshall County Correctional facilities until last month.

April 20, 2012 WTOK
On Friday Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps reeled off a long list of problems the state has been monitoring at East Mississippi Correctional Facility in recent weeks and months. Those issues include a murder and multiple suicides. Epps says the final straw with GEO Group, the current manager of EMCF, came when the company asked the state for $5 million more to operate the facility. GEO Group is painting a different picture of the split, saying they initiated the move because the facility is financially under-performing.

April 20, 2012 AP
The Mississippi Department of Corrections says GEO Group Inc., one of the country's largest private prison operators, will no longer manage three facilities in Mississippi. On Thursday, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company said it was backing out of a contract to manage the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near the Lost Gap community by July 19. Company officials told The Associated Press on Friday that it had nothing else to say. Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps told the AP on Friday that the department felt it might get a better price if all three prisons were presented as a package to other corrections management companies. Epps said he would expect GEO Group to end its ties to the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove and Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs by July 20. "We feel this may be a golden opportunity to provide a better price for the taxpayers of the state and at the same time maybe do a better job in the operation of the facilities," Epps said. "That's what I would like to see." Epps said there was some concern at MDOC about incidents at all three prisons. The Walnut Grove facility is presently under a federal court order to remove juvenile inmates amid allegations of physical and sexual abuse. That court order came in a settlement of a lawsuit filed against Walnut Grove in 2010. GEO Group has repeatedly declined to comment on the lawsuit. Epps has said his plan is to send the 17-and-younger inmates to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County by Oct. 1. He said there are about 1,000 vacant beds at that prison now, so there is no need for a new building. Walnut Grove also houses adults. They would remain there under a settlement that ended a 2010 lawsuit. Epps said Friday that local authority boards deal with management contracts at EMCF and Walnut Grove with MDOC help. He said MDOC works directly with vendors at Marshall County. "There are a lot of these management companies out there. We're reaching out to those private operators to see what the best proposal is we might get," he said. In its announcement, GEO chairman/CEO George C. Zoley said EMCF was "financially underperforming." GEO Group vice president Pablo E. Paez said Friday the company would have no other comment.

March 28, 2012 Vicksburg Post
When Vicksburg native Stuart Brooks was killed Feb. 21 in his prison cell at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, a family member's old fear was proved prophetic. "Stuart is very much in need of psychological help," Brooks' aunt wrote in 1995, before he was sentenced for the sexual battery of her 9-year-old son. "I know that with his mentality, he would not survive in a prison, someone would probably kill him. I don't think he'll ever be able to function in a normal society." Brooks was 18 when he was convicted in Warren County Circuit Court of assaulting his young cousin. Writing to then-Judge Frank Vollor as part of Vollor's pre-sentencing investigation, Brooks' aunt was torn — angry about what happened to her son but concerned for her nephew. "He's going to need help for the rest of his life and should be locked up that long," she wrote. Instead, Brooks was released after serving 15 years of a 30-year sentence, was re-arrested and sent back to prison for failing to register as a sex offender. About halfway through that three-year sentence, he was strangled, an autopsy showed, at the Lost Gap facility. His cellmate has been charged in his death. With Brooks' death, all those close to the 1995 case are gone.

November 2, 2011 WTOK
The company that owns a local prison says it will not talk about any of the problems going on there right now. An inmate at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility died there over the weekend, apparently by suicide. A guard was recently stabbed by an inmate. It's the latest in a string of violent acts at the prison. After two days of attempts to contact the GEO Group for a comment on the problems, we got a response Wednesday. Geo Group officials say as a matter of policy, they will not speak to the media.

October 31, 2011 WTOK
An inmate at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility took his own life, according to authorities. The Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, which investigates incidents there, said 27-year-old Bobby Wilkerson hung himself in his cell using bed sheets. They say he left a note in a Bible beside his bed. The death is the latest in a string of incidents at the prison. A guard was recently stabbed with a shank. And local officials are looking for some changes. Since 1999, Sheriff Billy Sollie says his department has responded to as many as 60 calls for help at EMCF, located on Highway 80 at Lost Gap. Sollie says the inmate population has doubled since the facility opened. "You know, with the Mississippi Department of Corrections shutting down some of their violent units that were traditionally held in the northern part of the state, many of those inmates are transferred here to the Lauderdale County area," said Sollie. Sollie attributes that to the the increased level of violence reported at EMCF. But Sollie says he has no control over the situation. "It's not our responsibility to run that facility. It's our responsibility to investigate crimes that are reported to us," Sollie said. But having to investigate so many incidents at EMCF is hindering efforts to conduct its regular duties, according to the sheriff. "We would certainly like to talk with the state of Mississippi about them employing a full-time investigator that would investigate the major crimes, your felony crimes that occur on that facility," said Sollie. "And free up my investigators to work for the citizens of Lauderdale County." Over the last couple of days, Newscenter 11 has received numerous phone calls from relatives of inmates at EMCF, who claim that inmates aren't being treated properly. We contacted both the warden and deputy warden for this story. Neither opted to comment. East Mississippi Correctional Facility is owned by the Geo Group. It's one of 116 facilities the company operates world-wide. It opened back in 1999, and has about 1500 beds.

June 27, 2011 Clarion Ledger
The family of a man found hanging in a cell on Feb. 19 at East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Lauderdale County plans to sue the state over his death, based on the results of a second autopsy. The Mississippi Medical Examiner's office said Sammy Robinson's death was consistent with suicide. But a second autopsy performed at the family's request by Dr. Matthias Okoye of the Nebraska Institute of Forensic Science said Robinson had blunt force trauma to the upper and lower extremities as well as sharp force trauma to the right upper and lower extremities, according to Warren Martin Jr., an attorney for family members. An intent-to-sue letter has been issued to the state Department of Corrections and the GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., which operates the prison. In the notice, Martin said Okoye noted several abrasions and contusions all over Robinson's body. MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps said Monday he can't discuss Robinson's case because of the pending legal action.

April 1, 2006 Meridian Star
A former guard at East Mississippi Correctional Facility at Lost Gap received a three-year suspended sentence this week in Lauderdale County Circuit Court for helping two prisoners escape last year. Tomeka Lashae Brown, 26, of Porterville pleaded guilty Monday to aiding the escape of a felon. Prisoners Gregory Malone, 26, and Christopher Roy, 24, escaped Oct. 17 after apparently using a saw blade to cut their way out of the facility. They were captured about 24 hours later at a hotel in Northport, Ala., near Tuscaloosa. Malone was serving a life sentence for a capital murder in Hinds County. Roy was serving a life sentence for a murder in Jackson County. In her petition to plead guilty, Brown admitted driving the two men to Tuscaloosa and paying for their motel room. Brown was indicted by a Lauderdale County grand jury in November; Lost Gap prison officials announced she had been fired in December. Circuit Judge Lester Williamson Jr. handed down the sentence, which could have been as severe as 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Roy and Malone were each indicted on a charge of escape, which could add five years to their life sentences. A third inmate, 24-year-old Kenneth Johnson, was indicted on a charge of aiding the escape of a felon; he is serving a 71/2-year sentence for a burglary in Lawrence County. None of these cases has been resolved. The Geo Group Inc., a Florida-based company, operates East Mississippi Correctional Facility, which can house as many as 1,000 inmates, under a contract with the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The prison specializes in housing prisoners with psychiatric problems.

March 31, 2006 WREG
A former Texas prison official has taken over as warden of the privately run East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Lauderdale County. Yesterday was the first day on the job for 51-year-old Dale Caskey, who recently retired after 30 years with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Caskey replaced interim warden Darryl Anderson. Caskey's last assignment in Texas was as warden of the Hughes Unit, a maximum-security facility in Gatesville, Texas. The East Mississippi Correctional Facility, located in the Lost Gap community, houses inmates with mental disorders. It's owned by The Geo Group, formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corporation.

December 16, 2005 Clarion Ledger
Two guards have been terminated and a supervisor resigned in the wake of the October escape of two inmates serving life sentences for murder at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian. "The message is that if you don't follow policy and procedures, you will be terminated," Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said. Epps said guard Tomeka Brown was fired for providing transportation from the Mississippi/Alabama line to Tuscaloosa for escaped inmates Gregory Malone and Christopher Roy. Epps said Brown apparently had a personal relationship with Malone. Brown, who was indicted last month, is charged with accessory before the fact to escape for aiding an abetting the inmates. She is out on a $100,000 bond. Epps said guard Lakeisha Gowdy was fired after an investigation determined she had not physically counted inmates to ensure they were actually in the cells. Sgt. Cheryl Thornton resigned before being terminated, Epps said. In Thornton's case, daily physical counts of inmates weren't being performed as required, Epps said. The two inmates used a saw blade to cut their way out of the facility.

November 25, 2005 WREG
Lauderdale County authorities say there appears to be no foul play in death of an East Mississippi Correctional Facility inmate. The body of 32-year-old Reginald Williams, of Meridian, was found hanging in his cell yesterday. The sheriff's department is investigating the death and waiting for autopsy results from the Mississippi Mortuary in Pearl.

November 19, 2005 Meridian Star
It's the mid-1990s. The number of inmates in Mississippi's penal system is increasing, and state officials need to build more prisons - or contract with private companies to build more prisons. Meanwhile, Lauderdale County and Meridian officials are looking for ways to improve the local economy and create jobs. It seemed like a good match. The state needed a place to build a prison and Lauderdale had a readily available workforce and land that needed no rezoning. When city and county officials began putting together a proposal, they hoped the new prison would provide an influx of jobs that would only increase over time. They also hoped it would help Naval Air Station Meridian. New U.S. Navy regulations prohibited student pilots from performing maintenance tasks at the base. It was hoped that non-violent prisoners could do some of the work - saving the base $300,000 to $500,000. The Wackenhut Corp., now The Geo Group Inc., won the contract to build and operate East Mississippi Correctional Facility in southwest Lauderdale County's Lost Gap community. The facility accepted its first prisoners in April 1999. Measuring outcomes: District 2 Supervisor Jimmie Smith said the initial estimate was that the facility would create up to 350 jobs. It currently employs 220 people in positions ranging from security officers to medical staff to administrators. The partnership between the Navy base and the prison never happened, according to Susan Junkins, public affairs officer at NAS Meridian. "To the best of my knowledge I have seen no impact that it has made to my business," said David Hamilton, owner of the Best Western in Meridian. Ray Joyner, manager of the Howard Johnson motel in Meridian, concurred: "I can't tell any difference in business. It certainly doesn't seem any different, but I wouldn't call it a major tourist attraction or industry, either." Wayne Gasson, chief of labor market information with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, said given the relatively small number of jobs available, it is hard to gauge the prison's economic impact. "If a facility like this one opened or closed, it would be significant to the people that worked there - but as far as it impacting an entire area, it probably isn't going to have much of an impact," Gasson said. The East Mississippi Correctional Facility at Lost Gap employs 220 people. Interim Warden Darryl Anderson reports that the annual turnover rate at the facility is 65 percent. Here's a look at positions available and their hourly pay range. Security posts $7-$10.95 Clerical staff $7-$10 Food service $7-$15.35 Program staff $11.06-$18.45 Maintenance staff $9-$17 Medical staff $7.35-$20.95

October 29, 2005 Meridian Star
Residents of the Lost Gap community were uneasy in April 1999, when the first prisoners began arriving at East Mississippi Correctional Facility, a private prison that brought inmates with mental disorders to their quiet area of southeast Lauderdale County. Since then, there have been bumps in the road - violence inside the prison, deaths, indictments of inmates and, most recently, escapes. When two convicted murderers escaped from the EMCF this month, it sparked a wide mix of emotions among residents of Lost Gap. In addition to the escapes, EMCF has been the site of at least five incidents of inmate-on-inmate violence since 2002. Three of these incidents led to inmates' deaths. Also, in February 2002, inmates created a two-hour disturbance when they refused to return to their cells. Correctional officers were forced to use chemical agents to subdue them, and 29 inmates were transferred to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman as a result. Current District 2 Supervisor Jimmie Smith, who was also on the board at the time of the contract's approval, estimated the facility would create 350 jobs. Lost Gap resident Robert Maxey doesn't share Florey's optimistic view. "Sure, it provides a few jobs, but you can find jobs in lots of other places. I really don't see the benefit in having it here," Maxey said. Community residents tried to derail the project, but to no avail. When Maxey's wife, Barbara, was given a tour of the facility in 1998, she was told that escapes would be impossible. Her skepticism at that remark was confirmed on Monday, Oct. 17, however, when convicted killers Gregory Malone, 26, and Christopher Roy, 24, with the apparent assistance of a prison guard and a fellow inmate, escaped through sawed window bars. "My granddaughter was scared to death," Mrs. Maxey said. "If they hadn't captured the two men, she likely would have never gone outside again.

October 30, 2005 AP
With two murderers escaping in the past month, residents here have begun carrying weapons and apprehensions have grown about the East Mississippi Correctional Facility. The private prison, opened in April 1999, houses prisoners with mental disorders in southeast Lauderdale County. On Oct. 17, convicted killers Gregory Malone, 26, and Christopher Roy, 24, escaped from the facility, allegedly with the assistance of a prison guard and a fellow inmate. The men escaped through sawed window bars. They were caught about 24 hours later. That was the second escape this year - Earl Blue escaped from the facility on April 8. He was caught hours later, but residents are not satisfied with the level of safety. The prison has had patterns of violence within its walls leading to both deaths and indictments of inmates. The facility has had five incidents of inmate violence since 2002 - three of which resulted in inmate deaths. Many residents have opposed the presence of the EMCF since it was proposed in the mid-1990s. "It's made a lot of people more apprehensive," said John Griffin, 67, a retired Marine and former Lost Gap fire chief. "My mother-in-law lived here when they first brought the prison here, and she was scared to death. And now you've got more people walking around carrying a gun because of the place. I don't go out of this house without carrying a gun."

October 23, 2005 Clarion Ledger
A second prison employee is being eyed in an investigation of two convicted murderers' escape from the East Mississippi Correctional Facility last week. A prison guard has been charged, but Chris Epps, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, said Saturday "there's been some conversation about another employee." "We won't know until the investigation is concluded. I would hope within a couple weeks we should have everything wrapped up," he said. On Friday, inmate Kenneth Nelson Johnson Jr., 23, who is serving a 7 1/2-year sentence for a burglary conviction in Lawrence County, was charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. He is the fourth person charged in relation to the escape. Gregory Malone, 26, and Christopher Roy, 24, both serving life sentences for murder, fled Monday from the prison on Old U.S. 80 West at the Lost Gap community. They were captured about 24 hours later at a hotel in Northport, Ala., near Tuscaloosa. Prison guard Tomeka Brown, 25, of Porterville, was arrested and charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. She posted $100,000 bond from the Lauderdale County jail Thursday. Epps has said Malone and Roy did not share a cell. He said he believes someone helped the escaped convicts by sawing window bars, allowing them to get to the prison's roof and escape after cutting a set of camera wires. Neither he nor Calhoun knows how wide a net the investigators will have to cast, Epps said. Despite the conversations about a possible second employee, no employees other than Brown have been arrested or disciplined, Epps said. Lauderdale County and Epps' office are coordinating the investigation.

October 22, 2005 Meridian Star
An East Mississippi Correctional Facility inmate was charged Friday with helping two fellow prisoners escape earlier this week. Kenneth Nelson Johnson Jr., 23, who is serving a 71/2-year sentence for a burglary conviction in Lawrence County, was charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. He is the fourth person to be charged in connection with the Monday escape. Lauderdale County Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun said he expects others to be charged as the investigation continues. Porterville resident Tomeka Brown, 25, a correctional officer at the private prison for inmates with mental problems, was arrested at the same hotel later Tuesday and charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. She posted $100,000 bond and was released from the Lauderdale County jail Thursday. Officials with the Department of Corrections, which contracts with EMCF parent company The GEO Group Inc. to house state prisoners, could not be reached for comment Friday. State Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps told reporters earlier this week that Malone and Roy did not share a cell. Epps said he believes someone helped the escapees by sawing window bars, allowing them to get to the prison's roof and escape after cutting a set of camera wires.

October 19, 2005 Meridian Star
Two inmates who were captured after escaping from the East Mississippi Correctional Facility on Monday have been transferred to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Gregory Malone, 26, and Christopher Roy, 24, who were serving life sentences at the Lost Gap prison, were captured by deputy U.S. marshals early Tuesday morning at an Econo Lodge in Northport, Ala., near Tuscaloosa. The two were discovered missing shortly after 12:50 a.m. Monday at the privately operated prison for inmates with mental health problems. Prison employee Tomeka Brown, who investigators believe played a key role in the inmates' escape, is currently in custody at the Lauderdale County Detention Facility. Brown, 25, of Porterville and a correctional officer at EMCF, has been charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. She was behind held on $100,000 bond Wednesday. Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps has said that other employees of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, including interim Warden Darryl Anderson, could face disciplinary action. However, MDOC officials wouldn't be more specific Wednesday.

October 19, 2005 Clarion Ledger
Two convicted murderers and a Mississippi corrections officer accused of assisting in their escape from a Meridian prison were arrested in Alabama, Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said Tuesday. Investigators believe Tomeka Lashae Brown helped Gregory Malone and Christopher Roy rent a room at the Econo Lodge Hotel at 1930 McFarland Blvd., in Northport, Ala., Sollie said. The inmates were discovered missing from the East Mississippi Correctional Facility early Monday morning. Brown, 25, of DeKalb is charged with two counts of accessory before the fact. All three are being held without bond at the Tuscaloosa County Jail. Malone, 26, and Roy, 24, will face charges of felony escape, Mississippi officials said. Sollie would not give any other details on Brown's alleged role in the inmates' escape from the prison, which houses inmates with mental health problems. Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said Tuesday some employees - including interim Warden Darryl Anderson - may be fired upon completion of an investigation. Epps said he had "grave" concerns about hourly inmate counts, and window and bar checks. He said he believes someone helped Malone and Roy, who were not housed together, by sawing window bars, allowing them to get to the prison's roof and escape after cutting a set of camera wires. "You have to check those bars every 24 hours with a rubber hammer. The way they were able to saw out of that prison, it didn't happen overnight," he said. Epps said security cameras show the inmates leaving around 1 a.m.

August 12, 2005 Sun Herald
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie says three men have been charged with murder in the stabbing death of an inmate at East Mississippi Correctional Facility are charged in the murder of fellow inmate Stanley Johnson. Sollie said Friday that John Pickens, 35; John Sparkman, 30; and Kelvin Cage, 36, each face a charge of murder in the stabbing death of Johnson on Sunday. Sollie said all three are inmates at the privately run prison. Sollie said the killing apparently dates back to a disagreement between Pickens and Johnson, when the two were incarcerated in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman. "All indications are this was a planned assault on the victim," the sheriff said.

August 10, 2005 Clarion Ledger
Lauderdale County authorities said Tuesday they hope to make an arrest today in the stabbing death of 43-year-old Stanley Johnson inside the East Mississippi Correctional Facility. "We are anticipating an arrest in the next 24 to 48 hours," Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said. Johnson was serving a life sentence for a 1985 rape conviction in Sunflower County. Warden Larry Greer said Johnson was attacked about 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the privately run prison and died several hours later in a local hospital. Sollie and Greer said several prisoners have been questioned in the stabbing. No weapon has been found, and officials won't go into specifics about their investigation. This is the second time in three years an inmate has been killed in the prison. In 2002, 58-year-old Lonnie Grisham was found bludgeoned to death in his cell. Information on whether Grisham's killer was prosecuted wasn't available Tuesday. The prison is run by the GEO Group Inc., a Florida-based company formerly known as Wackenhut. The GEO Group runs private prisons in 14 states, as well as in South Africa and Australia. In Mississippi, the company also runs the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs, which was the site of the beating death of an inmate by another prisoner in 2001.

August 9, 2005 WAPT
An investigation continues into the stabbing death of an inmate at the privately run East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Lauderdale County. The inmate, 42-year-old Stanley Johnson, was serving a life sentence for a rape conviction in Sunflower County. Lauderdale County Coroner Clayton Cobler reported that Johnson died Sunday at a Meridian hospital from stab wounds in the chest and both thighs. An autopsy has been ordered. East Mississippi Correctional Facility is located off U.S. Highway 80 in the Lost Gap community. It's privately owned by GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corp.

August 8, 2005 Sun Herald
An inmate at the privately run East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Lauderdale County has died of stab wounds, says county Coroner Clayton Cobler. Wackenhut operates the facility, a 750-bed prison that opened in April 1999 off U.S. 80 near the Lost Gap community. Cobler said 42-year-old inmate Stanley Johnson was stabbed three times in an incident Sunday. He said Johnson died at a Meridian hospital. Cobler said an investigation is underway. Prison officials have declined to comment.

April 11, 2005 Greenwood Commonwealth
A state inmate serving a 40-year sentence for armed robbery in Leflore County was apprehended without incident Sunday afternoon by the Forest Police Department, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Earl Blue, 27, who escaped from East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian on Friday, will be taken to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. East Mississippi Correctional Facility is a privately run correctional facility operated by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation of Palm Beach, Fla.

February 26, 2003
Prison emergency personnel used chemical agents to get 29 prisoners to return to their cells at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility Tuesday evening, officials said.  Nobody was seriously injured in the disturbance, which lasted for two hours according to a statement by Wackenhut Corrections Corp., a private prison management company that operates the 750-bed prison. (AP)

August 21, 2002
Authorities believe an inmate who died at the East Mississippi correctional Facility at Lost Gap was attacked by another prisoner.  Lauderdale county chief deputy Mike Mitchell on Tuesday identified the dead inmate at Lonnie Grisham, 58, of Tippah County.  East Mississippi Correctional Facility is a 100-acre prison opened in April 1999.  It is operated by Wackenhut Corrections.  (AP)

August 23, 2002
The death of an inmate at a Lost Gap prison facility has been ruled a homicide, authorities said.   Sheriff Billy Sollie said a state pathologist determined blunt force trauma to be the cause of death of Lonnie Grisham, 58.   Sheriff's deputies said they found Grisham's bruised and bloody body in his cell Monday. No weapons were found in the cell.   Sollie said Grisham's roommate Tyrone J. Wilson was being held in isolation. Wilson, 29, is being questioned about the death, authorities say.   East Mississippi Correctional Facility, in the Lost Gap community west of Meridian, is a 100-acre prison opened in April 1999 by Wackenhut Corrections.   The prison is designed to house inmates with special needs, including those with psychiatric illnesses.  (Clarion Ledger)

August 21, 2002
Authorities say an inmate is a suspect in the death of his cellmate at East Mississippi Correctional Facility in the Lost Gap community.  Mitchell said the blood and bruises on the body indicated the death appeared to be caused by blunt force trauma.  The death marks the third apparent inmate-on-inmate attack at Lost Gap prison since May.  An inmate was stabbed in the chest with a piece of sharpened metal broken off a cyclone fence in mid-May.  The victim was treated for a puncture wound to the chest at Rush Foundation Hospital.  In late June, an inmate was stabbed in the jaw with a similar weapon.  The inmate recovered from his wounds. (AP)

East Point Christian Academy  
(formerly known as Bethel Boys Academy)
Lucedale, Mississippi

April 11, 2005 Clarion Ledger
A manhunt for a missing student continued late Sunday in the wake of a weekend melee that left a dormitory building ravaged, seven cadets injured and nine cadets arrested at Eagle Point Christian Academy, a private school for troubled teen boys in Lucedale. Four students, or cadets, ran away from the school Sunday afternoon. Three were caught less than a mile from the rural campus, but a fourth remained at large, George County Sheriff Garry Welford said Sunday night. The sheriff said it's unknown if the school, directed by John Fountain of Lucedale, will be in session today. The situation began at 10:57 p.m. Friday, when the Sheriff's Department received a 911 call from the school, formerly known as the Bethel Boys Academy, Welford said. Deputies found a dormitory with shattered windows and overturned beds. Students told Welford that a rumor had been circulating that state investigators might arrive at the school over the weekend. Students told him that caused some cadets to riot, Welford said. The dormitory has been shut down because it's so badly damaged, Welford said, and until cleanup is completed, the school building is being used as sleeping quarters. Efforts to reach Fountain on Sunday were unsuccessful. He took over Bethel Boys Academy from his father, Herman Fountain, nearly two years ago. Bethel Boys Academy has a history of abuse allegations and state investigations dating to 1988, when 72 children were removed by state welfare officials. In 1990, a judge closed the school, then owned by Herman Fountain Sr. In 1994, Fountain reopened it as Bethel Boys Academy. Early this year, the school changed its name to Eagle Point Christian Academy. John Fountain said the name change is an effort to disassociate the school from the past allegations.

George-Greene Correctional Facility
George, Mississippi
Corrections Management Services
March 13, 2003
The warden of the George-Greene Correctional Facility has been relieved of his duties.  George County Sheriff Don Parnell said Michael Bernhardt was not complying with Mississippi Department of Corrections procedure.  After consulting with a representative of Corrections Management Services Inc., Parnell decided that Bernhardt's services were no longer needed.  (Clarion Ledger)

Grenada County Detention Center
Grenada, Mississippi
GEO Group (formerly Correctional Services Corporation)

May 19, 2008 AP
A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Carroll County in 2006 by the estate of a woman who died in the back of a sheriff's deputy's squad car. The family of Debbie Loggins had sought $10 million from the county. U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock ruled this past week that Loggins' death did not result from force used by three deputies when they arrested her Sept. 17, 2005. A $15 million lawsuit against the deputies - Michael Spellman, Charles Jones and David Mims - was dismissed in December 2006. "She died, and it was unfortunate, absolutely tragic, that one would pass away, but it had little to do with the actions of the officers," said Michael Wolf, a Jackson attorney who represented Carroll County and the deputies. Loggins, 33, of North Carrollton, had been charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. She was unconscious when she arrived at a private prison in Grenada, authorities said. Deputies had arrested Loggins, the mother of six, after responding to a report of two women fighting. Two hours later, Loggins was dead. Authorities said an autopsy showed no signs or evidence of trauma.

May 28, 2006 Daily Star
The operators of the Grenada County Jail have told county officials they plan to give it back to the county in 120 days. Geo Group, Inc., the leaser of the local correctional facility, met with Grenada County officials last week to discuss the financial shortfalls which the leaser is suffering. "We have had an initial discussion with the county and we are hoping to come to a resolution beneficial to both parties," said Pablo Paez, the Director of Corporate Relations with The Geo Group. Geo took over the county jail last year when the Florida based Correctional Service Corporation's (CSC) contract ended. Paez said yesterday that Geo is working with the county but no final decision has been made yet. Grenada County Board of Supervisors President Columbus Hankins said Geo did give a notice and they were asked to submit a proposal to the county if they had any adjustments that were to be made. "We are seeking bids for a new leaser even though it is still in the early stages," said Hankins. Hankins said it would be too expensive for the county to run the jail and the sheriff and the county is too busy to do so.

November 29, 2005 Greenwood Commonwealth
Carroll County District Attorney Doug Evans soon will receive the results of the state Highway Patrol's investigation into the death of Debbie Denise Loggins, a patrol spokeswoman says. "All investigative findings, including autopsy results, will be forwarded to the district attorney's office within the next few days," Delores Lewis said in a written statement Monday. She had been arrested for fighting and was driven from the sheriff's office in Carrollton to Grenada. She was, according to Lewis, "unresponsive upon arrival at Grenada County Correctional Services Corp., a private prison in Grenada."

November 29, 2005 Sun Herald
An autopsy is complete on the body of a North Carrollton woman who died in September after being found unconscious in the back of a Carroll County Sheriff's deputy's car, the Mississippi Highway Patrol says. "All investigative findings, including autopsy results, will be forwarded to the district attorney's office within the next few days," Highway Patrol spokesman Delores Lewis said. Debbie Denise Loggins, 33, had been charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. She was unconscious when she arrived at a private prison in Grenada, authorities said. Sheriff Don Gray has said he is confident the final autopsy report will show Loggins' death was not due to excessive force while she was in the custody of his deputies.

March 24, 2005 Sun Herald
The family of an inmate who died this past weekend during an apparent fight at the Grenada County Detention Center has filed a lawsuit against the operators of the lockup. The jail is operated by Correctional Services Corporation, a private prison company headquartered in Sarasota, Fla. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday against CSC in U.S. District Court in Oxford. It seeks unspecified damages. CSC will have 20 days to respond. Grenada County Sheriff Alton Strider identified the dead inmate as Kenneth Kendall, 22, of Grenada. He said Kendall was killed Sunday night in his cell. An autopsy has been ordered. Kendall was serving a 30-day sentence for failing to pay fines, authorities said. Jay Westfaul, an Oxford attorney representing the Kendall family, said Thursday that the sheriff and Grenada County are not defendants in the lawsuit but that may change once the investigation and autopsy are completed. "Jails and prisons should be run by governmental entities not private corporations out to make a profit," Westfaul said in a statement. Westfaul said the lawsuit alleges the facility was understaffed at the time of the incident and that Kendall was placed in an area with "hardened criminals, many of whom were being held for capital murder."

March 22, 2005 ZWire
A young man killed during an attack in the county jail was serving time for contempt of court, according to authorities.   The inmate beaten to death at Correctional Services Corporation (CSC) had been in jail for the charges related to fines owed to the city. According to Grenada County Sheriff Alton Strider, Kenneth Kendall, 22, of Grenada was being held at CSC on contempt fines. Kendall died in what the sheriff called an altercation with other inmates in his cell. According to Grenada County Justice Court Clerk Brenda Mullen, a simple assault charge against Kendall had been remanded by the county; he remained in jail on the charge from the Grenada Police Department. The investigation is continuing. Information about charges related to the death was not available at press time.

Hinds County Jail
Hinds, Mississippi
Wright Security
December 17, 2002
A Hinds County jail inmate who got past a security guards assigned to watch him at a Jackson hospital and ran off naked was captured Monday, officials said.  "Jordan was last seen running naked across the parking lot," Sheriff Malcolm McMillin said before Jordan was captured.  Wright Security guards inmates when they are hospitalized, Pickett said.  Stanley Wright, the company owner, couldn't be reached for comment Monday.  (Clarion Ledger)

Jackson County Adult Detention Center
Pascagoula, Mississippi
Aramark
February 26, 2009 The Mississippi Press
State health officials said they have not yet determined the cause of a salmonella outbreak earlier this month at the Jackson County Adult Detention Center, but that the illness has been contained. State Health Department spokeswoman Liz Sharlot said Wednesday that the investigation into the cause may take up to four weeks to complete. Aramark spokeswoman Sarah Jarvis said the food service company is working with state health officials in the investigation. Aramark has been the food service provider for the jail for at least 16 years, and the company purchases and prepares all food at the jail, according to the county. "There were 80 inmates who complained of flu-like symptoms, but there were only four that the hospital determined had salmonella," Jarvis said. She noted the illness could have come from something other than a food item, such as improper hand washing or improper storage of food. "We are looking at everything," she said. Sharlot confirmed 80 inmates complained of symptoms between Feb. 6 and 14 but couldn't say how many of those had salmonella.

February 19, 2009 The Mississippi Press
State Health Department officials were trying to determine Wednesday what gave 80 maximum-security inmates food poisoning beginning last week and resulted in five prisoners being taken to a local hospital this week. Liz Sharolt, director of communications with the state Health Department, said there were 80 prisoners in the Jackson County Adult Detention Center complaining of gastrointestinal illness, or salmonella sickness, from Feb. 6-14. "But, the illness has run its course, and there are no new cases to report," she said. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd said Wednesday five inmates were taken to Singing River Hospital on Monday, where it was confirmed that they had a salmonella-related illness. The sheriff said four prisoners were treated and released Monday, but one inmate remained hospitalized Wednesday afternoon. The inmate was in good condition Wednesday, Byrd said, and should be released soon. "They mainly suffered from diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and throwing up," Byrd said. He added that two prisoners experienced a low-grade fever. Byrd said he believes the bacterial food-borne illness was not caused by peanuts or peanut butter, but possibly by lettuce. He added that ARAMARK World has been the food service provider for the jail for at least 16 years. The company purchases and prepares all food at the jail. Byrd said the international company is conducting an independent investigation. Officials with ARAMARK's home office in Philadelphia, Pa., were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

September 27, 2006 The Mississippi Press
Overcrowding at the Jackson County Adult Detention Center should ease in the near future. The Jackson County Board of Supervisors approved an additional steel fabricated facility on the ADC grounds in Pascagoula. The $1.2 million facility will house 116 inmates. It is expected to be ready in five months. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd said relief from overcrowding is a critical issue. "We're just doing what we have to do to maintain what we have. It's very stressful. We have done shakedowns where we have found weapons which is very dangerous to officers. We had a contract employee with Aramark, we just caught her last week bringing drugs into the facility. Everyday is a challenge just to maintain things on a day to day basis," Byrd said.

Jackson County Youth Court
Pascagoula, Mississippi

Mississippi Security Police
July 12, 2011 The Sun Herald
Police removed four juveniles from Jackson County’s Youth Court jail Tuesday morning and arrested them as adults on charges of kidnapping and armed robbery in last week’s “take-over” style escape attempt at the youth jail, Pascagoula Lt. James DeShannon Massey said. Police identified the suspects as Victor Otempong, Calip Johnson and Christopher Kutteroff, all 16, and Jamal Williams, 15. There were two other juveniles involved in the escape attempt, Massey said, who are each charged as juveniles with escape. “Four of them (those charged as adults) did the initial takeover,” Massey explained, “and let the other two out of their cells.” As a result, he said, the two other juveniles were not charged as a adults because the accusations against them failed to meet state statute requirements for charging them as adults. The takeover started after four of the teens gained control over the security guards, all employees of the independent firm, Mississippi Security Police, and grabbed the keys to unlock their cells. After getting out, the four of them unlocked the cells of the two other juveniles accused in the case. All six are accused of holding Youth Court intake personnel against their will until the workers were able to place a call to Pascagoula police to say they were being held hostage inside the locked complex off Telephone Road. When police arrived, the intake personnel assisted officers trying to gain access. Once inside, Pascagoula police and MSP guards regained control, arresting all six of the individuals accused in the case. Two MSP officers suffered injuries, with both sent to Singing River Hospital for treatment. At a Jackson County supervisors meeting Monday, it was noted that one of the security guards had suffered a broken arm.

Marshall County Correctional Facility
Marshall County, Mississippi
MTC (formerly run by GEO Group)
MDOC Sticks with Private Prisons: Jackson Free Press, June 13, 2012. MDOC chooses MTC to take over where GEO failed. What are they smoking?

June 7, 2012 WTOK
MTC will officially take over operation at East Mississippi Correctional Facility on July 9th. The company got its start working with young people outside the corrections system. The Vice President of Corrections at MTC explained the company's history via a video news release. "We started 30 years ago by providing training for young adults to succeed in life," says Odie Washington, "we've taken that and applied it to our corrections division. "All you are going to see is a change in the name over the door," that's the opinion of Frank Smith, a private prison watchdog, "it's not going to be a change in operations." Smith works as a consultant for Private Corrections Working Group. "The problem is there is such turnover that there is no mentoring process so everybody is just kind of new on the job, and they don't know what to do when the problems arise." MTC officials say they plan on providing EMCF with all the resources it needs to operate effectively. "We'll provide each facility the resources necessary for them to operate safely and effectively," says Washington, and we look forward to applying these high standards to our new Mississippi facilities as well." Only time will tell whether MTC will have a successful run in the Magnolia State.

June 7, 2012 AP
A Utah-based private prison operator will take over management of three Mississippi correctional institutions beginning in July. Management & Training Corporation of Centreville, Utah, has signed 10-year operating contracts for the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near the Lost Gap community beginning July 2; Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove on July 9; and the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs on Aug. 13. Financial details of the contracts were not made public. The announcement came Thursday by the company and the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The Corrections Department and the GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., in April agreed to end GEO's management contract at the three prisons. At the time Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps told the AP that the department felt it might get a better price if all three prisons were presented as a package to other corrections management companies. "The Mississippi Department of Corrections is looking forward to a great partnership with MTC," Epps said in a statement Thursday. "There is a need for different types of prisons, including state and regional as well as private facilities in Mississippi. MTC will be held to the same high standards as set by MDOC and I feel extremely confident that MTC will do a great job." "We look forward to the opportunity to work in Mississippi," said MTC senior vice president of corrections Odie Washington in the statement. "We have partnered with state and federal governments in operating correctional facilities for the past 25 years, and have a strong record of providing safe, secure and well-run facilities."

May 20, 2012 WLBT
A celebration in Smith Park commemorated changes at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. The Friends and Family Members of Youth Incarcerated at Walnut Grove held a rally Sunday morning. Parents of children at the facility thanked department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps for ending the private prison contract with the GEO Group. They said their children were mistreated under the company's management from being denied medical treatment to education. "I would like to urge the commissioner to continue to do the right thing by our children and to not allow another private, for profit company to take over Walnut Grove," said Walnut Grove parent Kimberly Carson. "The GEO Group is making money off of these young men. They don't seem willing to spend any of that money to make sure they have been properly rehabilitated," said Walnut Grove parent Marietta Larry. GEO managed Walnut Grove and the East Mississippi and Marshall County Correctional facilities until last month.

April 20, 2012 AP
The Mississippi Department of Corrections says GEO Group Inc., one of the country's largest private prison operators, will no longer manage three facilities in Mississippi. On Thursday, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company said it was backing out of a contract to manage the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near the Lost Gap community by July 19. Company officials told The Associated Press on Friday that it had nothing else to say. Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps told the AP on Friday that the department felt it might get a better price if all three prisons were presented as a package to other corrections management companies. Epps said he would expect GEO Group to end its ties to the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove and Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs by July 20. "We feel this may be a golden opportunity to provide a better price for the taxpayers of the state and at the same time maybe do a better job in the operation of the facilities," Epps said. "That's what I would like to see." Epps said there was some concern at MDOC about incidents at all three prisons. The Walnut Grove facility is presently under a federal court order to remove juvenile inmates amid allegations of physical and sexual abuse. That court order came in a settlement of a lawsuit filed against Walnut Grove in 2010. GEO Group has repeatedly declined to comment on the lawsuit. Epps has said his plan is to send the 17-and-younger inmates to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County by Oct. 1. He said there are about 1,000 vacant beds at that prison now, so there is no need for a new building. Walnut Grove also houses adults. They would remain there under a settlement that ended a 2010 lawsuit. Epps said Friday that local authority boards deal with management contracts at EMCF and Walnut Grove with MDOC help. He said MDOC works directly with vendors at Marshall County. "There are a lot of these management companies out there. We're reaching out to those private operators to see what the best proposal is we might get," he said. In its announcement, GEO chairman/CEO George C. Zoley said EMCF was "financially underperforming." GEO Group vice president Pablo E. Paez said Friday the company would have no other comment.

April 19, 2009 AP
The Mississippi Supreme Court has reinstated a lawsuit filed by a former inmate at the Marshall County Correctional Facility over conditions at the private prison. The Supreme Court said Thursday that a Marshall County judge erred in dismissing the lawsuit. The justices said the judge erroneously considered Dennis Dobbs' lawsuit as an appeal of his assault conviction in Clay County. Dobbs has completed his sentenced and has been released, according to court records. Dobbs had sued in 2006 over conditions at the prison near Holly Springs. He complained of a lack of air conditioning and fire safety concerns. The Supreme Court says Dobbs' lawsuit for what he characterized as "inhumane" conditions at the Marshall County prison should be heard.

April 5, 2001
An autopsy shows a 24-year-old inmate from Shannon, Mississippi died of head injuries apparently inflicted during a confrontation with other prisoners, state officials say.  Daniel Underwood was pronounced dead this past weekend at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis.  Chris Epps, the Corrections Department's deputy commissioner of institutions, said Monday an investigation showed Underwood was attacked by another inmate at the Marshall County Correctional Facility on  March 27.  Epps said a second inmate apparently assisted in the attack by standing in a position that kept security personnel from seeing the incident.  The Marshall County prison is managed by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation. (AP)

August 8, 2001
Hours before they made controversial 11th-hour changes to legislation this year that would guarantee private prisons more state funding, two key state senators dined at an upscale restaurant here with executives and lobbyists from one of those prison companies.  "I try to report everything I do - what I pay for," said Al Sage, a lobbyist for Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which runs a private 1,000-bed prison in Holly Springs.  Sage readily acknowledged the dinner but said he didn't pay for it.  So he didn't report it.  Rather, said Sage, executives from Wackenhut picked up the tab for Sens. Jack Gordon (D-Okolona) and Bunky Huggins (R-Greenwood) - two of three senators who had to approve the crucial change in the final version of the bill.  And since Wackenhut officials, not Sage, purchased the meal, it won't appear on any disclosure forms until 2002 at the earliest.  Companies that hire lobbyist file annual reports every January.  (AP)

March 28, 2001
The president of the company running Marshall County Correctional Facility says Mississippi should honor its commitment to fill the 1,000-bed private prison--even though the state's corrections commissioner says it doesn't have the inmates to do so. Wayne Calabrese, president and chief operating officers of Florida-based Wackenhut Correction Corp., said Tuesday that the number of inmates at the prison is important to operations. "I think it's fair to say the state invited private companies into the state of Mississippi to design, build and operate facilities to the states specifications and size. We want to make sure the price we gave the state, which was based on full or nearly full occupancy, is in fact what we receive," Calabrese said. Taxpayers would have to pay about $2 million a year to private prisons and about $4 million to 10 regional prisons for "ghost inmates" according to Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson. Johnson said the state doesn't have inmates to meet the obligations under bill. (Clarion Ledger)

Mississippi Department of Corrections
GEO Group, MTC, Wexford (formerly run by Correctional Medical Services)
MDOC Sticks with Private Prisons: Jackson Free Press, June 13, 2012. MDOC chooses MTC to take over where GEO failed. What are they smoking?

November 12, 2014   jacksonfreepress.com                    

MDOC Scandal Highlights Privatization Problems

Facing a federal magistrate judge in Jackson, Chris Epps and Cecil McCrory made a curious pair.

Until the news of his indictment on federal corruption charges broke last week, Epps, 53, had been the only African American director of a Mississippi agency, the state Department of Corrections. Despite receiving his appointment to one of the most visible posts in state government from Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Epps was also able to survive Mississippi's hyper-partisan government, later serving under conservative Republicans Haley Barbour and Phil Bryant. McCrory, Epps' alleged co-conspirator, seemed to have been a key cog in that system. A former legislator who held a number of elected political positions as a Republican, McCrory knew all the ins and outs of state government. During his time in the Legislature, he served on the Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER), the very agency that would later raise questions about McCrory's business dealings with the state. Together, they allegedly had what one federal official called a decade-long "criminal partnership" that involved bribes and kickbacks in exchange for Epps steering business to McCrory's companies that contracted with the Mississippi Department of Corrections. At their arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Ball, both men pleaded not guilty on all counts. Neither defendant gave statements in the courtroom or to reporters after the hearing. John M. Colette, Epps' attorney, said he had not fully reviewed the lengthy indictment and also declined to answer reporters' questions outside the federal courthouse. Harold Brittain, the acting U.S. attorney in this case, said the indictment reveals "systemic, invasive corruption" at the MDOC—and people who advocate for greater oversight of the role of private corrections companies in government spending agree. Business and Politics The alleged activities outlined in the indictment began seven years ago, in November 2007, when Epps signed a no-bid contract with G.T. Enterprises for commissary services at state prisons. That year, McCrory paid Epps $3,000 to $4,000 on about 15 occasions in exchange for the contract that McCrory's company's had with MDOC. That contract was later transferred to St. Louis, Mo.-based Keefe Commissary Network LLC., which resulted in a large profit for McCrory, the indictment states. Keefe Commissary is a division of St. Louis-based Centric Group, which operates several businesses that provide services to jails and prisons in more than 30 states. Chaired by Andrew C. Taylor, executive chairman of Enterprise Holdings Inc., which owns Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Centric is a privately held firm that reported just over $1 billion in revenues in 2012. Taylor, along with his father, Jack, who founded Enterprise in 1957, are also influential players in Republican politics. At the federal level, the Taylor family has donated $1 million to various Republican candidates and conservative causes since 2012, including to the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the upper chamber of Congress. The Taylors as well as Enterprise Holdings' political-action committee also donate heavily to Republicans at the state level, mostly in Missouri, although campaign-finance records reveal the Taylors have also contributed in other states where they have business interests. Enterprise, Keefe and the Taylors personally represent more than $25,000 in political donations to Mississippi Republicans, including former Gov. Haley Barbour and current Gov. Phil Bryant. Ann Ponciroli, a Keefe spokeswoman, said the company had no knowledge of his role in the alleged plot before the indictment against McCrory and Epps was unsealed. She added that Centric Group "paid fair market value" to McCrory for G.T. Enterprises and that the company has not been contacted regarding the Mississippi investigation. She also said Keefe ended a consulting agreement the company had with McCrory on Nov. 6. 'Very, Very Corrupt Industry' The companies connected to McCrory were also involved in Mississippi politics. McCrory, who was a registered lobbyist for several organizations after he lost his seat in the Legislature to fellow Republican John Moore, has also doled out campaign cash. Most of his donations—$5,500—went to Gov. Barbour, while Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves also received payments of $1,500 and $1,300 respectively. Several other Republican elected officials have received similar donations from McCrory, including Public Service Commissioner Lynn Posey, Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. Former Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck also received contributions from McCrory as well. A search of state campaign-finance records show that Epps made two contributions totaling $225 to former Gov. Musgrove, a Democrat, in 2003. When the Jackson Free Press asked Reeves' campaign manager, Justin Brasell, about the McCrory donation, he said the lieutenant governor will pass it along as a donation to the Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi. Bryant told the Associated Press he would make a contribution to the Salvation Army to match the amount he received from McCrory. With the nation's largest private prison operators earning more than $3 billion in revenue, private-prison and government watchdogs say the opportunity for the brand of corruption alleged against Epps and McCrory is great. "It's a very, very corrupt industry," said Frank Smith, founder of the Private Corrections Institute, which monitors prison privatization issues around the nation. Smith said the profit motive of private businesses represents a magnet for corruption that doesn't exist in public prison systems. In 2012, two businessmen in Gainesville, Fla., were sentenced to federal prison for a kickback conspiracy related a prison commissary contract in that state also involving Keefe. In that scheme, federal prosecutors said Edward Lee Dugger and Joseph Arthur Deese paid two high-ranking Florida Department of Corrections officials $130,000 in kickbacks. According to court documents, the FDOC officials arranged for Deese and Duggar to subcontract with Keefe and the men would kickback a portion of the proceeds to the FDOC officials. The scheme in which Epps and McCrory are accused worked in much the same way. Sometime in 2008, the feds say, Epps asked McCrory to pay off the mortgage on his home. Between July and October 2008, McCrory purchased two cashier's checks totaling $200,000 payable to Countrywide Bank, which held Epps' home mortgage. Later that year, Epps signed a lease between MDOC and College Street Leasing to operate a new inmate transitional facility in Walnut Grove, Miss., where MDOC has a prison that Utah-based MTC runs. In 2012, MTC hired McCrory as a consultant earning $12,000 per month. In a statement to news media, MTC communications directory Issa Arnita said the company "hired Mr. McCrory as a consultant because of his many years of experience working in the state." Arnita added that MTC regularly hires consultants in states where they contract. "At no time did Mr. Epps instruct or mandate MTC to hire Mr. McCrory. In light of the indictment, MTC cancelled its contract with Mr. McCrory last week," Arnita said. No Oversight It's unclear when the alleged Epps-McCrory plan might have come to light. Mississippi State Auditor Stacey Pickering said his office began receiving complaints around 201l, including one from the sheriff of Leake County, where Walnut Grove is located. Sheriff Greg Waggoner confirmed that he filed a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but did not provide additional details. Pickering called the charges "a black eye on the state." In the meantime, Gov. Phil Bryant has ordered a review of all MDOC contracts. That includes negotiations on four private prison contracts, which MDOC terminated earlier this year to invite new proposals in hopes of saving money. Utah-based MTC, which had been running the prisons, will continue to manage the facilities under their original contract and plans to rebid if new proposals are sought. MDOC officials said that an initial review resulted in the termination of two contracts with Adminpros LLC, of which McCrory was an owner. Despite PEER's criticism of Epps' no-bid contract for commissary services in 2011, policymakers failed then to take action on the report. Rick Ward, a former official with the Mississippi Gaming Commission, called PEER, which performs thorough investigations but lacks any enforcement power, a paper tiger. "The problems is you've got members of the Legislature on the commission—that's like the fox guarding the henhouse," Ward said. "It's a waste of our taxpayer dollars."


Nov 14, 2014 clarionledger.com
Mississippi prison finance officer once convicted of embezzlement

Jimmie E. Gates, The Clarion-Ledger 2:25 p.m. CST November 14, 2014

The finance manager of the private run East Mississippi Corrections Facility in Meridian is the same person that Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned in January 2012 for embezzlement. A woman convicted of embezzlement and later pardoned by Gov. Haley Barbour is now the finance manager of the private run East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian. Jessie Octavia Houston has worked at the private prison since July 2012. A federal lawsuit was recently filed over conditions at East Mississippi Correctional Facility, which houses many suffering from mental illness. The lawsuit calls the prison "barbaric" and said inmates are beaten, exploited and mistreated by gangs and others. Houston couldn't be reached for comment. A message was left on her voicemail at East Mississippi Correctional Facility. Utah-based Management & Training Corp. took over the Meridian prison in July 2012. MTC is responsible for hiring the personnel. "While MTC does not comment on personnel matters, it's our policy to submit requests for background checks to the Mississippi Department of Corrections for all new hires," said MTC spokesman Issa Arnita. "When there's a question about the results of a background check, we carefully consider whether or not to hire an individual," Arnita said. "In reference to this particular case, we believe the granting of an unconditional pardon fully restores an individual's civil rights that were lost after a conviction and restores the person's innocence as though he or she never committed a crime." Houston was one of numerous people with a criminal record who Barbour pardoned or gave clemency to as he was leaving office. Records show Houston, 42, was sentenced in September 2002 to 60 months of probation. Her probation ended in 2007. The Clarion-Ledger was unable to find out how much money Houston was convicted of embezzling. An employee in the Lauderdale County Circuit Clerk's office said that technically there is no criminal record of Houston anymore in the clerk's office since she received a full and complete pardon. Legislation passed last year said government agencies or public bodies can't hire people convicted of government embezzlement for positions in which they would handle money. It was amended this year. State Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, who authored this year's bill, to make it pply to existing public employees or future employees. "We don't want them back on the public dole," Hopson said. But the bill wouldn't apply to Houston since she wouldn't be considered a public employee and it's not known whether her embezzlement case involved public funds. "We must be diligent in protecting the taxpayers' money, which is why the legislature recently passed a law prohibiting those convicted of embezzlement from working in a public capacity," said state Sen. Brice Wiggins, a former prosecutor. "That being said, we can't legislate every conceivable scenario. At some point, those who want to do wrong will find a way no matter how many laws we pass." Wiggins said private businesses, are just that, private and who they choose to hire and fire is their business. "I would hope, however, that if a private company intends to do business with the state that it take the necessary precautions to protect the taxpayers' interest," Wiggins said.

 

Nov 11, 2014 clarionledger.com
MDOC contractor fires McCrory, confirms claims

One of Mississippi Department of Corrections' largest contractors confirmed claims in a 49-count federal indictment against former Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps and Rankin County businessman Cecil McCrory. Utah-based Management & Training Corporation said in a lengthy statement issued Monday that immediately after winning contracts to run three Mississippi prisons in the summer of 2012, Epps recommended the company hire McCrory as a $12,000-per-month consultant. The men allegedly then split those payments as part of a massive kickback scheme in which McCrory paid Epps nearly $1 million in exchange for nearly $1 billion in contracts benefiting his various business interests, according to the indictment. Epps and McCrory both pleaded not guilty Thursday in federal court. Each could face more than 200 years behind bars if convicted. "We deeply regret that in this case we didn't have any idea that improprieties may have taken place, especially in light of the significant allegations in the indictment," MTC spokesman Issa Arnita said in the statement. According to the indictment, "Epps had personally negotiated McCrory's consulting fee, telling McCrory later, 'I got us $12,000 per month.' " Arnita confirmed that "MTC paid Mr. McCrory $12,000 per month for his work, after Mr. Epps told us that is what others had been paying him." The company ended its relationship with McCrory last week, Arnita said. Epps signed his first contract with MTC to operate Marshall County Correctional Facility, effective Aug. 13, 2012, according to documents obtained by The Clarion-Ledger. Eight days later, the indictment states, McCrory wired $34,000 from his bank to Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to pay down the loan on Epps' beachfront condo in Biloxi. Less than a month after that payment, Epps signed another contract with MTC, on Sept. 14, 2012, to operate East Mississippi Correctional Facility. Eleven days later, McCrory wired $14,000 from his bank to Well Fargo. And on Oct. 18, Epps signed yet another contract with MTC, this time to operate East Mississippi Correctional Facility. Although Epps recommended MTC hire McCrory, he did not mandate nor require it, Arnita said. "MTC hired Mr. McCrory as a consultant because of his many years of experience working in the state," Arnita said. "Mr. McCrory had been working with the previous prison contractor and other vendors so MTC felt his services would be beneficial given his knowledge and experience." Arnita also said MTC won the contracts through a "competitive procurement process where multiple companies were invited to tour facilities and submit bids." The first payment to McCrory was sent in July 2012, Arnita said, adding that although the contracts were executed later in the summer, they actually were awarded in early June. From July 2012 through early November, McCrory and Epps would have split $336,000. MTC won a fourth contract in July 2013 to operate Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, just five months after yet another wire transfer from McCrory — this time for $40,000 to Epps' Edward Jones investment account. Altogether, the state Department of Corrections has paid MTC $114,643,308 since August 2013, according to the state's transparency website and SeeTheSpending.org, a website operated by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy that tracks the spending of public dollars. It's unclear how much longer the company will retain its contracts, though. Even before Gov. Phil Bryant's announcement on Thursday that the state would rebid all contracts held by firms cited in the indictment, Epps already had ordered MTC's contracts to be rebid. Epps had said in an August news release that the four facilities required more security staff and that he was rebidding the contracts, which would go into effect Dec. 1. MTC and New Jersey-based Community Education Centers both had bid, but Bryant suspended the process. MTC continues to run the four facilities in the meantime. "We fully support the government's investigation to learn what happened and to take appropriate action," Arnita said. "We also believe the state of Mississippi made the right decision in reviewing all current corrections contracts including suspending the procurement process for the four private prison contracts which we hold."

FULL STATEMENT FROM MTC:

We're saddened, surprised and disappointed by the allegations against former Commissioner Chris Epps. MTC was hired in 2012 to operate three prisons for the state after a competitive procurement process where multiple companies were invited to tour facilities and submit bids. MTC was brought in with the primary objective of improving the overall operations of these facilities. In 2013, we submitted a proposal to operate a fourth prison for the state during an open and competitive procurement (RFP 13-005) with the same mission. MTC worked very closely with Mr. Epps over the last two years in implementing changes to these facilities that would improve security and the treatment of offenders. He was very involved in the management of our four contracts. He knew of the challenges we faced and was working closely with us to overcome them. In partnership with the state and with their support, MTC has made significant improvements at all four facilities and continues to make great strides. Soon after being awarded the contracts in 2012, Mr. Epps recommended MTC work with Cecil McCrory to provide services within the state of Mississippi. Mr. Epps also made us aware of the fee McCrory had charged in the past to other contractors. MTC hired Mr. McCrory as a consultant because of his many years of experience working in the state. Mr. McCrory had been working with the previous prison contractor and other vendors so MTC felt his services would be beneficial given his knowledge and experience. MTC paid Mr. McCrory $12,000 per month for his work, after Mr. Epps told us that is what others had been paying him. MTC hires consultants in every state where we provide services to the state. Mr. McCrory's services included working with counties to explore possible business opportunities, coordinating with local and state officials to strengthen MTC's relationship within the state, and networking at various industry conferences. He worked at length to investigate a potential bid for a federal corrections contract in Mississippi. At no time did Mr. Epps instruct or mandate MTC to hire Mr. McCrory. In light of the indictment, MTC cancelled its contract with Mr. McCrory last week. Each month, MTC received an invoice from Mr. McCrory and paid it in full just as we would any other invoice. MTC was not aware of any alleged inappropriate relationships between Mr. Epps and Mr. McCrory or that Mr. Epps was allegedly a participant in any way in the contract with McCrory. We fully support the government's investigation to learn what happened and to take appropriate action. We also believe the state of Mississippi made the right decision in reviewing all current corrections contracts including suspending the procurement process for the four private prison contracts which we hold. The integrity of contracting is of paramount importance to the state as well as to MTC. All MTC employees are required to take ethics training and are held to the highest standards of ethical conduct. We deeply regret that in this case we didn't have any idea that improprieties may have taken place, especially in light of the significant allegations in the indictment.


Nov 7, 2014 clarionledger.com

State Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps and Rankin County School Board President Cecil McCrory will be arraigned in federal court today on a 49-count federal indictment. BREAKING: For Thursday updates to this story as it breaks, click here. Epps has abruptly resigned amid a federal investigation and the U.S. Attorney's Office has moved to seize his $359,000 Flowood home, his beachfront condo in Pass Christian and two Mercedes Benz sedans. Epps resigned his $132,700-a-year government job on Wednesday, with a brief letter to Gov. Phil Bryant. McCrory also abruptly resigned his school board post on Wednesday. McCrory is listed as an owner of companies that have done business with the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Neither Epps nor McCrory responded to calls for comment on Wednesday. Epps submitted a short resignation letter to Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday, saying, "I am retiring effective immediately today, Nov. 5, 2014," and thanking Bryant for "the opportunity to serve under your leadership."  Epps also sent a message to MDOC employees that said: "I am resigning my position as commissioner effective today, immediately, Nov. 5, 2014, and retiring after 32.9 years of service. I love this agency, and I love you, the people who make up this agency. I thank all of you for your support." Bryant spokesman Knox Graham had little comment on Epps' resignation. "The governor has accepted Commissioner Epps' resignation ... I don't know anything beyond that at this point," Graham said. Later, he sent out a notice that MDOC Deputy Commissioner Richard McCarty will lead the agency as a search begins for a permanent replacement for Epps. State Auditor Stacey Pickering said he was aware of Epps' resignation, but, "I cannot make further comment at this time." House Corrections Chairman Tommy Taylor said he had received calls Wednesday "saying (Epps) is going to resign effective today," but had no further details. Taylor said in general, "You never like to hear about someone serving the public losing their integrity." Epps, 53, is the longest serving corrections commissioner in the the state's history, first appointed by then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in 2002. Epps currently serves as president of both the American Correctional Association and the Association of State Correctional Administrators. Epps started his career with the Department of Corrections in 1982 as a correctional officer at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Epps has been in the news recently, as part of The Clarion-Ledger's month-long series of stories on widespread problems in the state's correctional system.

 

Nov 7, 2014 PCWG Mississippi Business Journal
A 49-count federal indictment charges former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps, who resigned abruptly this week, with accepting more than $700,000 in bribes from a Rankin County businessman. The indictment unsealed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Jackson also charges Cecil McCrory of Brandon and says he paid Epps to obtain contracts for himself and other companies. The indictment says McCrory was a paid consultant for companies that received contracts from the Corrections Department to run private prisons, including Cornell Group, GEO Group and current contractor Management and Training Corp. The companies were named in the indictment but not charged. Epps is charged in 35 counts, while McCrory is charged in 15. The indictment charges Epps used the money from McCrory to pay mortgages on a house in Flowood and a condominium in coastal Pass Christian. Epps resigned yesterday and did not respond to phone messages yesterday and today seeking comment. The indictment was filed under seal in August. The earliest incident has been chronicled in a report by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, which said that McCrory’s company, G.T. Enterprises, won a no-bid contract to provide commissary services to the prison system. But the indictment goes on to chronicle dozens of bribes and acts by Epps after that. The allegations portray Epps as a willing participant in the schemes, recounting a 2012 conversation in which Epps told McCrory that he had persuaded MTC to hire McCrory as a consultant, with McCrory and Epps splitting the money after taxes. “I got us $12,000 per month,” the indictment states. The indictment says Epps kept the cash in safe at the house. Federal authorities are now trying to seize the house, the condo, two cars and multiple bank accounts. Epps resigned yesterday, but federal authorities filed to seize his house in March. McCrory, who served two terms in the state house from 1988 to 1996, was a member of the Rankin County school board until he resigned Tuesday. Sheila Wilbanks, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said U.S. Attorney Greg Davis recused himself from the case.


Nov 7, 2014 clarionledger.com
Companies tied to embattled Rankin County businessman and former state legislator Cecil McCrory earned nearly a billion dollars' worth of contracts from the Mississippi Department of Corrections, records show. McCrory, 62, appeared in federal court today along with former state corrections commissioner Christopher Epps, where both pleaded not guilty to 49 counts of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud. They were each released on $25,000 unsecure bonds. A trial is set for Jan. 5. The charges relate to an alleged scheme in which McCrory paid Epps nearly $1 million over the course of several years in exchange for contracts benefiting his companies and the companies for whom he earned consulting fees, according to the federal indictment unsealed on Thursday. Gov. Phil Bryant said through his spokesman Knox Graham that the state will rebid contracts with all firms mentioned in the indictment. MDOC already cancelled two of them based on an initial review, it said in a press release. Epps, 53, abruptly resigned his post on Wednesday. McCrory stepped down the same day from his position on the Rankin County School Board. Neither has returned calls. According to the indictment, McCrory owned several companies that did business with MDOC, including College Street Leasing LLC and American Transition Services LLC. Those companies earned a combined $2,629,260 in contracts from the agency, according to records on the state's transparency website and on SeeTheSpending.org, a website operated by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy that tracks the spending of public dollars. McCrory also received consulting fees from several companies that won contracts with MDOC, including The GEO Group, Management & Training Corp., Adminpros LLC, Branon Medical Group and Wexford Health Sources Inc. Those companies earned a combined $671,245,509. That's nearly $200 for every man, woman and child in Mississippi. It's also 30 percent more than MDOC's total FY2016 state budget request of $390.5 million. Payment records date back to FY2004, but most of the money changed hands since 2007, when the scheme between McCrory and Epps is alleged to have begun. Two contracts with Adminpros LLC have been canceled as a result of the initial review, MDOC said. No one from Adminpros could be immediately reached for comment. The agency also suspended the awarding of new contracts for four private prisons and likely will request new proposals, it said. Wexford Health Sources, MTC and The GEO Group received the largest payments, each totaling between $114 million to nearly $300 million. "MTC hires consultants in every state where we provide services for the state," said spokesman Issa Arnita. "In 2012, MTC hired Mr. Cecil McCrory as a consultant. At no time was MTC aware of any alleged inappropriate relationships between Mr. Epps and Mr. McCrory or that Mr. Epps was allegedly a participant in any way in the contract." Arnita declined to disclose how much MTC paid McCrory for his consulting services, citing confidentiality. Wexford and The GEO Group did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. What about G.T. and Keefe ? The Clarion-Ledger was unable to locate contract records for several other companies named in the indictment, including G.T. Enterprises and Keefe Commissary Network. Both were cited in a 2011 PEER report that criticized Epps' no-bid contract for canteen services. In November 2007, MDOC contracted with McCrory-owned G.T. Enterprises for commissary services in its facilities. Four months later, G.T. sold its business operations to the St. Louis, Missouri-based Keefe Commissary, according to the PEER report. The indictment claims that McCrory served as a paid consultant for Keefe, which earned a 71-75 percent commission on total commissary sales depending on the type of facility. Between November 2007 and November 2011, those sales totaled roughly $24.1 million, the PEER report found. "Of this amount, MDOC paid $16.4 million for the cost of commissary goods sold and Keefe's share of the profits," the report says. "The remaining $7.6 million represents MDOC's share of profits from commissary operations." Keefe spokeswoman Ann Ponciroli confirmed that part of the acquisition of G.T. Enterprises included paying consulting fees to McCrory but that the company had no knowledge of or participation in the alleged kickback scheme as detailed in the indictment. She also said no one has contacted the company regarding the investigation. McCrory's son, attorney Josh McCrory, represented G.T. and Keefe in a 2010 lawsuit by an inmate alleging the the companies sold tobacco products in MDOC facilities that exposed him to second-hand smoke. The inmate, James Stern, lost that case and a subsequent appeal. This is not the first federal indictment involving a Keefe Commissary-connected kickback scheme. Two Florida Department of Corrections officials pleaded guilty in 2007 to taking $130,000 in kickbacks from local businessmen who sought their help convincing Keefe to use them as a subcontractor on Keefe's existing contract with the FDOC. The businessmen, who pleaded guilty in 2011, also agreed to pay two top Keefe executives a percentage of the $1.5 million a year they expected to make from sales, according to a Tampa Bay Times story. Charges were not filed on the Keefe executives.

BREAKDOWN

MDOC paid:

- College Street Leasing, LLC $1,259,724 between FY09-FY14

- American Transition Services, LLC $1,369,536 between FY09-FY12

- The GEO Group, Inc. $256,201,713

between FY04-FY12

- Management & Training Corporation $114,643,308 between FY13-Today

- Adminpros, LLC. $2,939,871 between FY09-Today

- Wexford Health Sources, Inc. $294,747,118 between FY06-Today

- Branon Medical Group $2,713,499 between FY06-FY13


Oct 12, 2014 The Clarion-Ledger

Conditions have become so terrible in some private prisons that some have been kicked out. Florida-based GEO got the boot in Mississippi after a federal judge in 2012 called the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility "a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions." In Idaho, the FBI is investigating the Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America after allegations that records were falsified to cover up staff shortages at the Idaho Correctional Center, where gangs ruled and violence was so rampant it was called "Gladiator School." A lawsuit accused the company of failing to adequately train officers, turning a blind eye to violence, failing to adequately investigate assaults, failing to discipline guards and failing to develop measures to prevent violence.

The Utah-based MTC, which operates four private prisons in Mississippi, has become the latest target of litigation. The ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center are seeking class-action certification for a lawsuit against the company for its operation of East Mississippi Correctional Facility, described in paperwork as a "barbaric" prison where inmates — most of them mentally ill — are beaten, exploited and mistreated by gangs and others. Last spring, former Washington state Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail, an expert for the plaintiffs, inspected the private prison, found defects in basic security, including cell doors that wouldn't lock and a lack of staff training. "This is a prison awash in contraband and easily accessible weapons," he said. "It is an extraordinarily dangerous prison." MTC officials said they have only been operating the prison a little more than two years and have "made significant improvements in overall safety and security and offender care. It's important to note that the individual who conducted this report is the plaintiff's witness in a lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center against the Mississippi Department of Corrections." If a federal judge does grant class-action status, the lawsuit against the private prison operator would follow in the steps of similar litigation brought against Walnut Grove Correctional Facility and the State Penitentiary at Parchman's death row and Unit 32. The Unit 32 lawsuit, brought on behalf of 1,000 prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement, railed against the horrible conditions there. Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU's National Prison Project, said Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps agreed to work with them to reduce the use of solitary. "In fact, the level of violence at Unit 32 plummeted when the Mississippi Department of Corrections radically reduced the numbers in solitary," she said. "The astounding success of this experience enabled Commissioner Epps to close down Unit 32 a few years later." Unfortunately, she said, he opened a new solitary unit at East Mississippi and handed the care of prisoners over "to private corporations operating for profit — with the disastrous results we see today." Problems have continued at Walnut Grove, where there were inmate disturbances in December and July — the last one resulting in injuries to three correctional officers, including one being stabbed in the back. MTC operates Walnut Grove, East Mississippi, Marshall County Correctional Facility and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. Issa Arnita, director of communications for MTC, said they've made great improvements at all the facilities. "And we continue to look for ways to make it even better," he said. In August, Epps opened the bidding process for a new $60.8 million contract, desiring more security officers in the private prisons. MTC, which earns annual revenues exceeding $525 million, is bidding again on the contract. So is the New Jersey-based Community Education Centers, which has run jails, but is new to the prison business. One of the biggest problems at Mississippi's private prisons — and state prisons as well — is that of contraband. Correctional officers and inmates say cellphones, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs are plentiful inside what is supposed to be a smoke-free prison. "If you wanted some ice (meth), I could walk right out of this cell door and buy you some ice," a Wilkinson inmate told The Clarion-Ledger. Contraband is so wide open at Wilkinson that last fall officers found a semi-automatic .25 caliber pistol in the cell of inmate Issac Garner, who had gone to prison for forging a check. Last month, Garner walked free on parole, never charged for possessing a firearm as a felon. Epps said MDOC recommended prosecution in Garner's case, but the district attorney's office told The Clarion-Ledger no one had ever informed them about Garner having the gun in the Wilkinson prison. Under Mississippi law, any felon convicted of possession of "any firearm or any bowie knife, dirk knife, butcher knife, switchblade knife, metallic knuckles, blackjack, or any muffler or silencer" must be sentenced to between five and 10 years in prison. State Sen. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, who introduced the law, was stunned to find out that Garner had never been charged, despite being found with a pistol inside the prison walls. Steve Pickett, chairman of the state Parole Board, said the board was never told a gun had been found inside Garner's cell at Wilkinson and would have learned so if a charge had been filed. At this point, Garner is being electronically monitored, which "is our insurance policy of closer management," Pickett said. Former Corrections Commissioner Robert L. Johnson, who co-owns Probation Services Co. of Mississippi, said privatization aimed at reducing costs, increasing efficiency and improving services. "Two of those things — efficiency and improvement — got lost while the private companies were trying to maximize profits, and the government was exulting over the 'savings,' " he said. "In other words, nobody is really minding the store." Sonja Vickers, who worked for the company at the East Mississippi, said pushing blame onto the private prison companies misses the point. "GEO is not the problem," she said. "MTC is not the problem. It's some of the people working at the facility." She said she saw some staff and more often inmates, "vicious, conniving people preying on defenseless prisoners, whose only available help was being thwarted by corruption."

Contact Jerry Mitchell at jmitchell@jackson.gannett.com or (601) 961-7064. Follow @jmitchellnews on Twitter.Fast facts: Mississippi paid $59.3 million last year to run four private prisons. Source: MDOC

Mississippi's Four Private Prisons:

• East Mississippi Correctional Facility

• Marshall County Correctional Facility

• Walnut Grove Correctional Facility
• Wilkinson County Correctional Facility

 

Oct 12, 2014 clarionledger.com
Hard look at hard time

Some inmates call this place "The Killing Field," and on May 25, the institution lived up to its name when Kendrick Walker was stabbed to death 81 times. "We're living in a Martin Scorsese movie," one inmate told The Clarion-Ledger. "We're supposed to be on lockdown, and there are guys walking around with Samurai swords — 3- or 4-foot long swords." The Clarion-Ledger could hear banging inside the prison that sounded like a busy construction site — a sound that continued for some time. Inmates told the newspaper the sound was metal striking metal as gang members made weapons. Photographs taken by inmates on cellphones inside the prison show entire walls ripped out to remove reinforcing steel, which inmates say was used to form such weapons. After viewing the pictures, former Corrections Commissioner Robert L. Johnson shook his head at what he saw. "This is incompetency at its worst," said Johnson, who opposed private prisons as commissioner. "Honestly, I think it is symptomatic of the profit motive that drives a lot of the corrections industry instead of concern for public safety." CCA, which formerly managed the prison, has annual revenues surpassing $1.7 billion, and a CEO pulling down more than $3.2 million in salary and benefits. MTC, which began managing the prison in summer 2013, earns annual revenues exceeding $525 million. Issa Arnita, MTC's director of communications, said significant improvements have been made since the company took over. "Our priority in corrections is the safety and security of our staff, offenders and the community," he said. "MTC is not driven by profit, but rather by our mission to help improve the lives of those we serve." In 1998, community leaders opened this low- to medium-security prison in hopes of providing jobs to the small town of Woodville and the surrounding area. But when the State Penitentiary at Parchman shut down its notorious Unit 32 in 2010 because of gang killings, violence and horrible conditions, corrections officials sent many of those inmates to Wilkinson, which became a maximum-security institution. With the increase of gang members and leaders came an increase in violence, prompting some inmates to refer to Wilkinson as "the new Unit 32." Between 2011 and 2013, when Corrections Corporation of America ran the prison, monthly incident reports show Wilkinson was more violent than any state prison. At Parchman, an inmate stands a one in nearly 16 chance of being assaulted. At Wilkinson, that number is one in seven. On April 19, 2013, members of the Gangster Disciples and Vice Lords had a confrontation in Wilkinson, and officials put the prison in lockdown. The next day, after being warned the gangs would fight again, officials kept inmates locked down in some pods and released others, records show. Freed from their cells, members of the Vice Lords swarmed other inmates, including Demond Flowers, stabbing him in the heart. The Flowers' family settled its lawsuit against CCA for an undisclosed amount. In the face of burgeoning problems, Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps awarded management of Wilkinson in July 2013 to MTC. "The Mississippi Department of Corrections is looking forward to a great partnership with MTC," Epps said. "There is a need for different types of prisons, including state and regional as well as private facilities in Mississippi. MTC will be held to the same high standards as set by MDOC, and I feel extremely confident that MTC will do a great job." Despite the change in management, the violence continued. Last May, 33-year-old Kendrick Walker, nicknamed "Mud Cat," was just a year from being released from prison for a 10-year sentence for drug possession and possession of a firearm. According to an investigative report, animosity existed between other inmates in Wilkinson's F pod and Walker, who was affiliated with the Bloods gang. He would get correctional officers to give him an extra food tray, leaving one inmate temporarily without, the report says. As a result of the food shortage, members of the Gangster Disciples, along with allies from the Simon City Royals, decided to attack Walker, the report says. The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of the video showing what happened. At 12:20 p.m., Walker was sitting at a table while inmates hovered on the periphery. One inmate, identified as Kerwin "Schoolboy" Franklin, broke off a broom handle and used it to stab Walker in the back as he and other inmates attacked Walker. When a fellow Blood gang member, Adrian Williams, came to Walker's aid, he was attacked. After he was stabbed down, gang members turned their attention to Walker, who climbed to the top of the showers. Jumping from there to the top tier, he ran and locked himself in an unoccupied cell at about 12:22 p.m. A standoff began. Gang members could do nothing because the cell door was locked. They were on one side, and Walker was on the other. At 12:24 p.m., inmate Mike Powell walked over to the tower and appeared to communicate with an officer. Three minutes later, inmates took Walker's jean jacket and set it on fire. Another group of inmates rendered aid to Williams and apparently tried to get officers to open the door so they could get him help. The door remained closed. At 12:30 p.m., Powell sat on a table in front of the tower officer. A minute later, after checking on Williams, he banged on the tower window, pointing to the cell where Walker had locked himself inside. Powell walked over to the top of the shower and used the wall to sharpen his homemade knife. He then shook hands with an inmate aiding Williams. At 12:32 p.m., Powell sat down again at the table, this time facing the tower. After a few moments, he pointed inside the tower, appearing to signal an officer inside. He got off the table, walked to the tower and pointed at the cell where Walker was. Then he pointed at the injured Williams on the floor. The conversation between him and the officer lasted for 17 seconds. He then walked to the corner of the pod, where he spoke with another inmate. After walking slowly toward the stairs, he began to run toward the cell, where Walker had locked himself inside. Inmates told investigators they heard the metallic buzz of the tower officer unlocking the cell door. When Walker tried to charge out, Powell and other inmates swarmed and stabbed him. When Walker went over the stair rail, Powell went with him. Walker ran to the nearby shower, where Powell and other inmates stabbed him, beat him, kicked him and smashed him with a microwave. Walker crumpled in a heap underneath the stairs, and his attackers walked away, seemingly satisfied. But when Powell saw the inmate still moving, he went over and stomped Walker. The deed done, another inmate came over and urinated on him. It would take another 11 minutes before Maj. Gabriel Walker, chief of security, entered the pod at 12:47 p.m. with the response team commander. By that time, inmates had already cleaned up much of the crime scene, disposing of bloody clothes, towels and knives used in the fight, the video showed. The major ordered inmates back to their cells, but Powell ignored the order and continued to shower off the blood. He wound up throwing away his bloody clothes, talked to another inmate and received a fresh set of clothes and exited the zone "unescorted and unrestrained," the report says. Powell went into the dead inmate's cell and took his mattress back to his cell, he told investigators. The major tried to handcuff Powell from behind — only to have Powell jerk his hand away, the report says. The major finally handcuffed the inmate in front, but never searched him. After the major left, inmates came back out of their cells and continued to clean up blood from the crime scene. Officers finally removed the body of Kendrick Walker at 1:28 p.m. — 41 minutes after they first entered. The major, who was read his Miranda rights, told investigators that when he checked on Kendrick Walker he had no pulse and didn't appear to be breathing. He said he is not medically trained, but "Inmate Walker appeared to be deceased when he first arrived," the report says. The video showed the major spending five seconds with Kendrick Walker before walking away. No attempt at medical assistance ever took place. "Investigators questioned Major Walker regarding the amount of time it took to remove Inmate Walker from the pod," the report says. "He advised it took long because he was called to the B Pod because … he thought another riot was about to ensue." The major deemed it a crime scene, the report says. "He stated he is not sure of the protocol for responding to a homicide, but he stated he believed he was not supposed to move the body." Corrections policy calls for officers to respond to emergencies in four minutes. They responded 27 minutes after the fight began. One inmate identified the tower officer who opened the locked cell door, telling investigators she "works with the Gangsters." After being read her Miranda rights, she denied popping the lock, but she admitted an inmate had paid her $1,200 to smuggle him tobacco, rolling papers and cigars. She was fired but never prosecuted. When investigators later tried to have her take a lie detector test, they discovered she was pregnant and never questioned her. When investigators tried to give a lie detector test to another tower officer, the polygraph examiner deemed her "psychologically unfit." A third tower officer told investigators that inmates had used a rope and bed sheet to open the cell door — something no inmate mentioned. She was fired for employee misconduct and aiding in bringing in contraband. In the end, none of the tower officers was given a lie detector test, and investigators concluded allegations of a tower officer popping the lock "cannot be sustained." The time of death listed on the report? 12:20 p.m., which is when the attack of Kendrick Walker actually began. In February, a grand jury is expected to consider murder charges against Powell and four other inmates. Mississippi corrections officials told The Clarion-Ledger that no officer has ever been prosecuted for opening a door that enabled attacks or killings of inmates. Asked why not, Epps replied his department "refers any case for prosecution where the credible evidence reveals a crime has been committed." Matt Steffey, professor at Mississippi College School of Law, said if law enforcement or even the Justice Department discovers a potential conflict, they bring in an outside agency to investigate. In this case, he said, the Department of Corrections "has such a significant conflict of interest an outside or independent investigation is necessary." Sentencing to prison, former Corrections Commissioner Johnson said, "shouldn't be a death sentence because of dangerous conditions within the walls of our prison." Arnita said MTC has "consistently addressed the number of assaults by investigating each and taking corrective action. We've also introduced new programming and recreational activities, which historically reduce offender-on-offender assaults and other incidence of violence." Inside Wilkinson, gang membership makes up 86 percent of the prison population. Since MTC took over management of Wilkinson, "we've hired a security threat group lieutenant to gather intelligence and manage these offenders," Arnita said. "This lieutenant, along with other resources, has made good progress in strategically placing inmates in housing arrangements that reduce risk of violence." While housing gang members "comes with serious challenges," he said, "MTC has made great strides in making this facility safe, secure and more conducive to programming that can help many offenders make a successful transition back to society." Jackson lawyer Chuck Mullins, who represented the Flowers' family in their lawsuit, said gangs are running Wilkinson and other prisons, and Mississippi corrections officials "have pretty much said they can't do anything about it. They've given up." Epps disagreed that gangs are powerful in Mississippi prisons, saying in an emailed response to questions that his department "doesn't recognize 'gangs.' These inmates are identified as Security Threat Groups. The inmates are classified appropriately, following the national trend of correctional practitioners."Under contract, Wilkinson prison officials must make every effort to hire locally first. The number of people to pick from in Woodville is 1,026. "Where are you going to find local qualified people?" Mullins asked. One day, he said, "they're working as a checkout clerk, the next, they're looking over gangs."

 

Oct 5, 2014 clarionledger.com

A federal judge in 2012 called the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility "a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions." Before the next year ended, the prison scored a perfect 100 from the American Corrections Association. "I am extremely proud to have this private facility achieve a perfect score under new management," Epps said on Nov. 22, 2013. "Achieving 100 percent in both categories of standards is very difficult. This validates the professionalism and care that Management & Training Corp. has brought to Walnut Grove." He remains president of the organization that awarded the 100 score, ACA. Jody Owens, managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mississippi office, had praise for the work Epps did heading a task force that brought reforms state officials are hoping will save the state $266 million in prison expenses. "It's one of Epps' more significant contributions," said Owens, who served on the task force. "It recognizes the state has been wrong in sentencing and rehabilitation." But he questioned the perfect score given Walnut Grove and others. "It's kind of sad what Epps has done, but it just shows you the rubber-stamping process." The violence and other problems in the prisons are "being overlooked when these grades are passed out," he said. "It makes you question the integrity of the process." Corrections officer Berl Goff, who was brought in to help clean up the private prison, said he was stunned to learn the facility had received a 93 in 2009 from the ACA. A Justice Department probe concluded some staff had sex with minors who were inmates, brutally beat youths and turned a blind eye to inmates possessing shanks. "Explain to me how a federal investigation from 2009 and 2010 showed it to be the most egregious prison," yet ACA, headed by Epps, gave the facility a 93, he said. "There's no conflict of interest?" Goff asked. "C'mon." The Clarion-Ledger asked Epps for an interview, but, in a rare response from him, he turned down that request, insisting instead the newspaper submit all questions in writing. In his written response, Epps denied conflict, saying the ACA is a peer-review procedure. "Experts from other states conduct the audits," he said. "MDOC was already attaining 100 percent scores in years prior to me becoming ACA president in 2013." He's right. In May 2003, ACA gave the State Penitentiary at Parchman a perfect 100, and the state relied on that accreditation as proof conditions didn't violate the Eighth Amendment. Before the month ended, a federal judge rejected that claim, concluding conditions inside the prison's Unit 32 were horrific and that ACA accreditation did not prove conditions were constitutional. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. "ACA accreditors reviewed Parchman's written policies, but not their actual practices," said Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU National Prison Project. These days, Epps is riding high in the corrections world. The same man who started in 1982 as a correctional officer at Parchman's Unit 29 to augment his pay as a Delta teacher is now president of the ACA and the Association of State Correctional Administrators — the first person to simultaneously head both. Just three years ago, he won the award as the Outstanding Corrections Commissioner in the Nation, awarded by the ASCA. He has even talked of running for political office. "Part of my motivation for my career is to be of service to my state and my fellow man as well as my God," he said in a 2009 radio interview. "I think that the calling to elected office, for the right purposes, is one of the highest callings a person can have." Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove said Mississippi is fortunate to have someone who understands the system of corrections like Epps does. "Fourteen years ago when I appointed Chris to be the head of the Department of Corrections, we had no doubt he would make a great commissioner. Time has proven all of us to be correct." André de Gruy, director of the Capital Defense Counsel in Jackson, praised Epps after serving with him this year on the task force aimed at reducing the prison population. The newly enacted law gives judges more flexibility to impose alternative sentences, including ordering treatment for drug users. More than three-fourths of prisoners are addicted. But Epps faces challenges in the year to come. He has had to repeatedly return to lawmakers for millions more to cover budget deficits because of increasing numbers of inmates. But with that population falling from 22,008 in January to 19,972 last month, lawmakers may be less inclined to cover any budget deficit. House Corrections Committee Chairman Tommy Taylor has experience in corrections. For more than a decade, he worked as the warden of the Bolivar County Regional Correctional Facility. Asked what he thought about Epps' service heading the agency, he replied that he believes the Department of Corrections "has the capability of being the number one correctional agency in the state. You have some very dedicated employees there." Regardless of whether something goes right or wrong, he said, "it all falls back on the leader of the organization." And lately, there's been more wrong than right. On April 4, 2013, court monitors at Walnut Grove prison reported that "assaults involving weapons continue to occur at alarming levels" and that assaults needed to be reduced by at least half to constitute "reasonably safe living conditions." On Nov. 4, 2013 — weeks before Walnut Grove scored 100 — monitors found the prison was in partial compliance with both the "reasonably safe living conditions" and "sufficient numbers of adequately trained staff." Forty days after Epps gushed over the perfect score, three pods at Walnut Grove exploded with violence on New Year's Eve, and at least 16 inmates were treated at the hospital for injuries. On Aug. 6, attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center and ACLU representing inmates at the prison told a federal court that changes are needed now to prevent the "ongoing, substantial risk of serious injury — including death — from the extraordinarily dangerous conditions at Walnut Grove." In documents, they described "a major escalation in inmate-on-inmate violence over the past several months at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, and in the last seven months alone there have been two riots during which the Mississippi Department of Corrections lost control of the facility and 25 inmates were seriously wounded." Celeste McDonald, vice president for MTC's corporate communications, disagreed with the attorneys' assessment. She said the staff responded immediately to the New Year's Eve violence and that the incident was under control in an hour. "In July, an incident occurred in one of the housing units where nine offenders were injured, taken to the hospital and released," she said. "No inmates in either incident were seriously wounded. Since (the) July 10 incident, there has only been one offender on offender assault at the Walnut Grove facility." Court monitors said despite injuries to 16 inmates that included "wounds, lacerations and fractures," MTC recorded the New Year's Eve riot as "a single fight/assault. Even with that exception, the rate (of violence) has increased since June 2013." As a result of the riot, seven officers were either fired or resigned. The reasons, according to monitors: "Passing contraband to inmates, refusing a vehicle search, failure to report known violations, fraternization (with inmates) and drug possession." And on Sept. 25, the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against East Mississippi Correctional Facility, charging that conditions at the private prison, where 70 percent of the inmates are mentally ill, are "barbaric."

June 14, 2012 Huffington Post
After years of widespread violence and sexual abuse at Mississippi's for-profit prison for juvenile offenders, state officials and civil rights groups signed a federal court decree in March aimed at overhauling a facility described by a federal judge as "a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts." U.S. Justice Department investigators found that both state officials and the GEO Group Inc., the nation's second-largest operator of private prisons, had essentially ignored the safety of youth prisoners, denying them basic health care and employing guards with known gang affiliations. Sexual misconduct between staff and inmates at the Walnut Grove youth prison was "among the worst we have seen in any facility anywhere in the nation," the Justice Department's investigation concluded. Yet two months after a federal court settlement, violence and poor staffing have persisted, including a fight that resulted in a young man being stabbed in the eye, according to recent court transcripts. In response, a top Mississippi state prison official recently testified that the state has no authority to force the GEO Group to improve security at the chronically understaffed facility, raising questions about the lines of authority for corrections policy in Mississippi. "All we can do is make a request," said Emmitt Sparkman, deputy commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, in federal court testimony two weeks ago. He added that the GEO Group was "under no obligation" to increase staffing under the terms of its contract with the state. Though a federal judge found that state officials "repeatedly failed to monitor the contracts with GEO," Mississippi plans to replace GEO with Management & Training Corp., a private company responsible for one of the most tragic prison breaks in recent memory. The GEO Group, which has donated more than $56,000 to Mississippi elected officials over the past decade, did not respond to questions about its contracts in the state. A spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Corrections declined to make officials available for comment. GEO Group has operated Walnut Grove since 2010, after acquiring the prison in a merger with another prison corporation, Cornell Companies Inc.

June 7, 2012 WTOK
MTC will officially take over operation at East Mississippi Correctional Facility on July 9th. The company got its start working with young people outside the corrections system. The Vice President of Corrections at MTC explained the company's history via a video news release. "We started 30 years ago by providing training for young adults to succeed in life," says Odie Washington, "we've taken that and applied it to our corrections division. "All you are going to see is a change in the name over the door," that's the opinion of Frank Smith, a private prison watchdog, "it's not going to be a change in operations." Smith works as a consultant for Private Corrections Working Group. "The problem is there is such turnover that there is no mentoring process so everybody is just kind of new on the job, and they don't know what to do when the problems arise." MTC officials say they plan on providing EMCF with all the resources it needs to operate effectively. "We'll provide each facility the resources necessary for them to operate safely and effectively," says Washington, and we look forward to applying these high standards to our new Mississippi facilities as well." Only time will tell whether MTC will have a successful run in the Magnolia State.

June 7, 2012 AP
A Utah-based private prison operator will take over management of three Mississippi correctional institutions beginning in July. Management & Training Corporation of Centreville, Utah, has signed 10-year operating contracts for the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near the Lost Gap community beginning July 2; Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove on July 9; and the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs on Aug. 13. Financial details of the contracts were not made public. The announcement came Thursday by the company and the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The Corrections Department and the GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., in April agreed to end GEO's management contract at the three prisons. At the time Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps told the AP that the department felt it might get a better price if all three prisons were presented as a package to other corrections management companies. "The Mississippi Department of Corrections is looking forward to a great partnership with MTC," Epps said in a statement Thursday. "There is a need for different types of prisons, including state and regional as well as private facilities in Mississippi. MTC will be held to the same high standards as set by MDOC and I feel extremely confident that MTC will do a great job." "We look forward to the opportunity to work in Mississippi," said MTC senior vice president of corrections Odie Washington in the statement. "We have partnered with state and federal governments in operating correctional facilities for the past 25 years, and have a strong record of providing safe, secure and well-run facilities."

April 20, 2012 WTOK
On Friday Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps reeled off a long list of problems the state has been monitoring at East Mississippi Correctional Facility in recent weeks and months. Those issues include a murder and multiple suicides. Epps says the final straw with GEO Group, the current manager of EMCF, came when the company asked the state for $5 million more to operate the facility. GEO Group is painting a different picture of the split, saying they initiated the move because the facility is financially under-performing.

April 20, 2012 AP
The Mississippi Department of Corrections says GEO Group Inc., one of the country's largest private prison operators, will no longer manage three facilities in Mississippi. On Thursday, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company said it was backing out of a contract to manage the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near the Lost Gap community by July 19. Company officials told The Associated Press on Friday that it had nothing else to say. Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps told the AP on Friday that the department felt it might get a better price if all three prisons were presented as a package to other corrections management companies. Epps said he would expect GEO Group to end its ties to the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove and Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs by July 20. "We feel this may be a golden opportunity to provide a better price for the taxpayers of the state and at the same time maybe do a better job in the operation of the facilities," Epps said. "That's what I would like to see." Epps said there was some concern at MDOC about incidents at all three prisons. The Walnut Grove facility is presently under a federal court order to remove juvenile inmates amid allegations of physical and sexual abuse. That court order came in a settlement of a lawsuit filed against Walnut Grove in 2010. GEO Group has repeatedly declined to comment on the lawsuit. Epps has said his plan is to send the 17-and-younger inmates to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County by Oct. 1. He said there are about 1,000 vacant beds at that prison now, so there is no need for a new building. Walnut Grove also houses adults. They would remain there under a settlement that ended a 2010 lawsuit. Epps said Friday that local authority boards deal with management contracts at EMCF and Walnut Grove with MDOC help. He said MDOC works directly with vendors at Marshall County. "There are a lot of these management companies out there. We're reaching out to those private operators to see what the best proposal is we might get," he said. In its announcement, GEO chairman/CEO George C. Zoley said EMCF was "financially underperforming." GEO Group vice president Pablo E. Paez said Friday the company would have no other comment.

May 5, 2011 Clarion Ledger
Those upset with conditions at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility delivered hundreds of petitions to Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps Thursday, calling for him to cancel the contract with GEO Group, the Florida-based company that runs the prison. Because of pending litigation, the Mississippi Department of Corrections cannot comment, said MDOC spokeswoman Tara Booth. Mississippi's lone youth prison that holds 1,200 inmates remains the target of a federal probe and lawsuit. Michael McIntosh said it's been 14 months since his son was brutally beaten and stabbed, resulting in irreparable brain damage. A number of young inmates were injured in a Feb. 27, 2010, melee. The Rev. Milton Johnson, an associate pastor in Meridian, noted that delivering these petitions was appropriate on the National Day of Prayer. "If we succeed in real rehabilitation, then they (youth) will be an asset to our communities and state, not society rejects," he said. "We cannot allow our children to abandon hope." Ethel Thomas Heard noted that this Mother's Day, her only son will remain behind bars at Walnut Grove, and she is not alone, she said. "We know what it feels like to wake up with our heads on tear-drenched pillows." A number of young The U.S. Department of Justice is now investigating the treatment of juveniles at the prison. In November, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and Jackson lawyer Robert McDuff filed a lawsuit against the GEO Group on behalf of 13 offenders at the Leake County prison. The lawsuit alleges young offenders are being forced to live in "barbaric, unconstitutional conditions." The lawsuit alleges guards beat inmates, smuggled drugs to the youths and engaged in sexual acts with them.

December 2, 2008 Clarion Ledger
William Morris Byrd Jr. had been in and out of prison most of his life, but Charlotte Boyd, his sister, said he did not have to die there. Byrd, 53, died Nov. 21 after what Boyd described as months of wasting away at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl. While the family is waiting for the autopsy, Boyd said the initial cause of death is Crohn's Disease, a chronic but treatable inflammation of the digestive path that she said had blocked her brother's esophagus. "He literally starved. We watched him turn into a skeleton," she said. Byrd was serving a lengthy sentence for rape and was not eligible for parole until 2020. Boyd realizes her brother may not be a sympathetic figure to most, but after reading a story last week in The Clarion-Ledger, she said her brother may not be alone. "If they are doing him that way, they are going to let somebody else die, too," she said. "Even a dog needs medical attention." Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said Byrd received appropriate medical care from the prison. "We provided timely, quality medical care for the inmate," he said, "as we do for all of our inmates." Mississippi's per-capita death rate for prisoners has spiked in recent years. In 2001, the state's death rate was at the national average, but in 2006 Mississippi's inmate death rate was the second highest in the nation. In 2007, inmate deaths rose again. The majority of those deaths are from natural causes, and former inmates and family members of current inmates say medical care in the state's prison system is inadequate. Epps blames the higher death rate on several factors, including an increasingly aged prison population and generally unhealthy lifestyles that have made the state a leader in medical problems like heart disease and diabetes. Epps expressed confidence in MDOC's medical contractor, Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Wexford Health Sources, but the Legislative Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review last year released a report criticizing the prison system's response to chronic-care issues. PEER also found that Wexford's medical staffing was not in compliance with the terms of its contract with the state. The report found 13 percent staffing shortages at the MDOC prisons in Pearl, Parchman and Leakesville. Officials at MDOC referred questions about current Wexford staffing levels to the contractor. Wexford did not return a telephone call Monday but last week referred questions to MDOC. Senate Corrections Chairman Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, said the increase in the prisoner death rate is worth keeping an eye on, but he said Epps' explanation of the increase is plausible. It's something lawmakers would want to pay attention to and monitor, "get a little more information on," he said. "It didn't come across as there was any kind of serious problem of neglect." But the rising number of deaths worries people like Diane Rowell, whose hypoglycemic son is in South Mississippi Correctional Facility serving a short sentence for a parole violation. She said her son has lost weight and complains of being tired. "It worries me. I cry a lot about it," she said. "I know they broke the law, but they are still human beings."

November 23, 2008 Clarion Ledger
Mississippi's inmate mortality rate was second in the nation in 2006, the most recent year for which national data are available. And according to a review of state-level reports, Mississippi's mortality rate rose in 2007. It's a situation that is raising legal concerns with lawmakers and moral questions with prison-reform advocates. Mississippi Department of Corrections officials say the high rate of in-custody deaths is the result of a number of factors: aging prisoners, drug and alcohol abuse prior to incarceration and the generally unhealthy lifestyles of Mississippians. But Patti Barber, executive director of the prison-reform group Mississippi CURE, said the state does a poor job of looking after the chronic health needs of inmates. "We are getting tons of letters from inmates, for instance, who have been diagnosed with diabetes. They are not getting their (blood) sugar checked daily, as they are supposed to," she said. "Things just plain aren't getting done." That is what the Mississippi Legislature's Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review found last December when it released a report on inmate health care. The PEER report found inmates did not receive timely medical treatment from MDOC's medical contractor, Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources, and that Wexford did not meet medical care standards set forth under its contract with the state. In addition, the PEER committee found Wexford did not adhere to its own standards in following up on inmates with chronic health problems. Wexford, which took over inmate care in 2006, referred all questions to MDOC. Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said he is satisfied with the contractor's performance. Not maintaining suitable health care puts the state in greater legal liability, said Rep. Harvey Moss, D-Corinth, chairman of the PEER committee when the report on inmate health care was released. "We're trying to keep the inmate care up and keep the state out of trouble from a lack-of-care standpoint," he said. A search of the federal court system found more than a dozen open lawsuits filed by inmates against MDOC on medical issues. A Clarion-Ledger analysis of inmate death data found the number of prisoners dying increased in 2003 and reaching its peak last year with 78 deaths. The system is projected to lose another 64 inmates this year, based on the rate of deaths. Mississippi is second only to Tennessee in per-capita deaths among inmates, based on the latest national data. Five years earlier, the state ranked 23rd and was at the national average. "It alarms me very much," Barber said of the inmate death rate. "We have to find out where this responsibility is falling between the cracks."

January 14, 2008 Clarion Ledger
A health-care company contracting with the Mississippi Department of Corrections has been lax about providing some inmates with timely medical treatment among other problems, a legislative oversight group says. The Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review also says the piecemeal contract with Wexford Health Services cost the state $1.1 million more than it would have for the same company's turnkey model. The department is facing a shortfall of more than $19 million this year, some of that for overspending in medical costs, and PEER is recommending the state auditor investigate. But Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said the only issue he's had with Wexford concerns the way the company keeps records. And, he said, PEER's findings don't take into account the savings the department has seen in medical costs throughout the years, despite the increasing number of sick and aging inmates it is holding. Some lawmakers say they're prepared to give the department a deficit appropriation. "I'm not trying to beat up on PEER," Epps told The Clarion-Ledger. "All I'm saying is if you don't deal with this stuff every day, you're not comparing apples to apples." Issued to lawmakers last month, the PEER report reviews inmate medical expenses in fiscal year 2007, which began July 1, 2006 - the same day Wexford's contract with the state began. The Pittsburgh-based company provides Corrections with only routine care, with the department handling specialty services and care for inmates referred to hospitals. A turnkey model was used previously in which another company provided services to all state institutions except the private prisons the department contracts with. Epps said the department switched from that model to keep costs down. "The medical care at the department is better than I've ever seen it, and I've been here 26 years," Epps said. But the PEER report said the current agreement is costing the department $1.1 million more than it would with Wexford's turnkey model, and the department spent $2.8 million more than its appropriation in fiscal 2007. Spending more money isn't earning the state better services either, the group says. The report indicates that during a five-month review period in the same fiscal year, Wexford was short on staff, and some employees without "proper credentials" provided medical care to inmates. Also, PEER said many sick-call requests were not sorted by priority within 24 hours after they were submitted, which could have delayed treatment. Several deficiencies with the way medical records are stored were cited in the report as well, including no separation between physical- and mental-health records, which could affect the continuum of care. "These are people who have violated laws, but we are still responsible for their care and that's just the way it is," said Max Arinder, PEER's executive director. "We need to get these things remedied, or it could lead to some legal problems."

June 22, 2005 Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. - The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the St.  Louis-based health care provider for inmates at Mississippi's Parchman prison, alleging prisoners have been misdiagnosed and received inadequate treatment.   The federal lawsuit against Correctional Medical Services, Inc., one of the nation's largest for-profit medical providers for prisoners, was filed Wednesday on behalf of 1,000 inmates at Parchman's Unit 32.  Other defendants are Chris Epps, the commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, deputy commissioner Emmitt Sparkman and other agency officials. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Greenville.  "We're hoping that the lawsuit is going to make a big difference in conditions in Unit 32, which we really do think are so grossly inhumane as to amount to torture," said Margaret Winter, associate director of the National Prison Project of the ACLU.

June 22, 2005 ACLU National Prison Project
WASHINGTON, DC-Citing the extreme health risks faced by nearly 1000 men confined in a Mississippi prison, the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Holland & Knight today filed a lawsuit against one of the country's largest for-profit medical providers for prisoners. "Correctional Medical Services has a national reputation for providing prisoners with grossly inadequate medical care," said Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU's National Prison Project and lead attorney in today's lawsuit.  "We believe that Correctional Medical Services' already poor reputation will sink even lower when its treatment of Mississippi prisoners with life-threatening conditions and serious mental illness is exposed to public view and judicial scrutiny."  Correctional Medical Services, Inc. (CMS), a for-profit private corporation, currently holds contracts in 27 states, including Mississippi.  In April 2003, the state of Mississippi contracted with CMS to provide medical, mental health and dental care to prisoners incarcerated at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.  Today's complaint, filed on behalf of about 1000 men confined in Parchman's Unit 32, the prison's supermaximum security unit, builds upon litigation brought in 2002 on behalf of death row prisoners housed in the same unit.  Among other issues, it charges that officials with the Mississippi Department of Corrections and CMS routinely deny prisoners access to humane treatment.  Jeffery Presley, 24, contracted a serious "staph" infection while in Unit 32.  A CMS doctor initially misdiagnosed his condition as a spider bite.   Over several days, Presley's condition grew worse and he pleaded for additional medical treatment.  His infected joint became grotesquely swollen and leaked blood.  Ultimately, the doctor removed a section of Presley's infected leg and prescribed Tylenol to dull his pain.  In another incident, a disturbed, deaf-mute prisoner was left for months in his cell on the special needs psychiatric tier, without a mental health evaluation or any attempt to communicate with him.  His cell became filthy and he was allowed to remain unwashed for weeks.  Correctional staff threw things at him to get his attention, and when he threw things back, he was cited for rule violations.  "Treating people suffering from mental or physical illness with disrespect and indifference is abhorrent," said Stephen F. Hanlon, a partner with Holland & Knight and co-counsel in the case. "Correctional Medical Service's improper actions in Mississippi and in other parts of the country violate the Constitution."  The Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure had disciplined and temporarily restricted the medical licenses of at least three physicians at the Parchman prison.  The CMS medical director was cited for habitual drug use, and the prison's chief psychiatrist was restricted because of a history of patient sexual exploitation and sexual harassment.  Elsewhere, CMS has established a pattern of hiring doctors with troubled backgrounds.  According to a 1998 investigation by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, nine CMS doctors working in Missouri had been disciplined by licensing boards.  In Michigan, where the company provides care to prisoners statewide and the ACLU has litigated issues regarding inadequate medical care, CMS has come under scrutiny for its attempts to save money by limiting prisoners'  referrals to outside medical specialists.  A federal court found that excessive delays in providing prisoners with referrals contributed to three deaths during an 18-month period. Five other prisoners who died during the same time period also experienced significant delays in treatment. "CMS has a shameful record of jacking up corporate profits by turning a blind eye to the urgent medical needs of sick prisoners," said Winter.  "I am hopeful that today's lawsuit will make it impossible for this company to keep on conducting 'business as usual' in Mississippi prisons."  Today's lawsuit, Presley v. Epps, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi by attorneys Winter and Gouri Bhat of the ACLU's National Prison Project, Hanlon and Cecily Baskir of Holland & Knight LLP, Mississippi civil rights attorney Robert McDuff and Ranie Thompson of the ACLU of Mississippi.  To read today's complaint, go to:  <http://www.aclu.org/Prisons/Prisons.cfm?ID=18558&c=26>.  To read about the ACLU's other work regarding Correctional Medical Services, go to: <http://www.aclu.org/Prisons/Prisons.cfm?ID=18367&c=26>.

Mississippi Legislature
February 6, 2011 Politico
Haley Barbour is often talked about as one the most powerful figures in the GOP. And what journalists and operatives point to when making that case aren't his deft political skills or stirring speech-making ability — it’s his fundraising network. Over time, Barbour has built a loyal donor base eager to bankroll each new endeavor — starting as political operative in the 1970's through his second term as governor of Mississippi to his recent chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, and now as a possible presidential contender. Continue Reading -- Although he trails well behind Newt Gingrich — who collected over $14 million last year — Barbour's fundraising prowess is nonetheless envied by Republican politicos – which makes him an ideal candidate to begin a new POLITICO 2012 LIVE series dedicated to introducing you to the world that makes up the GOP’s mega-donors — an elite network of business executives, money managers and other wealthy powerbrokers who are financing the early stages of the race for the White House. Haley, as he is affectionately called in GOP circles, runs his operation out of Yazoo City, Miss., an hour north of Jackson. His main fundraising tool is a political action committee registered in Georgia – which has no limits on individual or corporate donations. The PAC is chaired by Henry Barbour, Haley’s nephew and a top-level Republican powerbroker in his own right — he was the key behind-the-scenes player in getting Reince Priebus elected RNC chairman. In just the last year, 147 people and corporations have given a total of $523,174.52 to Barbour’s Georgia PAC — an average of more than $3,550. Nine donors – two individuals and seven corporations — have given Barbour $295,000 over the last year through the Georgia PAC. If the PAC were federal, and covered by FEC guidelines, the most nine donors could have given Barbour over the last year is $45,000, as individual contributions are capped at the national level. Only one of the nine donors contacted by POLITICO responded to a request for interview. Frank Lee, the CEO of Tower Loan, said the Mississippi-based consumer lender has “always been supportive of Haley.” “Haley’s been a real godsend in terms of his ability and what he’s done for the state,” Lee said. Lee acknowledged the company has interests before the state Legislatures, but insisted that the contribution wasn't tied to any specific issue at the time. A spokesman for the GEO Group, a private corrections and detention management group that made a $13,000 contribution to the Georgia PAC in 2009, told POLITICO in an e-mail that the company wouldn’t comment on its relationship with Barbour. “Our company makes a variety of contributions throughout the country, including to charitable organizations, political organizations and candidates,” wrote Pablo E. Paez, the GEO Group’s vice president of corporate relations. “As a matter of policy, our company cannot comment on specific contributions.”

May 7, 2006 Clarion Ledger
As a direct consequence of "get-tough-on-crime" legislation adopted over a decade ago, the private-prison industry and related companies have become increasingly active as campaign contributors in Mississippi politics. A new study conducted by the Institute for Money in State Politics documents that Mississippi is one of 10 states where "industry giving is high and the states had either enacted tough sentencing laws, turned to private prison to help ease prison overcrowding in recent years or considered significant changes to corrections policies." The report found that in 2002 and 2003, prison-industry contributors gave a total of $63,250 to 27 Mississippi candidates and the state Democratic Party. Democrats got $28,850 of the donations while Republicans got $31,900 over the two-year period. Major recipients included current Republican Gov. Haley Barbour at $10,800, Republican Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck at $10,500, state Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Water Valley, at $10,000, and former Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove at $7,500. A half-dozen state legislators and one state Supreme Court candidate rounded out the donation recipients, including state Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg. Donors listed in the report included private prison companies Wackenhut Corrections and its lobbyists at $21,250 and Corrections Corporation of America and its lobbyists at $17,700. Another major donor cited in the report was Carothers Construction, a Mississippi construction company that has built or expanded six prison facilities in the state, two of which were operated by CCA. In 1995, Mississippi lawmakers took an apparent bold step toward getting tough on crime. But in doing so, the lawmakers also dramatically increased the state's prison population and therefore the operating costs of the state prison system. The Legislature adopted the so-called "85 percent rule" which mandated that all state convicts must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before being eligible for parole. Mississippi's law was in sharp contrast to other states, where the 85 percent rule applied only to violent offenders. The rapid growth in the state's prison population brought about by the "85 percent rule" opened the doors for the private prison industry in the state. By 2002, there were 2,600 empty state-owned prison beds while two private prisons were being guaranteed an inmate population sufficient to keep them profitable. In 2001, the Legislature voted near the end of the regular session to divert $6 million to pay for empty private prison bed space for so-called "ghost inmates." Then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove vetoed the measure, but the Legislature overrode that veto 40-12 in the Senate and 111-9 in the House. Between 1998 and 2000, prison industry lobbyists spent $228,216 trying to influence policy at the state Capitol. The report notes that when Barbour released his Fiscal Year 2005 state budget in 2004, he put a priority on using private prisons "to save money" in the state's prison system. While the FY 2005 corrections budget was 4 percent less than in 2004, private prison payments jumped more than 30 percent, the report shows. The first bill Barbour signed into law after taking office as governor in 2004 was a bill to keep the private-operated Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility open by allowing it to house maximum security inmates.

February 11, 2006 Picayune Item
Maybe it's the deadline pressure. Maybe it's hunger or lack of sleep. Maybe, just maybe, it's that lawmakers saw each other too often during last year's record-setting five special sessions. Whatever the reason, it's crabby season at the Mississippi Capitol. Nearly halfway into the three-month 2006 session, tempers are flaring and lawmakers are grating on each other's very last nerves. That became clear this past week as the House and Senate plowed through stacks of bills under a major deadline. An argument erupted on the House floor Thursday night when Corrections Committee Chairman Bennett Malone, D-Carthage, pushed to create a private prison in Bay Springs. Prisoners there, he said, could earn time off their sentences by working in private industries such as a chicken plant. That set off a torrent of criticism from several black lawmakers, who likened the use of prison laborers in a private industry to the use of slaves on plantations. They said prisoners would have no real choice in going to work, and any private business that starts using inmate labor would soon need a steady stream of new prisoners to keep operating. “Let's not send a message to the rest of the state that we are of this mind-set, that we still believe we should incarcerate people just to get Bubba's chickens picked,” said Rep. Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville. Rep. Willie Bailey, D-Greenville, said the proposal would “deprive and denigrate the people who cannot help themselves.” “This man has an evil agenda here,” Bailey said, pointing toward Malone. Malone, who is white, has lost his temper a few times during his quarter century in the House, once punching a senator in a dispute about a chicken bill. He sat quietly at the front of the chamber Thursday as others lambasted his inmate labor proposal. Rep. Jim Evans, D-Jackson, said sending prisoners to work in a private business would help a “corporate thug.” The bill died when the House voted 72-45 to send it back to the Corrections Committee. About half the votes to kill the bill came from white members.

May 26, 2005 Biloxi Sun Herald
Some House Democrats are outraged that Gov. Haley Barbour, on the very day he forced them back to Jackson asking them to put aside partisanship and pass a budget, appears to have been in Washington, using the state plane, raising money they suspect will be used to try to oust them next election. Barbour forced lawmakers to return in special session May 18. On that morning, he held a $1,000- to $5,000-a-ticket fund-raiser breakfast for "Haley's PAC" at the Willard Hotel in Washington. In an invitation letter, Barbour said, "I hope we can help make sure that we grow Republican numbers in the statehouses around the country and in Congress." Gov. Haley Barbour has created a political action committee called "Haley's PAC," to raise funds to "make sure that we grow Republican numbers in the statehouses around the country and in Congress." Records show the PAC last year raised nearly $400,000. Records from a $1,000- to $5,000-per-ticket breakfast fund-raiser on May 18 are not yet available. Some of the contributions and expenditures of the PAC, according to the latest state records from earlier this year, include: $10,000 The GEO Group, Boca Raton, Fla.

December 23, 2004 Clarion Ledger
Counties in Mississippi are being reimbursed plenty for housing state inmates in county jails, the state legislative watchdog committee said in an analysis released Wednesday. "Right now there's no reason to change those reimbursement rates," said Max K. Arinder, executive director of the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, or PEER. Although PEER's report shows counties spend an average of $38 to house state inmates, the report concludes the state's $20 reimbursement is plenty because inmate labor, which "can exceed $20 per day per inmate, provides reasonable compensation to counties for housing state prisoners." Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin called PEER's conclusion "absolutely ridiculous," saying inmate labor shouldn't be computed to figure costs and adding that he uses such inmates mainly for community service. If cutting is the aim of state officials, they should look first at private prisons, he said. "I don't know any of them that charge less than $30 a day. If they can't compete with me, why should they try to cut me?"

October 7, 2002
It will cost $1.6 million to turn a private prison into a county jail, state officials say.  The cost estimate was revealed by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove last week, but Robert Moore, president of the Leflore County Board of Supervisors, said the state has not made an offer to convert the Leflore County prison.  Musgrove said in July that the state would shut down Delta Correctional Facility.  He cited lack of funding due to his veto of the corrections budget for private prisons.  A state judge later ruled the veto unconstitutional, and another lawsuit pending in federal court claims the shutdown would overburden the state corrections system.  However, the Mississippi Department of Corrections has gone ahead with its plan.  The contract with CCA in Nashville no longer requires the state to keep a certain number of prisoners in Delta Correctional.  The final inmate is scheduled to leave Oct.9.  Only 135 inmates remained at Delta Correctional on Monday, and 32 were scheduled to leave on Friday.  Only about 29 of the private prison's 200 employees remained.  The prison once held 850 inmates.  (AP)

September 7, 2002
No money will be paid to private prisons if the legislature continues its position not to consider legislation to fund them, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove says.  Both House Appropriations Committee Chairman Charlie Capps, D-Cleveland, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, said it wasn't necessary to bring a bill before their committees after a judge's ruling that Musgrove's partial veto of funding is invalid.  The governor, however, still maintains legislatures need to pass a new $48.7 million appropriation for the private prisons.  Lee Ann Mayo, Musgrove's spokeswoman, said the funds are essentially frozen, and they are not available until the Supreme Court rules.  (Clarion Ledger)

August 24, 2002
The Mississippi Department of Corrections could operate prisons in Leflore and Marshall counties more cost effectively than private companies, a new report says.   The state's contract pays $28.28 per inmate per day to each prison. In a report released Friday, accounting firm Smith, Turner & Reeves of Jackson verified an MDOC study of the relationship between inmate population and spending.   "I have consistently stated that MDOC could operate these two facilities at a lower cost to taxpayers than what is currently paid by contract to the private prison operators," said Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson.   The study was released about the same time Gov. Ronnie Musgrove called a Sept. 5 special session for legislators to deal with private prison spending and other issues.    The timing was a coincidence, said MDOC spokesman Jennifer Griffin.   The MDOC study found operating costs were lower than the contracted rates for when prisons had inmate populations of 750 and 1,000.   However, at a population of 850, the operating cost exceeded contracted rates. Capacity at the two prisons is increased in blocks of 250 beds until they reach their 1,000-bed capacity, Griffin said.   Operation was more expensive at 850 inmates because of maintenance and staffing costs associated with opening a block of cells, Griffin said.   "The contracts for the facilities call them to operate . . . 10 percent lower than the state's operating cost," she said. "Based on these numbers, there is room for discussion about whether that 10 percent rate is realized or not."  (AP)

August 2, 2002
Attorney General Mike Moore says he'll try to settle out of court a crisis in the state's prison system that could revive a federal lawsuit and penalties that go with it.  But if it goes to court, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove does not want the state's chief legal authority representing Mississippi.  State prisoners' rights attorney Ron Welch has filed a spate of motions in U.S. District Court in Greenville, including one seeking to have Musgrove's April veto of  a $54.7 million private prison appropriation declared invalid.  "I certainly want a lawyer representing me that agrees with my position," Musgrove said Thursday at the Neshoba County Fair.  (The Clarion Ledger)

July 23, 2002
Why are 2,600 state-owned prison beds empty while two state private prisons are being guaranteed an inmate population sufficient to make them profitable?  And what role does $269,301 in  lobbying expenditures and campaign contributions to state elected officials by the private prison industry play determining the state's corrections policies?  State legislative leaders say that private prisons made an investment in the state at a time when in the early 1990s when Mississippi was under federal court pressure to relieve massive overcrowding in the system.  Lawmakers say that those corporations now should not be left holding the financial bag.  But the state's top corrections official says that the state should not "subsidize" private prisons at a time when there is an estimated Department of Corrections budget deficit of $$19.2 million.   Currently there are 843 state prisoners housed at $28.29 per inmate per day in the Delta Correctional Facility at Greenwood-- owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).  There are 871 state prisoners housed at $28.28 per inmate per day in the private Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs-- owned by Wackenhut Corporation.  Some 2,600 state-owned prison beds currently are empty.  Johnson said that the legislative claims that the private prison companies came into the state at a time when the sates needed more prison beds and that they should be protected is "baloney."  "Those companies came into Mississippi because they saw an opportunity to make a profit," said Johnson.  CCA, Wackenhut and other private prison companies had made a total of $41,000 to lawmakers during the 1999 statewide elections.  The National Institute on Money in State Politics described the situation as "a major shift in prison-privatization policy."  "No longer were advocates in Mississippi arguing over how much money privatization would save taxpayers," an institute report said.  "Instead they argued that taxpayer subsidies were necessary in hard economic times to keep existing prison jobs.  The fact these subsidies would ensure corporate profits went unspoken.  In a scathing April 2002, report by the institute entitled "A Contributing Influence: The Private Prison Industry and Political Giving in the South," lobbying the political giving were linked to the following Mississippi political figures.  *Musgrove received $7,300 in private prison industry campaign contributions, including $4,750 from Carothers Construction, a prison builder,.  Failed GOP gubernatorial nominee Mike parker also received $5,250 from private prison donors.  *Attorney General Mike Moore, who backed the Legislature's override of Musgrove's "ghost inmate" veto, received $5,000 in private prison industry contributions, including $1,000 from Wackenhut.  *Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, received $1,000 from CCA lobbyist Buddy Medlin in 2001.  The report stated that Gordon and State Sen. Bunky Huggins, R-Greenwood-- in whose district Wackenhut's Delta Correctional Facility is located--met with private prison officials the night before the "ghost inmate" appropriation override:  "Senators Jack Gordon and Bunky Huggins had dinner with Wackenhut executive Wayne Calabrese and Wackenhut lobbyist Al Sage at the Parker House restaraunt the evening before the override vote," the report said.  Records in the secretary of state's office also show that in 2001 Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and House Speaker Tim Ford were recipients of $1,000 and $1,100 respectively in donations from the state's private prison corporations or their lobbyist.  Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Bill Minor, D-Holly Springs- also a Senate Corrections Committee member-received a $500 donation from Wackenhut in 1999.  Wackenhut's Marshall County Correctional Facility is located in Minor's district.  Additional state records show that CCA has paid lobbyist Buddy Medlin a total of $138,126 to represent its interests since 1998.  Those same records reflect that Wackenhut had paid lobbyist Al Sage $90,000 to represent its interests since 1998.  (Clarion Ledger) 

July 9, 2002
Mississippi officials need to preserve vocational and education programs for inmates asthey renegotiate private prison contracts, a lawmaker says.   Gov. Ronnie Musgrove is holding closed-door negotiations with three companies that operate five private prisons in Mississippi. The governor said discussions will conclude sometime this month and he expects to save the state $6 million to $12 million a year.   Negotiations began after the Mississippi Department of Corrections sent letters saying that as of July 1, the first day of the budget year, state lacked the money to pay for private prison operations.   Provisions of the private prison contracts say Mississippi can break the contracts if there's no money available.   At the end of the legislative session in April, Musgrove vetoed $54.7 million for private prisons.  Attorney General Mike Moore said last week he still believes the veto was invalid.  Moore said prison companies had called his office to complain.   "Some of these (corporate) people said, 'If they think they're going to hold us up, they've got another thing coming,' " Moore said.   "This is a show. This is politics."   (Clarion Ledger)

July 7, 2002
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove says he can save the state $6 million to $12 million by renegotiating contracts with private prison contracts.   He also said he'll call lawmakers into special session this summer to approve a new, smaller budget for the five private facilities.   "I firmly believe that it is wrong to inflate the budget for private prisons, especially during a national recession," Musgrove said in an interview Tuesday. "These funds will better serve the people of Mississippi if we use them to educate and protect our children and provide health care for our people."  (Common Wealth)

July 3, 2002
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove said Tuesday that renegotiating private prison contracts would save Mississippi taxpayers between $6 million and $12 million in 2003. Musgrove defended notices sent out Friday notifying five private prisons that their contracts were being terminated.  He called the overfunding of private prisons by the Legislature "unconscionable."   The Legislature appropriated $54.7 million for private prisons, which includes money to pay off construction debt.   "We hope to negotiate new contracts by the end of the month," said Musgrove, who described private prison officials as receptive.   "I will include it in a special session I plan to call," Musgrove said.   Private prison executives leaving the meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday refused to comment.   But Louise Green, a spokeswoman for Corrections Corp. of America in Nashville that runs Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, looks forward to more negotiations.  (Clarion Ledger)

July 2, 2002
The state says it doesn't have the money to pay private companies to run prisons and is terminating management contracts at five facilities.   In letters sent to the prisons Friday, the Mississippi Department of Corrections said Gov. Ronnie Musgrove on April 9 vetoed a $54.7 million appropriation, part of a larger bill, for the private prisons.   The contracts between MDOC and the management companies say the state has the right to terminate the agreements without penalty if funds are not appropriated.   But Attorney General Mike Moore said governor's partial veto is meaningless because he never had the power to issue it, and the money is still there.   He called the reasoning behind the attempt to take over management of the prisons "bogus."   Musgrove said he issued the veto — which the Legislature never moved to override — because language in the appropriations bill prevented Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson from moving money to other areas of the budget.   MDOC spokeswomen Jennifer Griffin said MDOC staff had been planning all day how to take over operation of the private prisons, but MDOC will not do so until after Musgrove finishes talks with private officials.   And in 2001, legislators appropriated $6 million more than was needed for private prisons, overriding Musgrove's veto.   A subsequent report by a legislative watchdog lowered the number of prisoners that private and regional prisons need to break even, leading many to say the state would otherwise pay for "ghost inmates."  (Clarion Ledger)

June 24, 2002
Delta Correctional Facility has given Cassandra Swims' family a brighter future.   But dark days may be ahead for Delta and other privately run prisons where inmate numbers have declined and some jobs have already been eliminated.   Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson says construction of too many beds for medium-security male inmates and a trend toward less jail time for first-time, nonviolent offenders may mean further reductions or a possible state takeover of private prisons. Too few inmates to fill beds also cut into the profits for companies in the prison business in Mississippi.   "Private prisons were not promised a certain number of inmates," said Johnson, who says an MDOC study shows the state can run Marshall County Correctional Facility, another private prison, for less than Wackenhut Corrections. "It was a business decision, and like any business, conditions change."   Steve Owen, spokesman for Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America, which runs Delta, is surprised at Johnson's comments.   ""It was also an opportunity for the company," Owen said. "What the state does now is a policy decision for the Correction Department and state legislators."   Not everyone, however, has welcomed private prisons as an answer to economic woes.   Hollandale Mayor Robert Burford thanks Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for last year's veto of a bill that would have put a private prison the state's sixth, in his town.   "Most people didn't want it here," said Burford, although his predecessor, Mayor Oscar Peace Jr., pushed for the prison in Washington County, where   unemployment was 12.7 percent in April. "We need jobs here, but our feeling is that if we get a prison, it might prevent other businesses or industries from coming."   Delta's per diem, which began at $25.13 in 1996, will remain at $28.29 for another year. "It has really created a bad situation for us," said Delta's assistant warden, Phillip McLaurin. "We are trying to cut costs without depriving inmates of their essentials and programs.  (Clarion Ledger)

June 23, 2002
Millions of dollars cut from public schools.   Too few social workers struggling to keep up with hundreds of cases of abused and neglected children.   And Medicaid services reduced.   Lawmakers also plowed $9 million more into the private prison budget than the state Department of Corrections estimated was needed for 3,400 prisoners for fiscal 2003. In all, the Legislature is paying $54.7 million to put inmates in private prisons and $21.1 million to put them in regional jails — while 2,621 state-owned beds remain empty.   Why?     Communities where the 11 regional jails and five private prisons have sprung up regard the facilities as economic development to counteract high unemployment.  Contractual obligations. The state is bound by 20-year contracts with 3 percent annual increases for private prisons and regional jails.  Private prison companies are contributing money to lawmakers' campaigns. During the 1999 elections 37 politicians split $41,085 from Corrections Corporation of America, Wackenhut Corrections, Carothers Construction and other prison industry sources, according to a nonpartisan, nonprofit institute that compiles campaign contribution information on a national level.   Politics. The corrections commissioner is battling lawmakers for control of the prison system, saying he can spend more efficiently with less restrictions. So far, he's losing the fight.   The combined result of those factors is money being poured into the state's corrections system — which Attorney General Mike Moore, an architect of the private prison-regional jail plan, said amounts to funding society's failures at the expense of other needs, such as education.   Vincent Schiraldi, president of the Justice Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., has another description for it: astounding.   "It is astounding that during such a time of fiscal crisis, the Legislature could be that careless with that much money," Schiraldi said of the $9 million in the private prison budget. "The trend nationally is that as crime decreases and the economy is down, private prisons are being closed."   Gov. Musgrove would agree. "The state does not have an obligation to be a charity for private prisons," he said.   Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, Corrections  Committee vice chairman and a Senate Appropriations Committee member, fears safety may be compromised by overfunding private prisons.  Private prison companies are contributing money to lawmakers' campaigns. During the 1999 elections, 37 politicians split $41,085 from Corrections Corporation of America, Wackenhut Corrections, Carothers Construction and other prison industry sources, according to a nonpartisan, nonprofit institute that compiles campaign contribution information on a national level.   Politics. The corrections commissioner is battling lawmakers for control of the prison system, saying he can spend more efficiently with less restrictions. So far, he's losing the fight.   The combined result of those factors is money being poured into the state's corrections system — which Attorney General Mik Moore, an architect of the private prison-regional jail plan, said amounts to funding society's failures at the expense of other needs, such as education.   Vincent Schiraldi, president of the Justice Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., has another description for it: astounding.   "It is astounding that during such a time of fiscal crisis, the Legislature could be that careless with that much money," Schiraldi said of the $9 million in the private prison budget. "The trend nationally is that as crime is down, private prisons are being closed."   Gov. Musgrove would agree. "The state does not have an obligation to be a charity for private prisons," he said.     Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, Corrections Committee vice chairman and a Senate Appropriations Committee member, fears safety may be compromise by overfunding private prisons.  (Clarion Ledger)

May 20, 2002
Funding going to private prisons in Mississppi should be diverted into less costly, more effective rehabilitation programs, according to a study examining how much Mississippi spends on prisons vs. education.  "This will free up taxpayer dollars for education and prevention programs that have been shown to deter individuals from committing criminal acts," states the report by a Charlotte, N.C-based  nonprofit group.  The report, "Education v. Incarceration: A Mississippi Cases Study," is scheduled to be released today at a 1:30 p.m. news conference at the Capitol.  The study by the Grassroots Leadership is one of the many examining Southern states and their policies on spending taxpayer dollars for corrections and education. (Mississippi News)

April 10, 2002
Legislators are gearing up to override more vetoes when they return to the Capitol on Friday.   Besides handling Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's vetoes of two Medicaid bills, leading lawmakers say they expect to try to overturn his partial vetoes of Department of Corrections and Department of Human Services budgets.  Musgrove said he objects to protection for private prisons in the MDOC bill and to money set aside for the YMCA in the welfare agency's budget.  The governor said it was wrong for lawmakers to bar the transfer of money away from the $54.7 million allocated for private prisons. He wanted Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson to have flexibility to move money from any category of the prisons' budget into any other category.   "Once again, the special interests and special friends of the private prison industry won the day, funding fully private prisons and at a higher level than our state and regional facilities," Musgrove wrote in his veto message for part of the MDOC bill.  At the end of the 2001 legislative session, Musgrove and Johnson clashed with lawmakers over the funding of private prisons. Musgrove and Johnson said too much money was going to the private facilities, at the expense of other state needs such as education.   Musgrove vetoed dozens of spending bills in the 2001 session, and lawmakers ended the session by overriding all the vetoes.   In his corrections veto message Tuesday, Musgrove wrote: "Robert Johnson and I work for the taxpayers of Mississippi and not high paid executives of out-of-state prison corporations. Private prison beds are the most expensive in our system and this appropriation and its related proviso work against our ability to be good stewards for hard working Mississippians."   (AP)  

February 21, 2002
Remember Pete Johnson? The guy with the old Mississippi political name who was elected state auditor back in the 1980s? Ran for governor on the GOP ticket in 1991 and bombed?  However, that's only part of the seemingly unending saga of mercurial Patrick "Pete" Johnson, who has traded for years in the state's political arena on the Johnson name -- his uncle, Gov. Paul B. Johnson Jr. and grandfather, Gov. Paul B. Johnson Sr. -- to advance his own political agenda.    What brings Pete Johnson back on the public's radar screen now is his sideline as the unlikely owner of a private prison company, which, in a smelly political deal in 1994 dumped a dilapidated old motel at Flowood on the State Department of Corrections to house female probationers. Some of that side of the Pete Johnson story was unfolded a week ago in a Rankin County Chancery courtroom, where Johnson is being sued for $2 million by his ex-partner in Corrections Systems of Mississippi, the outfit of which Johnson is president. The ex-partner, William O. "Buddy" Jenkins, a well-known Rankin Realtor and contractor who was a one-third owner of the prison company, contends in the suit Johnson not only cut him out without payment, but also unloaded on him a heap of costs to renovate the old motel.   But here's the saddest part of the story for Mississippi taxpayers: We are paying Johnson $21,000 per month lease money for the unsightly motel -- and will be until March 2005 -- under the contract Johnson wangled from the Corrections Department back in the Fordice administration. "A sweetheart deal," is how present Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson describes the motel lease contract. And he can't do anything about it.       Every month the state has to fork out $20,987.50 in lease money to Corrections Systems of Mississippi for DOC to house an average of 130 non-violent female probationers at what once was the Airways Inn on U.S. 80 in Flowood. Since Pete Johnson is the only signatory on the lease, the lease money goes to him.  Worse, under terms of the contract, after the rental period ends in March 2005, the state will own it. Most assuredly it will have to be torn down and replaced with a decent facility.   How Pete Johnson even got his hands on the abandoned Airways Motel is questionable. The property was inherited by Hinds Community College from a donor and put up for bids in December 1993. Johnson made a high bid, but the sale was not consummated until after Lucas gave the lease contract to Johnson's private prison outfit on May 20, 1994 .
      Johnson, a banker and licensed attorney before becoming state auditor in 1987, knew nothing about prisons before chartering Correction Systems of Mississippi on May 4, 1994 . Remarkably, 16 days later he secured the juicy private prison contract from the state without making a public bid.  (The Sun Herald)

September 14, 2001
Legislators didn't like comments Gov. Ronnie Musgrove made earlier in the year when he criticized them for putting more money into prisons than education.  On Thursday, they unleashed their anger at state Department of Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson when he appeared before them to talk about his budget request for the new year beginning July 1, 2002. Lawmakers say they passed legislation requiring 230 inmates at 10 regional prisons and 900 inmates at two private facilities because Johnson asked for them initially, but MDOC revised those numbers downward before the session ended.  Johnson, who told the committee he has a problem with looking at inmates as economic development, was only minutes into his presentation when Senate Finance Chairman Bill Minor took issue with Johnson saying inmates can be housed cheaper at state facilities than at regional and private prisons.  Minor argued the same PEER report showed just the opposite. Johnson said he read the same report, and it didn't support that.  "You must have not known how to read," Minor said.  "Yes sir, I do. I read very well," Johnson responded.  (The Clarion-Ledger)

June 27, 2001
An ex-lawmaker and a former prison official are collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts with regional lockups in Mississippi.  The former legislator, Rolling Fork attorney Charles Weissinger, has contracts with five county-owned regional prisons that total more than $300, 000, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal newspaper in Tupelo reported Wednesday.  Contracts for attorneys and consultants are negotiated by county officials where the regional prisons are located.  One of the consultants is Edward Hargett, a former warden at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, who worked 25 years in corrections.  Hargett said the taxpayers "are getting a deal with the regional prisons.  They are getting all the program services provided at far less cost than at the private prisons and state facilities."  Weissinger, who served in the Mississippi House from 1988-92, has contracts with regional prisons in Bolivar, Issaquena, Stone, Jefferson-Franklin and Holmes-Humphreys counties.  Hargett has contracts with those five prisons, plus the newly opened facility in Kemper-Neshoba counties.  (AP)

June 22, 2001
Employees at three privately run prisons in Mississippi have sued their Tennessee-based employer for failing to pay overtime.  The prisons are located in Woodville, Greenwood and Tallahatchie County.  Corrections Corporation of America, based Nashville, Tenn., owns and operates the prisons.  The lawsuits, which represent one side of a legal argument, allege CCA required employees to attend meetings off the clock and prohibited workers from clocking out on days when they worked more than eight hours.  The suits ask for back overtime pay and damages on behalf of all current and former CCA employees.  (AP)

June 15, 2001
A legislative report released Thursday shows the Mississippi Department of Corrections does not need to remove inmates from sheriff's work programs, Attorney General Mike Moore said.  "Common sense has won the day," said Sheriff George H. Payne, Jr.  "The winners are the taxpayers of Harrison County."  Payne and other sheriffs have been at odds with lawmakers over their decision to guarantee higher numbers of inmates at private and regional prisons.  Officials at those prisons said they need more inmates to break even on housing costs.  The report shows that the private at Holly Springs in Marshall County and at Greenwood in Leflore County need about $28 per day to house an inmate, instead of $36 per day.  The private prisons, instead of needing at least 900 each, require 843 beds in Leflore County and 871 in Marshall County.  The state has to pay for the beds even if they are empty.  Lawmakers set the guarantees last year after learning that prison population had dwindled, giving the state more prison beds than prisoners.  (The Sun Herald)

June 12, 2001
Some Mississippi sheriffs say they don't know how they'll cope if the Corrections Department follows through on a proposal to remove 500 state inmates from county work programs.  Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson on Monday said he's considering the shuffle because legislators told his department it must increase the number of inmates it keeps in regional jails and private prisons.  On the Coast, Harrison County stands to lose the most state inmates, with 46 of 72 slated to be moved.  the inmates pick up litter on the highways and beach, work on public vehicles, help with public events and perform other chores.  Hancock County Sheriff Steve Garber is not happy about the possibility of losing six of 10 state prisoners in the county's work program.  Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie uses state inmates to cook jail meals and pick up roadside litter.  He said taking away the free labor could hurt his county.  "It appears there's a big political fight in Jackson and the citizens of the state of Mississippi are the ones that's going to be impacted," Sollie said Monday.  A dispute over the placement of inmates erupted in March, during the final days of the 2001 legislative session.  Lawmakers wanted to increase the number of state inmates going to 10 regional jails and privately run prisons in Marshall County and Leflore County.  The private prisons and regional jails have provided jobs in many legislators' districts in recent years.  Johnson said it's cheaper to keep inmates in state prisons or county jails than in private prisons or regional jails.  He also said the state could end up with "ghost inmates" by paying private or regional facilities for unfilled beds.  Lawmakers mandated the increases to regional jails and private prisons over the objections of Johnson and Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.  In his letter to sheriffs, Johnson quoted a March 28 letter Attorney General Mike Moore had sent him.  "It makes no financial sense to pay $20 a day to house these inmates in county jails and also pay for 'ghost inmates' at a much higher rate for no service at all, " Moore had written to Johnson.  (AP)

April 5, 2001
Corrections officials will be asking sheriffs how many inmates they're willing to give up to fill regional jails and two private prisons.  The Legislature expanded the number of inmates that will go into those prisons over the veto of Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.  "I want to see from the sheriffs how many (inmates) they actually have that they need to move," Musgrove said Wednesday.  The Department of Corrections budget bill increased the state's financial obligation to regional jails and privately run prisons starting July 1.  Meeting the obligation will require either shuffling of some the 1,500 state inmates that are now in local jails or paying for what MDOC Commissioner Robert Johnson calls "ghost" inmates in unfilled beds at the private prisons and regional jails.  "You are paying $20 a day to house a prisoner in an approval jail and you're going to move that prisoner to a private facility that costs you somewhere between $24 and $30 a day, " the governor told reporters.  "Now, my simple math tells me that is not saving money." (AP)

March 30, 2001
Mississippi legislators swiftly overrode Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's vetoes of dozens of spending bills, then headed home to end their three-month session.  The House voted 111-9 to override vetoes of the Mississippi Department of Corrections funding bill. (The Clarion Ledger)

March 27 , 2001
Taxpayers would have to pay about $6 million a year to private and regional prison for "ghost inmates" under bill the Legislature approved Monday, the state's corrections commissioner said. The Mississippi department of Corrections funding bill includes a provision to subsidize the regional and private facilities, despite the absence of need. The state doesn't have the inmates to fulfill the obligations under the bill, Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson said. Taxpayers would have to pay about $2 million a year to private prisoners and $4 million to regional prisoners for these :ghost inmates," he said. "I guess that's where the old saying 'politics make strange bedfellows' comes from. Anytime you find a group of Mississippi legislators agreeing to guarantee a private enterprise a profit with taxpayers' money,  you know there's got to be strange happenings," Johnson said. State prisoners have about 2,600 empty beds. (The Clarion-Ledger)

Mississippi Welcome Center, I-10
Guard Rite Services

September 1, 2006 Sun Herald
The search ended has ended for a prisoner who escaped from the custody of a private prison transport service that had stopped at the Mississippi Welcome Center on its way to Texas from Indiana earlier in the week. Kevin Alva, 49, escaped custody after the private transport service group made a stop at the Mississippi Welcome Center on Interstate 10 just past the Mississippi-Alabama state line Monday. At the time of his escape, he was being extradited from Indiana to Texas, where he was facing a state parole violation and expected to be sentenced to prison time because of a recent armed robbery conviction.

Natchez-Adams County, Mississippi
CCA/GEO

March 9, 2007 The Natchez Democrat
A petition has been started asking for a vote on potential federal correctional facilities locating in Adams County. Robert Palmer, captain of the Cranfield neighborhood watch, said he and other members have drawn up a petition and started circulating it Friday morning. “Some of the members and I live out here, and someone has to be the initial start-up person,” Palmer said. “I think before we just put something in an area, everybody should have the right to vote for or against it.” One of the two private prison companies, CCA, is looking at locating a minimum to medium security facility in northeast Adams County, and the other, GEO, is looking at a lot at the Natchez-Adams County Airport. Representatives from both companies said it’s likely only one will end up locating in Adams County. The petition is not for or against either prison. It simply requests the proposal to locate and build federal prisons in the county be brought to a public vote. Palmer said he thought most people would sign the petition, whether a resident was for or against the facilities. By state law, residents of a county have a right to bring before the board of supervisors a petition with either 1,500 signatures or signatures from 20 percent of the population, whichever is less. If the petition meets the minimum number of required signatures, the county must hold an election to decide whether or not to accept the prison. The deadline to submit the petition — April 24 — is fast approaching, Palmer said. “It’s getting real close,” Palmer said. “We’re hoping to (get enough signatures). If we can get word out to the public that the petitions are out there to sign, I think we can.” If the petition gets enough signatures and the issue comes to a vote, the topic could be voted on either in the scheduled elections in August and November, or the county could hold a special election. Supervisor President Darryl Grennell said he thought the decision would be up to the board. A special election would be quicker but would cost extra county money, he said. If it came to a vote, it might mean at least one company would look elsewhere to locate a new facility, Grennell said. Both companies, but especially CCA, have expressed interest in working quickly in order to take advantage of GO Zone opportunities and be ready for potential government contracts. “If this thing gets on the ballot, it will delay it tremendously, and CCA will probably end up looking at another county,” he said. He said he hadn’t heard one way or the other from GEO on the subject.

March 2, 2007 The Natchez Democrat
Representatives from the city and county governments met privately in December to discuss the prospect of a correctional facility locating in the county. Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority Jeff Rowell said the EDA called the meeting to inform officials about the details of the potential prisons. “It was to let everybody know what’s going on,” Rowell said Thursday. No public notice of the meeting was given. Two of the largest correctional facility companies in the nation are interested in locating a federal prison in Adams County, one on private land and one at the Natchez-Adams Airport. A public hearing on the two companies was recently held at a supervisors meeting. Officials from one company, GEO, which wants to locate at the airport, spoke to those attending. The other company, CCA, was not represented. EDA Chairman Woody Allen said it was an informal meeting bringing in prison representatives to explain the situation. “There was no plan for a vote,” Allen said. “It was strictly to let them know what the different levels of the prison would be.” Adams County Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said he asked the EDA to call the meeting. “It was to more or less get support for the prison (from city officials),” Grennell said, adding that he talked with Gov. Haley Barbour before Christmas and discussed a potential prison in Adams County. “He suggested a methodology of selling the prison to the county residents. It was the same method he used in order to get three facilities in Yazoo County.” That method, Grennell said, was to first meet with city and county elected officials to educate them about the facility, location and number of jobs it would provide. The next step was to talk to community leaders, such as those from businesses and churches. They, in turn, would have answers when residents came to them with questions about the prisons. “That way you can have a trickle-down effect of selling the concept of a prison to Natchez-Adams County,” Grennell said. “Once you do that, you have a public hearing for the residents to come and learn about the facility.” It didn’t quite work out that way, though, Grennell said. News of the facilities got out before officials had a chance to talk with community leaders. “At that point, we never got a chance to meet with community and business leaders,” he said. “It was already public knowledge.”

Oxford, Mississippi
TransCor
December 1, 2004 Daily Mississippian
An employee has been fired and equipment has been adjusted following an investigation into how a prisoner escaped in Oxford in October. David Randal Moser, 25, was being transported by TransCor, a private transportation company, from Florida to Ohio to face rape charges when he escaped in Oxford on Oct. 24. An investigation into how he escaped resulted into security equipment adjustments and the termination of one employee, said Ashley Nimmo, director of marketing communications for TransCor. “We looked at equipment and made some adjustments,” Nimmo said. “One employee has been released due to violation of company policy.” Nimmo said she could not comment further on the equipment or the employee.
TransCor also paid the Oxford Police Department for the overtime their officers put in to look for the prisoner.

October 28, 2004 Daily Mississippian
Escaped prisoner David Randal Moser lived in trees near Jackson Avenue for over 58 hours as he evaded police after his escape Sunday.
Moser, 25, who was arrested around 10 p.m. Tuesday. Moser, who has been charged in Ohio with rape and sexual misconduct with a minor, escaped on foot from a private transport at Wendy’s at approximately 12:45 p.m. Sunday.

October 26, 2004 Daily Mississippian
Although police still search in Oxford for escaped prisoner David Randal Moser, they do not know whether he is in or out of Lafayette County. Moser, 25, who has been charged in Ohio with sexual conduct with a minor, escaped on foot from a private transport at Wendy’s at approximately 2 p.m. Sunday. Stephanie Castle, a relative of the family that brought the charges against Moser, called The Daily Mississippian to request an update about Moser’s whereabouts. Castle said she is upset that Moser was allowed to escape. “I can’t believe these extradition people have a Web site saying they are high security,” Castle said. “Where were the people when he did it (escaped)? I don’t get this at all. It just makes me irate.”
Moser was being transported by TransCor, a private prisoner transportation company, from Florida to Ohio when he escaped.

October 25, 2004 Daily Mississippian
Police searched for an escaped prisoner on campus and across Oxford Sunday afternoon through the early morning hours. As of 1:30 a.m., the search was to no avail. David Randal Moser, 25, escaped on foot from a private transport at Wendy’s on Jackson Avenue at approximately 2 p.m. Sunday, a flier said.
Moser, who was in custody for charges of sexual conduct with a minor, was being transported by Transcor from Florida to Richland County Jail in Mansfield, Ohio.

Pike County, Mississippi
CCA, Cornell
April 18, 2007 The Natchez Democrat
By voting against a prison coming to their county, Pike County residents gave Adams County a huge advantage, local officials said Tuesday. Pike County voted not to allow Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest private corrections company, to locate a facility there. The unofficial results were 3,854 against the prison and 2,721 in favor of it. That is a huge plus for Adams County’s chances of getting a CCA prison, Adams County Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said Tuesday. “That is good news for Adams County. There’s a much greater chance of it being in Adams County, now,” Grennell said. “I know it’s going to be in Adams County. That’s like a 100 percent guarantee it’s going to be here.” CCA is one of two prison companies vying for a federal contract and looking to locate in Adams County. CCA has announced it was looking to pick a location among Pike, Walthall and Adams counties. Now that Pike County is out of the running, and Walthall County is not as far along in the selection process, Adams County looks like the place, Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority Chair Woody Allen said. “It just puts us in a very positive light going forward with regard to being one of the top sites,” Allen said. CCA spokesman Steve Owen said he thought the results were very positive for Adams County. “This is more about Pike County than about CCA,” Owen said. “Pike County is removing themselves from consideration. It means we have to shift our focus to the other two counties in Mississippi wanting to be considered.” Supervisor Sammy Cauthen said he was interested in the jobs a potential prison would bring to the county. “We need the jobs, and we need the ad valorem taxes off the $90 million project,” Cauthen said. “Businesspeople in town need the business that would come along with the prison.” Supervisor Henry Watts said he was pleased Pike County voted against the prison. “It obviously heightens our chances of getting the prison here,” Watts said. “The prison proposal makes the most economic sense. It is the best industrial proposal I have seen that made economic sense since I’ve been on the board of supervisors.” Supervisor Thomas “Boo” Campbell said he thought a prison in Adams County was a sure thing. “I think there’s not much to stop it for Adams County,” Campbell said. “We need the jobs. There will always be skeptics, and there will always be pros and cons. The reality is, we need the jobs, and I welcome it.” Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter said he thought the Pike County vote would definitely mean a prison in Adams County. “I’m sure they’re coming here,” he said. “I’m sure they’re going to try.” But Felter said he wanted the residents of Adams County to be able to decide that issue. “I want the people to have a chance to vote on it,” Felter said. “If they want it, it’s fine with me.” Residents might get that chance. Mississippi law states that if residents of a county get 1,500 signatures on a petition asking for a vote on a private prison, the county has to hold a vote. Some have recently said that because of timing — CCA wants to take advantage of the GO Zone incentives — a vote would ruin Adams County’s chances of getting the prison. Robert Palmer is one of those spearheading a petition in Adams County to bring the issue to a vote. And while the petition is not for or against the prison, only asking for a vote, Palmer said he is not in favor of having a private federal prison in the county. “We just feel if this thing comes, these people who are promoting it are going to see the day they regret bringing it in,” Palmer said. “It’s not if we have a problem there, it’s when.”

January 2, 2007 Clarion Ledger
Pike County officials will host what is being called an "informational session" today in Magnolia on a proposed prison to be run by Corrections Corporation of America. Magnolia Mayor Jim Storer and Pike County Economic Development District Executive Director Britt Herrin will host the meeting. Storer said no one from CCA will be present. CCA wants to build a 1,500-inmate prison in the Metro-Pike Industrial Park. Storer said he hopes to have CCA officials at future sessions. "I decided that the citizens of Magnolia and anybody else around that might want to learn more about that, that this might be an opportunity for them to come and present their questions," Storer said. Storer said he hopes mayors in other towns in Pike County will hold similar sessions for residents. Meanwhile, an organization opposed to the prison has asked county supervisors for copies of all records pertaining to the project. Supervisors this past week received a letter from Gail Tyree of Grassroots Leadership requesting copies of "correspondence, meeting notes and cell phone records in regards to the prison proposal." Tyree also requested "executive session notes" from January 2005 to Dec. 18, 2006. Board of supervisors attorney Wayne Dowdy said he will respond to Tyree's request.

December 22, 2006 AP
Pike County supervisors will run public notices about a proposed private prison in the Metro-Pike Industrial Park. The notice is required by law. Board of supervisors attorney Wayne Dowdy said this week that the notice, to be published in a local newspaper, will specify the location of the prison, type of inmates that will occupy it and the name of the company - Corrections Corp. of America - that wants to run it. If 1,500 voters sign petitions opposing the prison, supervisors must hold an election on the issue, Dowdy said. Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA plans a 1,500-inmate facility, costing about $80 million. It would be located on 85 acres in the industrial park. CCA has three prisons in Mississippi. Wilkinson County Correctional Facility at Woodville opened in 1998, Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility at Tutwiler in 2000 and Delta Correctional Facility at Greenwood in 2004, according to the CCA. Pike County Economic Development District Executive Director Britt Herrin has said the proposed prison will have a low profile at its location in the industrial park on the southeast side of the McComb-Pike County Airport. He said the site will have a perimeter of trees and other vegetation. "We want it to blend into the area and have a more peaceful, serene look than just concrete buildings, fences and razor wire," Herrin said. CCA's Brad Wiggins has said that the outdoor lighting system at the prison will be focused on the ground and should not light up the night sky dramatically.

December 18, 2006 Enterprise-Journal
Pike County residents will get an opportunity to vote on a proposed prison if at least 1,500 voters sign petitions requesting a referendum, according to statute. Board of supervisors attorney Wayne Dowdy said he found a state law Friday requiring public notice and a potential referendum on a private prison. He will meet with supervisors at 9 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the matter. “On Wednesday they should pass a resolution indicating that since an option to purchase has been granted to Corrections Corp. of America on 89 acres, more or less, the public will be notified as required by a statute, and the public will have 60 days within which to file objections to the construction of the facility,” Dowdy said this morning. “If a sufficient number of objections are received, an election will be called on the matter. It will be determined by majority vote.”

December 18, 2006 AP
Pike County officials have canceled a public hearing on a proposed prison, saying there is broad community support for the project. Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America wants to build the 1,500-inmate facility in the Metro-Pike Industrial Park east of the county airport. The prison would cost $80 million and provide 300 jobs, CCA has said. The company has an option on 85 acres in the industrial park. Pike County Economic District Executive Director Britt Herrin said Friday that Corrections Corp. of America officials have already met with opponents of the prison, so there's no reason for a public hearing.

December 4, 2006 AP
Pike County supervisors have canceled a public hearing that had been scheduled for Dec. 14 on a proposal to locate a private prison in the county. Britt Herrin, executive director of Pike County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development District, said this week that Corrections Corporation of America, which proposes building the prison in the Metro-Pike Industrial Park, wants to wait until after the Christmas holidays. Meanwhile, CCA officials hope to meet individually or in small groups with some of the prison's critics. "They felt that was a prudent way to discuss the project with people who are emotional about it," Herrin said. A tour of a CCA prison at Woodville is still scheduled for Dec. 13. A prison to house illegal aliens was considered for the area in 2001 but fell victim to federal budget cuts in 2001 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

July 19, 2002
In another matter, executive director Britt Herrin said Cornell Corrections, Inc. might appeal the Federal Bureau of Prisons decision not to locate a prison in Pike County.  The Houston, Texas based company spent about $2 million preliminary costs to construct the privately owned and operated federal prison to house illegal aliens at Fernwood.  "Gave it our best shot...just beyond our control," Herrin said of the prison project.  (Enterprise-Journal)

June 6, 2002
After months of delays, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons announced it choise for a new federal prison Thursday, and Pike County wasn't it.  George Killinger of Cornell Corrections Inc., which had planned to build the Pike County prison, expressed shock this morning.  "We're just very saddened here and disappointed." 
In 2000 the bureau started with 14 prospective sites, and late last year it recommended McRae and Pike County.   But the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed everything. More money went to homeland security, more illegal aliens were deported, immigration was tightened, and local officials got word a month ago that the bureau would choose just one site in the Southeast.   That pitted the McRae site, proposed by Corrections Corp. of America, against Pike County.  “The one thing CCA-McRae had was a facility already built,” Killinger said. “That was probably the biggest difference.  “We found no resistance, and that is so unusual.”  Killinger would not say exactly how much Cornell has spent in preparation work here, but admitted it’s a lot.  “We haven’t come up with a dollar amount, but many years and lots of time and sweat and an awful lot of money,” he said, citing environmental studies, blueprints and other work.  “We had no, no indication we would not be selected, up till the 11th hour. We thought the announcement would be made today,  he said. “We all had smiles on our faces and were ready to come to McComb and put the shovel in the ground.”  Earlier this month Pike County supervisors agreed to spend $800,000 for 110 acres to enlarge the Metro-Pike Industrial Park for the proposed prison. But they said the expansion was needed whether the county gets a prison or not.  Killinger, whose company is in the business of building and operating prisons, said it might still propose Pike County for a prison in the future.   “There’s got to be some form of prison population that will grow,” he said. “We do know that we have a site and community and partnership that we would be anxious to start again.” (Enterprise-Journal)

May 7, 2002
Pike County officials say they have found evidence that they shouldn’t have to reimburse the U.S. Department of Justice $30,836 in grant funds after all.  In another matter, supervisors voted to go ahead with the purchase of 110 acres to enlarge the industrial park for a federal prison even though the prison hasn’t been formally approved.   The Pike County Economic Development District will buy the land for $800,000, and the county will issue bonds.   The option to buy was set to expire May 1.   The county won’t qualify for a grant until the prison is formally approved. The purchase was contingent on the prison project, which has been delayed repeatedly by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.   Last year supervisors agreed to issue $1.5 million in bonds to buy the land and as matching funds for a grant to provide roads and utilities to the property. Cornell Companies Inc. plans to build a low-security prison to house immigrants accused of violating laws in the United States.  (Enterprise-Journal)

Tallahatchie Correctional Facility
Tutwiler, Mississippi
CCA
Nov 8, 2014 clarionledger.com

Prison operator accused of denying workers overtime pay

Clay Chandler, The Clarion-Ledger 10:10 p.m. CST November 7, 2014

A private prison operator whose contract with the Mississippi Department of Corrections is under review as part of the investigation into former commissioner Chris Epps faces allegations of denying workers overtime pay. James Walker, a shift supervisor at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, is suing Corrections Corp. of America in Mississippi’s Northern District federal court. CCA operates TCCF in Tutwiler and Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez. Walker’s complaint, filed last month, says workers often have to arrive as much as 30 minutes before shifts start to prepare and complete reports, sign post orders, pass through safety scanners and obtain safety equipment like handcuffs and pepper spray. Employees cannot leave their post, even if the shift has ended, until a replacement arrives, the complaint says. CCA has classified shift supervisors and assistant supervisors in Tutwiler and Natchez as management, which exempts them from overtime pay. The complaint says that exemption does not grant employees managerial duties, but forces them to work beyond 80 hours in a two-week period with no extra compensation.

“In most cases, they do the exact same work as other guards at the facility, except they hold the title Shift Supervisor of Assistant Shift Supervisor,” reads the complaint, which represents one side of a legal argument. The suit also accuses CCA not providing regularly scheduled meal and rest breaks, as required by labor law. The suit seeks unpaid back wages and an injunction requiring CCA to provide meal and rest periods and eliminating the exemption from overtime requirements. Although the suit was brought by only one employee, it asks for collective status, which is similar to class action. If presiding Judge Sharion Aycock grants it, all TCCF and ACCF employees would have the option of becoming a plaintiff. “While we cannot speak to the specific allegations in the complaint, CCA is committed to ensuring all employees are fairly compensated for the services they provide in accordance with all applicable laws,” CCA spokesman Steven Owen wrote in an email to The Clarion-Ledger. CCA’s contract with MDOC was not named in the indictments that charged Epps and former Rankin County School Board President Cecil McCrory with 49 counts of money laundering, bribery, wire fraud and conspiracy. Epps is accused of receiving kickbacks from McCrory in exchange for steering state contracts to companies McCrory either owned or had a financial interest in. Prosecutors allege Epps received almost $1 million that he laundered through his home mortgage, a beachfront condo on the Coast and investment accounts. Epps, in return, allegedly steered nearly $1 billion in state contracts in companies tied to McCrory. The two men were arraigned Thursday in federal court in Jackson. Each is free on a $25,000 bond. Gov. Phil Bryant has ordered MDOC to rebid the contracts listed in the indictment and review all others. CCA was not among the businesses linked to McCrory and was not listed in the indictment. The private prison operator’s recent history in Mississippi has been difficult. Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood closed in 2012. CCA closed the 1,172-bed facility because it could not match or exceed cost savings state operation would have brought. State law says private prison operators have to manage facilities cheaper than the state could. In 2012, a riot at ACCF resulted in one guard’s death and several others being held hostage. Two inmates involved in that incident pleaded guilty to conspiracy earlier this year. CCA operates facilities in 20 states and employs more than 14,000 corrections professionals nationwide.

October 28, 2009 Clarksdale Press Register
The state of California have sent corrections investigators to Tutwiler Prison following an inmate attack that injured two guards. One of the injured guards at the private facility, Norris Holly, is a former two-term Friars Point Alderman. The incident occurred Thursday during breakfast in the dining hall at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, which is run by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. Corrections officials say several inmates from California, who had been transferred to the prison, attacked the staff. According to sources, Norris is being treated for 22 puncture wounds and a collapsed lung. An unidentified Lieutenant was treated for injuries to his eye and jaw and released. No inmates were injured. The facility is on lockdown. The incident is under investigation. CDCR’s strike team will support Correctional Corporation of America staff in its investigation and review, help identify inmates who participated in the incident, conduct threat assessments and interviews, and evaluate housing placement.

October 22, 2009 AP
The state of California is sending corrections investigators to a private prison in the Mississippi Delta where inmates attacked and injured two guards. The incident occurred Thursday during breakfast in the dining hall at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, which is run by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. Corrections officials say several inmates from California, who had been transferred to the prison, attacked the staff. Two CCA officers were injured and one remained hospitalized Thursday. Staff used a chemical spray to break up the attack. The facility is on lockdown. The California officers will help CCA investigate.

May 23, 2008 Sacramento Bee
California's prison medical czar will investigate the so-called "long-term viability" of a private prison company's contract with the state because of problems at one of the firm's out-of-state facilities. In a letter to the Corrections Corporation of America, receiver J. Clark Kelso's top aide cited the death of one California inmate and delayed health care for another at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Miss. Chief of staff John Hagar's letter said the receiver's office will send an oversight team to Mississippi on Monday. It is investigating the death April 23 of Robert Washington and what the letter called "delays in the delivery of medical care" to another inmate, identified as Frederick Gusta. Hagar's letter, dated Wednesday, said the receiver's office plans to meet soon in Sacramento with company officials and that the session "will include a discussion of ..... the long-term viability of the contract between the California Department of Corrections and CCA." "Everything is on the table," receiver's spokesman Luis Patino said Thursday about the contract. The private prison company houses 3,904 California inmates in six prisons located in Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arizona. The company's two contracts are costing the state $115 million in the current fiscal year. California corrections officials say the out-of-state program is vital to relieving pressure on the state's system as inmates are jammed into 33 prisons at twice their designed capacity. Corrections spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said Thursday it would be "premature to react" to Hagar's letter "until there's an investigation complete." Hidalgo said the state considers the transfer program a "great success" that has allowed California to move inmates out of triple-bunked gymnasiums. Two public employee unions have sued the state in Sacramento Superior Court to block the transfers on grounds they violated the employees' civil service protections. The unions prevailed. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration appealed the lower court's rulings. A hearing on the appeal is set for Tuesday in Sacramento. Inmate Washington, 41, died of cardiac arrest after being stricken by an asthma attack, according to Coahoma County, Miss., chief medical examiner and investigator Scotty Meredith. Washington was serving seven years for vehicle theft. Meredith said it was his opinion that the medical care at the Tallahatchie County prison was "excellent" but that it took a private ambulance company 35 minutes to respond to the asthma attack. Washington was taken from the prison to a Coahoma County hospital 12 miles away, in the northwest Mississippi Delta region, about 75 miles south of Memphis, Tenn. "I don't think anything was wrong (at the prison), but I wasn't there," Meredith said in an interview. No details were available on Gusta's case, except that he complained of chest pains and also was transported to a local hospital where he is still receiving care, Hidalgo said. Hidalgo said there also were "some delays" in Gusta's transportation to the hospital.

May 13, 2008 Sacramento Bee
California's prison medical care receiver is investigating the death of an inmate who was being housed in Mississippi. "I'm told it was an asthma-related death," said receiver's spokesman Rich Kirkland. Corrections officials identified the inmate as Robert Washington, 41, of San Joaquin County. Washington was serving seven years for vehicle theft. Autopsy results on Washington's April 23 death are still pending, corrections spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said Monday. Washington died at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Miss. The prison is owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America. Washington is the second inmate moved under California's out-of-state transfer plan to have died in custody since the program began two years ago. Anthony Kelly, 48, serving eight years on a drug case, died last May from an apparent heart attack while watching a fight involving other inmates. There are now 3,765 California inmates serving time out of state, Hidalgo said. State officials embarked on the transfer plan to help relieve pressure in the state's overcrowded prisons. Two public employee unions filed suit to block the transfers. The unions prevailed in Sacramento Superior Court, but the cases are pending on appeal.

August 18, 2007 Sacramento Bee
California corrections officials have begun sending hundreds of foreign national inmates against their will to a private prison in Mississippi as part of a stepped-up, out-of-state transfer plan. The first two flights of prisoners to the Tallahatchie County Detention Facility in Tutwiler, Miss., have taken place without incident, officials said, in spite of fears expressed by the California correctional officers union that the forced transfers would be met with inmate violence. "Many of the inmates had never been on a plane before in their lives," said Scott Kernan, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's chief deputy secretary for adult operations. "They were a little scared. But once they got on the flight, they were fine." Some 200 foreign national inmates, mostly from Mexico, were shipped to the Mississippi prison on flights July 20 and July 27, a state prison spokesman said. A total of 597 inmates -- including 397 volunteers -- have now been sent to private prisons in Mississippi, Arizona and Tennessee. Kernan said the state hopes to move 5,000 prisoners to out-of-state institutions by June 30 to help relieve overcrowding in California. "We have a very aggressive schedule that will include trips of approximately 120 inmates every couple of weeks," Kernan said. Some 173,000 inmates in the state are being housed in space designed for about half that many, with federal judges now considering a motion to place a population cap on the system that could result in early releases for tens of thousands of prisoners. Francisco Estrada, a lobbyist for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the transfers of the foreign nationals raise a host of potentially problematic legal issues for the corrections agency. If the inmates are legal residents, the transfers figure to separate them from their families and immigration attorneys, and "that's wrong," Estrada said. They also create a prospect for racial targeting on the part of prison officials. "We need to be very careful," Estrada said, adding that he will be discussing the issue with Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund attorneys. Foreign nationals being transferred under the out-of-state program are all subject to holds "or potential holds" placed on them by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said corrections spokesman Bill Sessa. They include both legal and illegal residents, he said. No inmates "with demonstrated family ties" are being transferred for now, Sessa said. Nor are any being moved "if they're in the middle of legal proceedings," including immigration matters, Sessa said. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association in February won a ruling in Sacramento Superior Court stopping the transfer program. The union claimed the program violated state civil service protections guaranteed under the California Constitution. The ruling has since been stayed pending an appeal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. CCPOA leaders also voiced opposition to the transfers during the debate over the recently enacted $7.9 billion prison construction plan, which included legislative approval for moving 8,000 inmates out of state. Union officials said the involuntary transfers would put officers in danger from resisting inmates. CCPOA spokesman Ryan Sherman said Friday that the union is "very grateful" that no officers have been injured in extracting the prisoners from their cells. "We're hopeful that will continue as the governor continues to do these unconstitutional transfers," Sherman said. Sherman characterized the Tallahatchie County prison in Mississippi, operated by the Correctional Corp. of America, as one of "the most troubled" in the country. He based his assessment on newspaper articles detailing assorted disturbances at the prison dating back to 2003. "Private prisons lower the bar for the entire profession by providing extremely limited training and remarkably poor compensation and benefits," Sherman said. "They're in it to make a buck. Public safety is nowhere on their priority list." CCA spokeswoman Louise Grant said her company "is extremely proud of the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility" and that private prisons are no more dangerous than those operated by the state.

July 22, 2007 Honolulu Advertiser
The private prison company that holds Hawai'i convicts on the Mainland acknowledged that multiple cell doors accidentally opened on four occasions at one of the company's new Arizona prisons, including one incident where alleged prison gang members used the opportunity to attack a Hawai'i inmate. The state's highest prison official said he's troubled that Corrections Corporation of America did not immediately notify the state about the incidents. The statement released by CCA announced that "appropriate disciplinary action was taken on officers in regard to four separate inadvertent cell door openings" at the Red Rock Correctional Center. The statement did not offer any specifics, and a company spokeswoman said in an e-mail that CCA would not provide additional details. Hawai'i Department of Public Safety interim director Clayton Frank said CCA did not tell Hawai'i prison authorities about some of the incidents until Wednesday night, after The Advertiser published complaints from inmates about repeated cases where doors opened unexpectedly and improperly, leaving protective custody prisoners vulnerable to attacks by prison gangs. Frank said he is "troubled" that CCA did not tell Hawai'i about some of the incidents. The company explained it did not immediately report some cases where doors opened because those incidents did not involve attacks on Hawai'i inmates, Frank said. "Right now, I have some serious concerns and doubt of whether they are providing us with everything," he said. "If it involves our inmates, I want to make sure that what they're giving us is true and accurate. "I want something to go directly to corporate office up there that says you guys have got to be candid when we ask questions." The state pays about $50 million a year to house 2,100 convicts in Mainland CCA prisons because there is no room for them in Hawai'i facilities. INMATE STABBED In the most serious of the incidents at Red Rock, Hawai'i inmate John Kupa was stabbed with a homemade knife on June 26 after more than half of the cell doors abruptly opened in his housing unit. That incident is being blamed on an error by a corrections officer. Protective custody inmates are housed in that prison pod along with general population inmates. That mix requires that prisoners there be separated constantly, and the doors there are never supposed to open simultaneously, prison officials said. Hawai'i Public Safety officials say that when the doors opened, Kupa and a 44-year-old inmate allegedly attacked Hawai'i convict Sidney Tafokitau. During the struggle, prison officials say Tafokitau allegedly stabbed Kupa. Tafokitau, a protective custody inmate, has said he acted in self-defense, and said he got the knife by taking it away from one of his attackers. Kupa, 36, was stabbed in the lower left back, and was treated and released from an Arizona hospital. The Red Rock stabbing marks the second time in two years a Hawai'i inmate has been injured when cell doors unexpectedly opened in a CCA prison living unit where inmates were supposed to be locked down. In the earlier case, 20 cell doors in a disciplinary unit of the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Mississippi suddenly opened at 2:48 a.m. on July 17, 2005, releasing about three dozen Hawai'i convicts from their cells. Inmates then attacked Hawai'i inmate Ronnie Lonoaea, who was beaten so badly he suffered brain damage, and is now confined to a wheelchair. Hawai'i prison officials this week revealed the doors opened in Mississippi in that 2005 disturbance because a corrections officer had been "compromised" by a prison gang. Lawyer Myles Breiner, who is suing the state and CCA on behalf of Lonoaea and his family, said Lonoaea will need extensive medical care for the rest of his life, care that is expected to "easily" cost $10 million to $11 million. Breiner said he is also gathering information about attacks triggered by doors that improperly opened at Red Rock, and is considering filing suit on behalf of inmates that were attacked or injured in those cases. DELIBERATE ERROR? "Their doors are opening, and the only people responsible for the management and security is CCA," Breiner said. He said some of the lapses at Red Rock seem to be caused by human error or problems with the equipment, while the inmates suspect some of the other incidents have been deliberate. "Whether it's corruption or construction, CCA is still responsible," Breiner said. The statement from CCA said the company has taken corrective measures. "We stand by our reputation as a provider of quality corrections management services, and will continue to assess our operational activities to further refine and improve our safety processes," the company said.

July 18, 2007 Honolulu Advertiser
For the second time in two years, improper actions by a corrections worker caused cell doors to unexpectedly open in a Mainland prison where Hawai'i inmates were supposed to be kept separated, triggering violence that injured a Hawai'i convict, prison officials said. In the first incident at a Mississippi prison in 2005, Hawai'i convict Ronnie Lonoaea, 34, was beaten so severely that he suffered brain damage and is now confined to a wheelchair. Lonoaea's family sued the Hawai'i prison system and Corrections Corp. of America last week in connection with the case. In a second incident last month at Red Rock Correctional Center in Arizona, an error by a prison staffer caused cell doors to abruptly open, prison officials said. Hawai'i inmate John Kupa, 36, was stabbed in the left lower back, according to a police report. The two incidents raise concerns about the treatment of Hawai'i inmates in Mainland prisons run by a private company, said an expert on prisons and a state legislator. In the Arizona case, cell doors abruptly opened on June 26 in a prison pod where protective custody inmates are housed in some cells and general population inmates including gang members are held in other cells. Kupa was stabbed with a homemade knife after the doors opened at about 6 p.m., according to a report from the Eloy, Ariz., police department. The injured inmate was treated and released at a local hospital, according to a prison spokeswoman. In the Mississippi prison incident, 20 cell doors suddenly opened at 2:48 a.m. on July 17, 2005. About three dozen Hawai'i inmates were released from their cells when the doors opened, touching off a melee that lasted for 90 minutes in a disciplinary pod in the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility. Corrections officers finally used tear gas grenades to regain control of the pod. Hawai'i Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Louise Kim McCoy said an internal investigation of the Mississippi case found the doors opened because a corrections sergeant had been "compromised" by prison gang members. Corrections Corp. of America, which owns both the Mississippi and the Arizona prison, terminated the sergeant, McCoy said in a written response to questions. Steve Owen, director of marketing for CCA, declined to discuss the specifics of the June 26 incident and also declined comment on the lawsuit over the Tallahatchie incident. PRIVATE VS. PUBLIC Byron E. Price, assistant professor of public policy and administration at Rutgers University and author of a book on the private prison industry, said Hawai'i has reason to be concerned about the incidents at Tallahatchie and Red Rock. Private prison operators make money by holding down costs, which is often accomplished by reducing labor costs, said Price. The companies tend to rely heavily on technology as a way to keep the officer-to-inmate ratios down, Price said. Private prison staff members are typically inexperienced, he added. "By cutting labor costs, you get a less qualified individual, and there's high turnover rate in the private prisons, and they conduct less training for their corrections officers" compared with publicly run prisons, said Price, who is author of "Merchandizing Prisoners: Who Really Pays for Prison Privatization?" Corrections Yearbook statistics show the staff turnover at private prisons averages 52 percent a year, while the turnover at public prisons is about 16 percent, he said. Hawai'i spends more than $50 million a year to house inmates in CCA prisons on the Mainland, and Senate Public Safety Committee Chairman Will Espero said he is concerned about reports of security problems "that appear to be similar, and that haven't been resolved." "Considering the millions of dollars that we are spending on the Mainland, we would expect to get excellent service, excellent facilities, and ... I would expect that with their experience, they should be able to minimize any problems," he said of CCA. LIFETIME CARE NEEDED When the cell doors opened in Mississippi, prisoners attacked Lonoaea. His attackers tore or cut off his lips and broke bones in his face, said Honolulu lawyer Michael Green, who is suing CCA and the Hawai'i prison system on behalf of Lonoaea's family. Green said Lonoaea, who is approaching the end of his prison sentence, will need intensive healthcare for the rest of his life that will likely cost $10 million to $11 million. The lawsuit alleges Hawai'i prison officials were negligent for failing to properly oversee the prison, and alleges CCA failed to properly train or supervise TCCF staff. Inmates at Red Rock who were interviewed by The Advertiser complain that multiple cell doors there have repeatedly opened without warning at times when prisoners are supposed to be locked down, leaving protective custody inmates open to danger. Officials at the privately owned Red Rock facility have disarmed the fuses in the electrical systems that operate the doors to some cells in the facility since the June 26 incident, and corrections officers at Red Rock have been manually opening the doors with keys, said McCoy of the Hawai'i Department of Public Safety. In a written response to questions, McCoy confirmed inmate accounts of the attack in Echo-Delta pod, a housing unit where inmates are supposed to remain separated from each other at all times. After the doors opened, Kupa and a 44-year-old inmate allegedly attacked Sidney Tafokitau, 28. During the fight that followed, Tafokitau allegedly stabbed Kupa with a homemade knife. Tafokitau said in a telephone interview this is the second time his cell door at Red Rock has opened without warning. Tafokitau said he acted in self-defense on June 26 and said he obtained the homemade knife by seizing it from one of his attackers during the fight. Tafokitau also alleged that corrections officers initially fled from the fight instead of intervening to break it up and only returned later with pepper spray after Tafokitau's attackers had thrown him to the ground and were beating him. "I telling you, this ... place is sloppy, cuz," said Tafokitau, who is serving a life sentence for robbery. "They make so much mistakes ... it's just a matter of time before another mistake. I telling you right now, somebody gonna get killed, brah." Tafokitau said he was in the pod because he was involuntarily placed in protective custody after he clashed with a prison gang. EARLIER INCIDENTS Hawai'i inmates at Red Rock claim multiple cell doors have opened simultaneously and unexpectedly before. Inmate Chris Wilmer, 29, recounted an incident on Feb. 2 when all of the doors in Echo-Delta unit again opened, releasing general population inmates into a dayroom occupied by protective custody inmates. Wilmer, who also said he was involuntarily placed in protective custody because of conflicts with gang members, said he immediately became involved in a fight with two alleged members of a prison gang who were released into the dayroom. Wilmer said a Hawai'i prison official was notified of that incident and spoke to Wilmer about it. Wilmer said he also witnessed a similar incident where the doors opened in Echo-Bravo pod at about 6:30 p.m. on April 7, and Wilmer and another inmate both alleged there was another example of doors opening unexpectedly between June 21 and June 23 in the Echo-Bravo pod. The growing sense of insecurity in the pods encourages inmates to try to obtain weapons, and Hawai'i needs to pressure CCA to fix the problem, said Wilmer, who is serving prison terms for robbery, attempted murder and other offenses. "For here and now, something needs to be said and done," he said. "They don't have room for that kind of mistakes." The officer who erred in the June 26 incident meant to open doors in another pod used by Alaska inmates and instead opened the doors to Hawai'i inmates' cells, McCoy said. She said the officer has been disciplined. A female corrections officer who made a similar mistake by opening multiple doors in a living unit elsewhere in the prison earlier this year also was disciplined, McCoy said. McCoy could not immediately confirm the other inmate reports of other cases where multiple cell doors opened unexpectedly in February, April and June. RE-EVALUATING UNIT Part of the problem on June 26 was that the pod involved was not designed to operate with "serious violent offenders" who are locked in their cells for 23 hours each day, but those kinds of offenders ended up there because they couldn't be held in Oklahoma or Mississippi, McCoy said. Those inmates are now awaiting transfer to the newly opened Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona, which has a segregation unit designed to house them, she said. CCA responded to the June 26 incident by re-evaluating the staffing patterns for the unit that included the pod, and adding more experienced officers, McCoy said. The prison operator also had the door system manufacturer update the control panel software to add an extra safeguard to the system and is providing more intensive training for all staff assigned to the units, McCoy said. Hawai'i was holding more than 600 inmates last month at Red Rock, which opened last year. In all, the state houses more than 2,100 men and women convicts in CCA prisons on the Mainland because there is no room for them in prisons in Hawai'i.

April 6, 2007 Honolulu Advertiser
An investigation into whether a Hawai'i inmate had obtained a firearm in a Mississippi prison prompted a lockdown and search of the facility, and led to the firings of five private prison employees, according to Hawai'i prison officials and the Corrections Corporation of America. No gun was found during the search of the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, but the incident uncovered unspecified prison contraband that triggered state and federal criminal investigations at the prison, according to Hawai'i and CCA prison officials. Victoria Holly, human resource manager and public information officer for the prison, said the 1,104-bed facility was locked down on Feb. 21, and did not return to normal operations until March 15. She said the five prison staff members were fired between March 7 and March 13, but declined to say if the workers were corrections officers or employees in other occupations. Holly declined to say what sort of contraband was turned up in the search of the prison, and did not know which agencies were involved in the criminal investigations. A spokeswoman for the FBI's office in Jackson, Miss., said the agency will not confirm if it is involved in an ongoing investigation. The Mississippi state attorney general's office did not return a call requesting comment.

May 10, 2006 WAPT
About 860 Hawaii inmates at a Mississippi prison were locked down in their cells for a week following a gang-related fight. Hawaii public safety officials said the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility went into lockdown after a dozen inmates from several gangs got into a fight April 30. One of the inmates was armed with a bat. Louise Kim McCoy, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, said the inmates were only allowed out of their cells for meals and a modified recreation time while investigators searched the facility for contraband. The lockdown started immediately after the fight and was lifted Monday. The private company that operates the prison for Hawaii inmates, Corrections Corporation of America, kept all the inmates confined because the incident involved gang activity. There were no serious injuries from the fight. Last year, prison officials moved about 40 Hawaii inmates who were believed to be active gang members from the Diamondback Correctional Facility in Oklahoma to the Tallahatchie location. Hawaii pays Corrections Corporation of America $40 million a year to house more than 1,800 convicts in prisons in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky.

April 2, 2006 Honolulu Advertiser
Two captains and a sergeant at a privately run Mississippi prison were fired after they were allegedly videotaped beating an inmate from Hawai'i, according to the Hawai'i Department of Public Safety. The three were part of a Special Operations Response Team established at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility to quell disturbances and control unruly prisoners. The trouble began when general-population inmate Harry K. Hoopii, 55, allegedly assaulted two corrections officers at the prison at 6 p.m. Feb. 23, said Shari Kimoto, administrator of Public Safety's branch on the Mainland. Kimoto said that Hoopii was then escorted to a disciplinary holding cell in another part of the prison at about 7:50 p.m. and that the incident involving the SORT team occurred in his cell later in the evening. It is regular procedure for the SORT team to use force in responding to a violent inmate, but when the assistant warden and chief of security at the prison reviewed the videotape of what took place in the cell, they "realized that excessive force had been used," Kimoto said. The three were fired for violating the policies of prison owner Corrections Corporation of America, she said. The other members of the SORT team, including the team member who was operating the hand-held video camera, were suspended, she said. Kimoto said the inmate was taken to the hospital with injuries that included multiple facial bruises and swelling and a cut lip. He was later returned to the prison, where he was being held in a disciplinary unit, she said. Concerns arose last year in connection with the Tallahatchie facility after two inmates were injured in a violent disturbance touched off when 20 cell doors in a prison disciplinary unit suddenly opened at 2:48 a.m. July 17. In the melee that followed, Hawai'i inmate Ronnie Lonoaea was attacked and severely beaten in his cell by other prisoners, and the prison staff had to use tear gas to regain control of the unit. CCA said the doors opened because a prison sergeant accidentally pushed the wrong button. The Hawai'i state attorney general's office asked state prison officials to investigate the July 17 incident. Prison officials have said they wanted to look into the possibility of gang involvement and whether prison staff might have cooperated with the inmates in the incident.

March 12 2006 AP
A group of Colorado inmates who started a riot at a private prison in Mississippi in 2004 so they could be transferred back to Colorado will force lawmakers to review their policy that allowed the Department of Corrections to ship troublemakers out of state. This week, The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on a measure (Senate Bill 23) prohibiting the Department of Corrections from placing state inmates classified higher than medium custody in private prison facilities located within Colorado or outside the state. The only exception would allow the governor to declare a correctional emergency and by proclamation authorize the department to place state inmates classified higher than medium custody in private prison facilities. Rep. Val Vigil, D-Thornton, said an audit last year revealed that the state had no policy on shipping high risk inmates out of state, and that other states have no uniform way they treat low, medium or high risk prisoners. “We had to decide whether we should change the practice or change the statutes. We decided to change the statutes,” Vigil said. The disturbance occurred a day after a similar riot at Crowley Correctional Facility, a private prison near Olney Springs, Colo. At Crowley, inmates rioted and set fires, destroying one living unit and extensively damaging four others. Both private prisons were operated by Corrections Corp. of America, which was criticized by lawmakers for not hiring enough employees at the Crowley facility. Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, said Colorado has a duty to protect its inmates, and the state can’t guarantee that when it sends them to other states which have their own rules. “One thing government has to do is ensure public safety. That includes inmates,” McFadyen said.

December 26, 2005 Honolulu Advertiser
Acting Public Safety Director Frank Lopez has ordered a prison system internal affairs investigation into a violent disturbance in a Mississippi prison earlier this year that resulted in injuries to two Hawai'i inmates. The incident at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Center began when 20 cell doors in a prison disciplinary unit abruptly opened at 2:48 a.m. on July 17, releasing about three dozen Hawai'i inmates from their cells. The unit was reserved for particularly unruly convicts or prison gang members, and some of the inmates who emerged from their cells immediately attacked prisoner Ronnie Lonoaea in his cell, prison officials have said. Lonoaea was hospitalized after the attack with head and other injuries, and inmate Scott Lee, 25, suffered a broken jaw in the disturbance. Inmates used a telephone cord to tie shut the entrance to the Special Housing Incentive Program unit to keep corrections officers out, and Tallahatchie prison staff had to drop tear gas grenades from the roof to regain control of the unit about 90 minutes later. Hawai'i Department of Public Safety officials demanded a "high level" investigation of the incident, and Lopez said prison owner Corrections Corporation of America submitted a letter to the state outlining the company's findings. Lopez said the summary of the CCA findings suggested the doors opened because an officer accidentally pushed the wrong button. Prison officials have said a relief sergeant pushed the button that released the inmates, and both the sergeant and the captain responsible for overseeing the unit no longer work at the prison.

October 3, 2005 Honolulu Advertiser
This tiny town has a slow feel to it. Some of that is a testament to southern graciousness, when people make time for one another. Some of it is due to a menacing apathy that festers when people are out on the street with nowhere to go. This community in the North Delta region, described in federal reports as one of the most depressed areas of the country, is where the Corrections Corp. of America built the 1,104-bed Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in 2000. The prison holds more than 850 Hawai'i inmates. The 325 jobs at the prison offer the best-paying work around, said chief of security Danny Dodd. CCA's starting pay in Tutwiler is about $8.40 an hour, considerably less than the $13.20 an hour for new corrections officers in Hawai'i, but Dodd said there is no shortage of applicants. There is significant staff turnover, which means the prison is often short-handed. Tutwiler resident Mary Meeks said her husband pulls double shifts at the prison as often as twice a week because people quit or don't show up for work. Some residents said they were led to believe the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility would hold only Mississippi lawbreakers, and were alarmed to learn the company was importing prisoners. Contract monitors last year described the Mississippi staff as young and inexperienced, and said most had never worked in a prison before. CCA requires five weeks of training, compared with eight weeks for Hawai'i corrections officers. According to monitoring reports, in the first six months after the Hawai'i inmates arrived, several employees were fired for smuggling cigarettes into the prison and having inappropriate relationships with inmates - a problem that has arisen at other Mainland prisons where Hawai'i prisoners have been held. Inmates complain about the medical and dental services at Tallahatchie, gripes that were confirmed last year when Hawai'i prison monitors warned CCA the prison was failing to meet National Commission on Correctional Health Care Standards because a doctor was there only eight hours a week to care for almost 1,000 convicts. In May, the monitors warned that dental services were insufficient because a dentist was available only eight hours a week, but the backlog of inmates waiting for dental care had been somewhat reduced when inspectors returned last month. CCA does not attempt to separate gang-affiliated prisoners, and inmates said keeping rival gang members in the same unit can be dangerous when things go wrong. There has already been one disturbance in a unit that houses gang members at Tallahatchie. On July 17, 20 cell doors in a SHIP unit popped open unexpectedly at around 2:45 a.m., freeing inmates. Ronnie J. Lonoaea, 32, of Hawai'i was severely beaten in his cell before guards released tear gas and restored order about 90 minutes later. Scott Lee of Hawai'i, who suffered a broken jaw in the incident, recalled how some prisoners in the unit frantically tried to close their jammed cell doors because they feared an attack by fellow inmates. A CCA investigation concluded the cell doors probably opened because a corrections sergeant hit the wrong control button. Komori said the sergeant and a captain who supervised the unit no longer work at the prison.

August 23, 2005 Honolulu Advertiser
A prison sergeant who hit the wrong button probably is to blame for abruptly opening 20 cell doors in a Mississippi prison disciplinary unit last month, releasing about three dozen Hawai'i inmates and triggering a violent disturbance, prison officials said yesterday. Two prisoners in the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility unit were hospitalized after other inmates attacked them when the cell doors opened at 2:48 a.m. on July 17. One of the inmates, Ronnie Lonoaea, remains in a Mississippi rehabilitative hospital with head injuries. After the doors opened, two inmates immediately began fighting and eight others rushed into a single cell to attack Lonoaea, prison officials have said. Other inmates used a telephone cord to tie shut the door leading into the unit in a makeshift barricade to keep prison officials out, according to a report on the incident. The Tallahatchie prison staff dropped tear gas grenades from the roof into the Special Housing Incentive Program, or SHIP unit, and regained control of the unit about 90 minutes after the cell doors opened, according to the report.

July 28, 2005 Honolulu Advertiser
They're out of sight, but must not be out of mind. Hawai'i's overflow inmate population, housed at private prisons on the Mainland, remain our responsibility. And making sure they are treated humanely while serving their time must be our concern. That's why state officials are right to demand an investigation into the sudden opening of cell doors in the predawn hours of July 17 at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility that resulted in a riot. More than 700 Hawai'i inmates have been housed since last year at the Mississippi prison, owned by Corrections Corp. of America. Two inmates were injured in the fight. Kane'ohe resident Sandra Cooper, the mother of one inmate, has her doubts that an internal probe will be enough to bring out the truth about how the cell doors opened. She called on the FBI to do a thorough inquiry, and that indeed would be the ideal way to proceed here. There's precedent for the FBI to take jurisdiction in a case where inmates are brought across state lines. At the very least, an independent authority should drive the investigation, rather than the prison's private owners. And state officials here must continue to ride herd to see that the investigation proceeds to a satisfactory conclusion. In a separate prison issue, it's a relief to see that the state has decided to pull the plug on its contract with the troubled Brush Correctional Facility, a northeastern Colorado prison housing 80 women inmates from Hawai'i. Because of ongoing investigations into alleged sexual misconduct between staff and prisoners, it's imperative that the move be made as soon as possible, while allowing for careful scrutiny of the prisoners' next destination. The end-of-September target date for the move seems reasonable, assuming that the state maintain its careful monitoring of Brush in the meantime. These painful episodes clearly illustrate that housing inmates on the Mainland is merely a short-term response to our critical prison shortage here, and creates its own additional problems. Hawai'i must continue to: work toward expanded prison capacity in the Islands, where we can retain better control of conditions; strengthen the probation system to keep some first-time offenders out of prison; and work on preventive strategies aimed at stemming the tide in drug abuse, which fuels so much of the state's crime problem. Sending inmates to the Mainland is just a stopgap solution.

July 27, 2005 Honolulu Advertiser
State prison officials said yesterday they are concerned about a security breach at a Mississippi prison that led to a disturbance among Hawai'i inmates and landed two men in the hospital with broken jaws.  The incident began when 20 cell doors in a unit at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility used to confine inmates with suspected gang affiliations popped open unexpectedly at about 2:30 a.m. July 17. About 35 of the 40 inmates in the unit left their cells and two of the prisoners began fighting, said Hawai'i Department of Public Safety spokesman Michael Gaede.
While corrections officers were preoccupied with the brawl, eight inmates rushed into a cell to attack another prisoner, Gaede said.

June 3, 2005 Pueblo Chieftain
The 120 Colorado inmates who are serving sentences in Mississippi are being treated inhumanely, according to one inmate. Officials at the Colorado Department of Corrections, however, say they are treated no different than inmates at the Colorado State Penitentiary. According to Colorado inmate Clark Flood, 40, who has been convicted of burglary, criminal trespass and escape charges, the inmates in Mississippi are being held in lockdown in what he described as "inhumane conditions." "They are not giving us property or nothing. It's just solid lockdown and it is ridiculous," Flood said.

February 5, 2005 Honolulu Advertiser
A Hawai'i prisoner at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Miss., was returned to the prison yesterday after a suicide attempt. Convicted murderer Paul Ah Sing, 41, was rushed to the hospital Thursday after he apparently attempted to hang himself in his cell with a homemade rope. The state has a contract with the Corrections Corporation of America to hold about 700 inmates at the Tallahatchie prison because there is no room for them in Hawai'i prisons.

Officials at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility have promised to keep residents better informed about disturbances at the prison in the wake of last month's uprising by Colorado inmates. Residents near the prison complained they weren't told about what was happening at the jail during the July 21 riot when prisoners torched mattresses, clothing and a portable toilet. (Sun Herald, August 13, 2004)

August 2, 2004
Tutwiler prison officials say they will be adding more staff this week and will host a community meeting following a recent disturbance by unruly Colorado inmates at the private facility.  There are no plans to send the trouble-making inmates back to Colorado, as some residents have asked, said Louise Chickering, a spokeswoman for Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America, which operates the prison.  She said the company also won't go along with a request by residents to create an alert system to warn them of future disturbances.  The first major disruption at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility will be discussed at an Aug. 12 meeting between Tutwiler's community relations advisory council and Warden James Cooke. 
Cooke said the additional staff is not a direct result of the disturbance.  "We will be getting more (inmates) from Hawaii,'' Cooke said. The facility now houses about 850 inmates, with a capacity of a little more than 1,000 inmates. There are about 120 inmates from Colorado, 690 from Hawaii and 40 from Tallahatchie County.  (Clarion Ledger)

Coahoma and Tallahatchie counties will pay local expenses involved in dispatching law officers to the uprising at the privately-run prison in Tutwiler.  Coahoma County Sheriff Andrew Thompson Jr. said his department alone spent about $400 on gasoline and overtime July 21.  Officers were called from the Coahoma and Tallahatchie sheriff's departments, Tutwiler and Glendora police departments, the Tutwiler and Tallahatchie County fire departments, the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the State Penitentiary at Parchman.  Steve Owen, a spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America — the Nashville, Tenn.-based company that runs the prison — called the disturbance in which no one was injured "relatively small."  Owen said his company does reimburse local agencies that respond to prison riots "if the agency feels its resources have been severely tapped."  Finally, as the largest employer in the county, CCA pays its 260 employees — most of whom reside in Tallahatchie and surrounding counties — roughly $3.5 million combined annually.  (Clarion Ledger, July 26, 2004)

Troubles seem to keep mounting this month for the nation's largest operator of private prisons. Corrections Corporation of America suffered through two prison riots this week - one in Colorado and another in Mississippi. The uprisings follow a July 7 homicide at a Nashville facility, which is still being investigated, and a smaller uprising in Oklahoma.  The spate of bad news is providing fodder for critics of privately run prisons and prompting a slight drop in CCA's stock price. In the prison industry, no news is often good news.  "I think the idea of privately operated prisons is one that is still controversial," said Richard Crane, a consultant in the industry and former CCA attorney. "(Bad incidents) give those who are opposed to privatization something to beat their drum about."  Critics said the string of problems shows that privately run prisons are a bad idea, and that grouping prisoners from multiple states under the care of low-paid, often inexperienced guards will lead to trouble.  "Almost half of the employees in the facility have no experience whatsoever," said Ken Kopczynski, with the Private Corrections Institute Inc., an advocacy group opposing private prisons. "I just hope enough people will wake up to the bad idea of private prisons. It just goes against all the principles of democracy."  (Henry Herald, July 23, 2004)

Some Tutwiler residents are demanding an alert system and stronger security measures following Wednesday night's disturbance by 28 Colorado inmates at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility.  Tutwiler resident Lucinda Berryhill said she was "frightened not knowing" what was happening when she heard police car sirens and fire trucks on U.S. 49 heading toward the prison. Phone lines at the prison were busy and rumors of prison escapes were rampant, she said.  Currently, there is no system in place to alert residents when an incident is occurring at the facility and what measures should be taken.  "I'd send the troublemakers back,'' said Berryhill, who lives a half mile from the prison. They need to return immediately to Colorado, she said.  (Clarion Ledger, July 23, 2004)

A riot involving 28 Colorado inmates who escaped their recreation pens and set ablaze mattresses, clothing and a portable toilet triggered a lock-down Wednesday night at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility.  A more violent riot erupted around the same time a day earlier at another CCA prison in Colorado's Crowley County. Officials did not report a connection between the two riots.  Those involved in Wednesday's uprising were among Colorado's "worst" inmates shipped to the Tutwiler lockup in May. Booted from their home state after causing six riots during a three-month period, the prisoners instigated the most recent uprising during the first one-hour recreation break they had been given since entering the facility two months ago.  According to Louise Chickering, CCA spokeswoman, the incident started at 6:20 p.m. when one inmate broke the lock and chains on the segregated pen that held him and another inmate.  "Once he got it loose, the others assessed that they could, too," she said, explaining that 28 men broke out of their two-man pens and gathered into the main recreation yard.  Law-enforcement officials were called from the Coahoma and Tallahatchie counties sheriff's departments, Tutwiler and Glendora police departments, the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman "as a show of force," Chickering said.  Prison officials said Wednesday that they didn't know yet why the inmates rioted, but one Colorado prisoner offered a possible clue in a letter sent to The Clarksdale Press Register this week.  Harrell King Jr. III wrote that more than 100 prisoners had waged a hunger strike recently to draw attention to their "case of brutality and mistreatment at this facility."  "Since coming to this facility, we have had inmates cutting their wrist, being beat, having to defecate in bags, on 24-hour lockdown and many other violations of human rights," Harrell wrote. "By the time you receive this letter, we will have not eaten in five days."  (Z Wire, July 23, 2004)

About 28 inmates from Colorado caused an uprising Wednesday evening at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, officials said.  The prisoners involved were recently shipped to the Mississippi facility to rid Colorado's crowded prisons of unruly inmates.  The disturbance occurred during the prisoners' recreation break about 6:20 p.m. and lasted about 30 minutes, said Louise Chickering, spokeswoman for the Corrections Corporations of America.  (Clarion Ledger, July 22, 2004)

May 23, 2004
The Colorado Department of Corrections violated a state statute by sending 36 of its most dangerous inmates to the Delta, said a prisoner-advocate group that might challenge the move in an attempt to bring the men home.  According to the statute, Colorado cannot permanently place maximum-security inmates in a private prison. But the three dozen men shipped to the privately run Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility near Tutwiler last week are classified as maximum-security, said Stephen Raher, co-director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, calling the move illegal.  Colorado officials countered that assertion, saying the men - many of whom are serving sentences for murder, rape and escape - are not maximum-security prisoners; they are "special management" inmates.  "We have yet to find one of these organizations or individuals who can substantiate any of these claims, except maybe for an isolated incident that may have occurred years ago," Owen said. "I would challenge them to prove any of these allegations."  (Z Wire)

January 7, 2004
Mississippi's corrections commissioner said he hopes the state can house inmates at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility after 1,424 inmates return to Alabama.  On Tuesday, Alabama Corrections Commissioner Donal Campbell said the inmates should be moved within 90 days.  Meanwhile, Chris Epps, Mississippi corrections commissioner, said he started talking to officials last week to find a way to use the facility and keep about 250 jobs there.  "We're going to work with them any way we can," he said.  Tallahatchie County has a poverty rate of nearly 27 percent and a 12.5 percent unemployment rate.  "We've started looking at the law to see what we have to do to be able to use it," Epps said. "I started talking to (Corrections Corporation of America)."  Nashville-based CCA owns the facility in Tutwiler.  Epps said he's also spoken to Gov. Haley Barbour and legislators "to see how we can do business up there."  In 2001, facility employees lost their jobs after Wisconsin inmates were moved to Minnesota. The facility hired 250 people last summer when Alabama sent prisoners there.  (Clarion Ledger)

September 15, 2003
Elizabeth Martin can thank 1,423 Alabama prison inmates for her job.  Since the inmates landed in the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in June, the economy of the county gained 250 jobs at the facility in a Delta county with a 26.8 percent poverty rate with unemployment at 12.5 percent. The annual payroll: $6 million.  Alabama's decision to pay $27.50 a day per inmate to reduce crowding in its underfunded corrections system led to re-employment for Martin, of Tutwiler.  Martin, who lost her job when Wisconsin inmates were moved from Tutwiler to Minnesota in 2001, went from a retired corrections officer to an administrative clerk at age 33.  "I had taken courses in computers at Coahoma Community College, not knowing if Tallahatchie would ever re-open," Martin said. "Now I have a better job where I make more money and I can spend more time with my husband and four children.  "I am working in a nice place with good people, something that is hard to find in Tallahatchie County."  Richard Lias, 33, of Clarksdale left a job with a casino in Tunica County, nearly 50 miles away, to work closer to home at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, about 20 miles from home.  "I am saving a lot of money on transportation," said Lias, a safety specialist. "I felt there was more opportunity for advancement.  "I have had excellent training and a lot of doors opened for the future."  Money is also finding its way into the business community with purchases made by the prison and employees.  "Over 80 percent of the employees live in Tallahatchie County and spend money here," said Tallahatchie County administrator Marvin Doss. "We lost Rosewood, an apparel manufacturer (in Charleston) since the 1950s and 134 jobs."  Donna Surholt, owner of Moore Paper and Janitorial Supply Inc. in Clarksdale, has seen the prison dollars trickle through the Delta.  "The prison officials have purchased a vehicle, a steel building and other supplies locally when they can't get them from their vendor," said Surholt, who is also president of the Clarksdale-Coahoma Chamber of Commerce. "They have bought items from my business. They have come in here ready to contribute to our community and have joined our chamber."  Dianna Melton, manager of the State Bank and Trust in nearby Webb, has seen an increase in business.  "I have seen a number of the workers from the prison," Melton said. "When you employ 200 people who didn't have jobs, you will see an increase in business in the county."  The boost should continue for some time because the inmates won't leave soon.  Alabama taxpayers defeated a tax-increase referendum Tuesday that would have helped its education and corrections systems, said Brian Corbett, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections.  Alabama met a court order to reduce state inmates in county jails by sending 300 females to Louisiana and the inmates to Tallahatchie County.  "We still have a total population of 28,100, twice our capacity of 13,500," Corbett said. "Taxpayers said no, so no help is on the way, and we will just have to keep plugging away."  Warden Jim Cook, who has seen Tallahatchie go from 30 county inmates to 1,463 with 276 employees, knows the reason Alabama sent the inmates.  He was once a warden with the Alabama correctional system before going to work in 1995 for Correctional Corporation of America. The private prison company based in Nashville owns Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility. Alabama has no private prisons.  "You can't ask a corrections department with a growing population to operate on the same funds," Cook said. "This is a high-stress job at best, but you can't work people like they are without employee burnout. Your facilities will also deteriorate."  Cook says Alabama inmates like being in Mississippi.  "It is less crowded, facilities are better and they like the food," Cook said.  (The Clarion Ledger)

June 27, 2003
Many workers who lost their jobs at two Mississippi private prisons are going back to work, thanks to a neighboring state.  Alabama, faced with prison overcrowding, is sending 1,400 medium-security male inmates to the Tallahatchie Correctional Facility in Tutwiler at a cost of $27.50 a day per inmate.  Tallahatchie, built to hold 1,100, held 322 inmates from Wisconsin and employed 208 people before those inmates were moved to Minnesota in 2001, forcing layoffs. It has since held 30-40 Tallahatchie County inmates.  Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood, closed by the state in October 2002, held 800 state inmates and employed 200 workers with a $5 million annual payroll.  "It is good for the economy of the state," said Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps, who said CCA's contract with Alabama is for three years.  Alabama, which has no private prisons, is under two court orders to end overcrowding.  Steve Owens, spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, said his company will help Alabama.  "We are always happy to step up and serve states when they need our help," Owens said. "I always knew we would find someone who could use the Tallahatchie facility."  (The Clarion Ledger)

Tutwiler Prison for Women
Wetumpka, Mississippi
Prison Health Services

May 7, 2005 AP
The third death of an inmate in two months at Tutwiler Prison for Women has raised more questions about the quality of care provided for prisoners. Officials said Mattie Bouie, 42, died last week at Baptist Hospital South in Montgomery - six months after a federal court monitor cited her case as an example of "no effective physician monitoring of patients" at the Wetumpka prison. Bouie's death was the sixth at the women's prison since Tennessee-based Prison Health Services took over the medical contract. Court monitor Dr. Michael Puisis has suggested that negligent care was responsible for at least two deaths. He has not released mortality reports on the other cases. Puisis was appointed by a federal court last year after the state settled a lawsuit over poor conditions and medical care at the prison. The Department of Corrections agreed to improvements and increased staff at the facility, and Puisis is responsible for monitoring the agency's progress toward achieving those goals.

May 6, 2005 Birmingham News
Prison Health Services has been under the gun, and rightly so, for the way it's provided medical care to Alabama inmates. The Tennessee-based company was hired to improve health care in Alabama prisons, which had been sued over services provided by a previous contractor. But the care in prisons remains unacceptable. A recurring theme is a shortage of doctors, nurses and other staff to tend to the inmates, with predictable consequences. At best, the care has been inadequate. At worst, it may have been downright deadly. The state of Alabama, which has the ultimate responsibility (and liability) for what happens to prisoners in its custody, has every reason to demand better from Prison Health Services. And withholding part of the company's payment is an appropriate place to start. The state is reducing the company's $143 million contract by $1.2 million for staffing shortages, and may cut more if staffing levels aren't increased. Why not? The state is paying Prison Health Services to provide a certain number of professionals and support staff to administer inmates' health care. If the company is not meeting the requirements of the contract, it should not expect to be paid as if it were. Besides, what's really at stake here is bigger than money. Too many inmates are not receiving proper care for chronic conditions, and some are dying unnecessarily as a result, according to doctors who monitor prison health care for the courts. At the Tutwiler women's prison, the monitor found that three inmates who died last year received poor or incomplete care, and two of them may have died as a result. At Limestone Correctional Facility, which houses HIV-positive inmates, the monitor found prisoners weren't getting crucial medication and that a required HIV specialist was not on staff. It's true that turnover has been a big problem. Prison Health Services has had problems retaining doctors and other health care workers; some have left complaining they didn't have the resources to do their jobs. But the bottom line is that the company agreed to provide a certain level of services, and it has been failing to do so. At the very least, the state should adjust the payments to Prison Health Services accordingly. So the company is losing dollars. Inmates are losing their lives.

May 5, 2005 Birmingham News
Alabama's prison medical provider is losing $1.2 million from the state because it has not provided enough doctors and nurses to state prisons. Prison Health Services has not fulfilled minimal contract requirements that call for a certain number of doctors, nurses, administrators and support staff. The company is not being fined, Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said, but DOC will not have to pay $1.2 million of its contract. The department hired PHS in November 2003. The company's three-year, $143 million contract could see more reductions if the medical staff does not increase. Tennessee-based Prison Health Services also has come under fire in recent months by physicians who are monitoring two prisons under federal court settlements. A lawsuit alleging inadequate medical care is pending at a third prison, the Hamilton Aged and Infirm facility, where the oldest, sickest men are housed. Dr. Michael Puisis, court monitor at Tutwiler Prison for Women, said in a March report that prison medical staff provided poor or incomplete care to three inmates who died last year. He suggested that negligence might have led to two of those deaths. The third, a suicide, was likely the result of inadequate care by mental health workers, who are employed by a different company. Two deaths since then are still under investigation. Still, attorneys for the Limestone inmates have asked the federal courts to hold the state in contempt for failing to abide by the conditions of the settlement. Last year, the state agreed to dozens of improvements, centering on added medical staff and more humane housing conditions. Doctors keep leaving, some after claiming PHS did not allow them the flexibility and resources to practice medicine as they want to do. "There are just as many complaints raised after the settlement as before," said Gretchen Rohr, an attorney with the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, who represents Alabama prisons in both cases.

April 26, 2005 Mobile Register
Poor, incomplete, substandard -- and perhaps error-ridden -- medical care led to the deaths of at least three women incarcerated at Tutwiler Prison for Women last year, emphasizing the need for improved health care in Alabama's prisons. It also suggests the physician who treated the women should be suspended while officials determine if he was at fault; and if he was, he should be fired. Moreover, the poor health care the women apparently received indicates the state should consider finding a different health services company. The staggering conclusions by a physician who monitors the prison's medical system for a federal court settlement were revealed by the Birmingham News last week, and implicate Dr. Samuel Englehardt, a retired obstetrician and primary care doctor at Tutwiler at the time of the three deaths. Two other deaths have occurred this year, and officials should speedily investigate those, too. Outrageously, Dr. Englehardt, who provided the health care for one of the three prisoners who died last year, also performed her death review and concluded that there were no problems with the health care she had received. A policy of independent reviews would prevent such conflicts of interest. Dr. Michael Puisis of Illinois, an expert in correctional health care, studied the three women's deaths for a federal court. He discovered one patient suffered a brain hemorrhage and died a few months after Dr. Englehardt canceled tests recommended by an outside cardiologist. Another woman's extremely high cholesterol wasn't treated and "unquestionably contributed to her death." A third -- an obviously distraught woman who was denied adequate psychiatric care -- committed suicide. Dr. Puisis also found that other Tutwiler inmates received substandard care at the prison, including a lack of follow-up on treatments and mistakes in prescribing drugs. The inmates deserved better health care. When the state confines a person in a prison, preventing her from taking care of herself, then the state assumes the responsibility for the inmate's medical care. That's part of the cost of incarcerating people, and the moral duty it entails cannot be avoided. State officials must hold both the Department of Corrections and its private contractor, Prison Health Services of Tennessee, accountable for these and other lapses; and the public must hold the Legislature accountable for failing to provide funding for an adequate corrections system. The poor health care alone has subjected the state to three lawsuits so far from prisoners at Tutwiler, Limestone and Donaldson prisons. Moreover, it has exposed the state to possible suits by families of deceased prisoners. Department of Corrections managers apparently did not monitor the care provided by PHS or, if they did, they ignored or missed problems that should have been evident. The state, its taxpayers and its prisoners deserve better.

April 24, 2005 Birmingham News
Three women who died at Tutwiler prison last year received bad medical care - perhaps even bad enough in two of the cases to be blamed in the deaths. That's the conclusion of Dr. Michael Puisis of Illinois, an expert in correctional health care who was hired by a federal court to monitor Tutwiler's health care services for inmates. Specifically, Puisis found: The primary prison doctor at the time had "grossly mismanaged" the underlying medical problems of an inmate who suffered from lupus and died of a brain hemorrhage in March 2004. Her death came a few months after the doctor, for no clinical reason, canceled tests that had been recommended by an outside cardiologist. Another inmate received substandard care for three chronic conditions, including high cholesterol that went untreated and "unquestionably contributed to her death." After she died in August, the doctor responsible for her "substandard care" performed the death review and noted no problems with her treatment. An inmate hanged herself after being on suicide watch for five days in January 2004. The day before she died, she was crying, saying "Daddy, don't hurt me anymore," and banging her head against the wall. Yet she was not evaluated by a mental health professional except for a phone call to a psychiatrist who prescribed medicine. These kinds of stories hardly inspire confidence in the Department of Corrections or its medical contractor, Prison Health Services. And unfortunately, the cases aren't just extreme examples. In 19 of 22 cases Puisis reviewed at Tutwiler, he found problems with followup, drug errors and substandard care. Women with HIV, staph infections, diabetes and other conditions were consistently denied treatment, he said. His findings are simply alarming - especially if, as the Department of Corrections and Prison Health Services contend, inmate health care services are better now than they used to be. But scariest of all is that the department and PHS are now trying to keep Puisis' reports away from public view. The reports have typically been filed with the court and made public by the Southern Center for Human Rights, the Atlanta-based law firm representing prisoners in a lawsuit over health care. Now, the state and its medical contractor want to keep the reports confidential. That's absurd. The need for scrutiny is obvious: Inmates aren't getting proper health care, and some may be dying as a result. The problems need to be brought to light so they can be fixed. But keeping the monitor reports secret would be a bad idea even if they were glowing tributes to the health care services provided to inmates at Tutwiler. Alabama taxpayers are footing the bill for the prison system and for PHS' $143 million contract, and they have every right to know whether their money is being well-spent.
If Gov. Bob Riley is serious about accountability, he shouldn't stand for his prison commissioner working to keep such information out of the hands of citizens.

April 21, 2005 Tuscaloosa News
Negligence and medical errors may have led to two of three inmate deaths last year at Tutwiler Prison for Women, according to a report by a physician and court monitor of the prison's medical system. Dr. Michael Puisis of Illinois, an expert in correctional health care, based his report on visits to the Wetumpka prison March 7-10. He reviewed records, interviewed staff and toured parts of the Wetumpka prison. His report, obtained by The Birmingham News and disclosed Thursday, was required by a 2004 federal court settlement of a lawsuit over crowded conditions and medical care at Alabama's only prison for women. With current patients, Puisis reported that private contractor Prison Health Services lacked follow-up, made mistakes in prescribing drugs and gave substandard care to 19 of 22 prisoners whose charts he reviewed. Women with HIV, staph infections, diabetes and other conditions were consistently denied treatment, he wrote.  Two more women have died at Tutwiler this year, and their deaths are under investigation. Puisis has yet to review those cases. Dr. Samuel Englehardt, a retired obstetrician and the primary doctor at Tutwiler at the time of the review, worked there before PHS took over and was retained by the company. "Based on chart reviews, Dr. Englehardt should not be providing general internal medical care to the patients," the report states. Among the mistakes the report cited in the three deaths: -"This patient's underlying medical conditions were grossly mismanaged," Puisis wrote about one woman, a lupus patient who suffered a brain hemorrhage and died in March 2004, a few months after Englehardt canceled tests recommended by an outside cardiologist. "There is no clinical basis for this decision," Puisis wrote. -"Care (of three chronic conditions) was substandard and may have contributed to her death," Puisis wrote about a prisoner who died in August. Her hyperlipidemia, a form of high cholesterol, was untreated and "unquestionably contributed to her death," he wrote. This woman needed to go to a hospital, he wrote, but instead was kept in the prison infirmary and was not seen regularly by a doctor. -The third inmate hanged herself while on suicide watch. She was on suicide watch for five days, but was not evaluated by a mental health professional except for a phone call to a psychiatrist who prescribed medication. On Jan. 24, 2004, the woman was crying, saying, "Daddy, don't hurt me anymore," and was banging her head against a wall, a nurse reported. The next day she hanged herself. "It appears that the record is either incomplete or she was not seen for the duration of her suicide watch until she died," Puisis wrote. "This type of death review is inadequate and leaves many unanswered questions." In the report, Puisis discusses the publicity issue. While fear of liability keeps doctors from reporting errors and is counterproductive to improving care, "on the other hand some errors are due to negligence and gross incompetence," Puisis wrote.

Walnut Grove Correctional Facility
Walnut Grove, Mississippi
MTC (formerly run by GEO Group, bought Cornell Corporations)
MDOC Sticks with Private Prisons: Jackson Free Press, June 13, 2012. MDOC chooses MTC to take over where GEO failed. What are they smoking?
"A Picture of Such Horror as Should Be Unrealized Anywhere in the Civilized World":  by Margaret Winter, National Prison Project, March 29, 2012. Overview of Federal Judge Carleton Reeves settlement decree against the State of Mississippi for its lack of oversight at GEO's Walnut Grove Correctional Facility.
CHARLESTON DEPRIEST, VS. CHRISTOPHER EPPS, Commissioner of the MDOC, and TOM BURNHAM, Superintendent of the Mississippi State Department of Education: March 26, 2012, 8 pages. Scathing ruling against MDOC and the GEO Group for abuse at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. Must read.
Town Relies On Troubled Youth Prison For Profits: by John Burnett, March 25, 2011: NPR report on GEO. Must read.

Nov 22, 2014 clarionledger.com
Police arrested a teacher and a correctional officer at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove this week. 58-year-old Freda Stuart of Union, a teacher at the prison, was arrested on Thursday for allegedly having sex with an inmate in a classroom closet. Walnut Grove Police Chief Kevin Polk said an officer arrested Stuart after police received a call about the incident. A deputy warden reportedly found Stuart and the inmate in a classroom closet after a class had ended and other inmates had returned to their housing units. "MTC has strict no-contact policies between staff members and offenders," a release by Management and Training Corp., the Utah-based private prison company that runs the facility, stated. "We do not tolerate this behavior and will pursue any and all legal means of justice in this case." Stuart was placed on administrative leave as a result. When asked whether the inmate was a student of Stuart's, Polk said he only knew that she had been giving him schoolwork. Police made another arrest of a Walnut Grove employee earlier this week when correctional officer Romelowe T. Lofton reportedly tried to smuggle a cell phone and cigarettes into the prison. 19-year-old Lofton and Jatra Brooks, a visitor, were both booked in Leake County Jail after Brooks reportedly gave Lofton the contraband to bring to an inmate. Lofton reportedly hid the cigarettes in food and the cell phone in his boot, which was discovered by a body scanner when he entered the building. Lofton has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, and the inmate faces charges of conspiracy to introduce contraband into a prison. MTC said it has decreased the amount of contraband in Walnut Grove and three other facilities in the state by installing 30-foot netting, body scanners and a new K-9 unit. MTC also operates the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian, the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in Woodville. Walnut Grove, then operated by GEO Group, was the subject of a lawsuit in 2010. Judge Carlton Reeves said officials of the facility, which then housed youths, allowed a "cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate."


Nov 13, 2014 clarionledger.com

Two inmates stabbed at MTC-run Walnut Grove prison

Two inmates were hospitalized after being stabbed at Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in two separate incidents on Wednesday. Officers are still investigating the cause of the first incident, though the inmate has been returned from the hospital to the prison. The second stabbing occurred around 4:30 p.m. in a separate housing unit and involved "a small number of offenders," a press release stated. The inmate, who was stabbed in the back and in the head, is still in the hospital. His condition is not known, though the release stated the injuries were not life threatening. MTC, the Utah-based company that operates Walnut Grove along with three other prisons in the state, has become the latest private prison operator to come under scrutiny. The ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center are seeking class-action certification for a lawsuit against East Mississippi Correctional Facility, which MTC operates. The facility is described in paperwork as "barbaric." The lawsuit claims the inmates, most of whom are mentally ill, are beaten, exploited and mistreated. In July, an inmate disturbance in an area housing close custody inmates resulted in injuries to three correctional officers at Walnut Grove, including one being stabbed in the back. In September, close custody inmates were transferred from the facility. "It's concerning to us that close custody inmates are gone but violence still persists at Walnut Grove," Jennie Eichelberger of the Southern Poverty Law Center said. MTC also operates the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian, the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in Woodville.


Jul 19, 2014 hattiesburgamerican.com

JACKSON — All nine inmates injured during a disturbance on July 10 at Walnut Grove Correctional Facility are now back in prison. The Mississippi Department of Corrections reports the three offenders who had remained hospitalized following the disturbance were released from the University of Mississippi Medical Center this week. The Leake County prison has been on lockdown since fighting broke out in one of the housing units. Investigations by the Mississippi Department of Corrections and Management and Training Corp. (MTC), the prison's private operator, continue. According to a MDOC press release, the fighting occurred between two rival gangs in connection with an attempt to smuggle contraband into the prison. Walnut Grove police arrested Marcus Warnsley on charges of trespassing and attempting to introduce contraband into a correctional facility, and the contraband was seized. Four correctional officers suspected of involvement have been suspended. "Our investigation is progressing, but we still have more work to do," said Christopher B. Epps, department of corrections commissioner. "No charges have been filed against anyone at this time."



Jul 16, 2014 greenfieldreporter.com

JACKSON, Mississippi — Mississippi corrections officials say four guards have been suspended from the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in the aftermath of a fight among inmates at the prison. Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps provided an update on the investigation during a federal court hearing. Nine inmates were hurt last week in a fight that authorities suggest came after the arrest of a man trying to smuggle contraband into the prison. Epps says the investigation determined one guard was to escort an inmate into the prison yard to collect items that were to be tossed over the fence. A Dec. 31 fight between two gangs left 16 inmates hurt at the central Mississippi prison. Epps told U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves that both incidents were gang-related.


Jul 12, 2014 therepublic.com

WALNUT GROVE, Mississippi — A fight that injured nine inmates at a privately run prison in central Mississippi was related to an attempt to bring in banned items, state Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said Friday. Epps said in a statement that the Walnut Grove Police Department arrested one person on contraband charges. A Walnut Grove officer said he didn't know who was arrested. Inmates suffered cuts and stab wounds during a fight that broke out about 10 p.m. Thursday among a group of inmates in one of the six housing units, said spokesman Issa Arnita of Utah-based Management & Training Corp., which runs the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility through a state contract. Epps said of the injured inmates, six had been returned to the prison by Friday afternoon and three remain hospitalized at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Epps said he made a trip on Friday to the prison, which remained on lockdown. "Fortunately no one was killed," he said. Arnita said the prison's emergency response team used "chemical agents," and the fight was over after about an hour. He said seven inmates were brought by ambulance to a local hospital. Three were then airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Arnita said the unit where the fight took place houses 240 inmates, and authorities are trying to determine how many prisoners were involved. Groups suing over prisoner treatment in Mississippi have criticized the state's hands-off management of MTC, Mississippi's main private prison contractor. Walnut Grove has a history of troubles. Most recently, a Dec. 31 fight between two gangs of prisoners injured 16 inmates. Six prison guards and one supervisor were fired or resigned after the December fight, court papers said. Another staff member was placed on administrative leave. Epps said that since then, the state and MTC have been trying to eliminate contraband such as homemade knives, cellphones and tobacco, and has started a K-9 unit. "With the security changes we have made, we are hoping to reduce the incidents at Walnut Grove," he said in the Friday statement. But court monitors have questioned whether some of those measures will work, noting that contraband appears to mainly be brought in by prison employees. An April report by a monitor for plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit reported high levels of violence, drugs smuggled in and inadequately trained guards. MTC, which took over operation of the prison in 2012, disputed most of the findings. MTC said the prison "has made great progress in creating a safer environment for offenders and staff." The company said staff meets state training standards. The state removed juvenile offenders from Walnut Grove after U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves described conditions as "a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts" while it was being managed by Florida-based GEO Group. Reeves' order came after a Justice Department report charged the state was "deliberately indifferent" to sexual abuse, overuse of force and inadequate medical care for young inmates. MTC also operates the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian, the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in Woodville.

 

Jul 11, 2014 wtva.com

WALNUT GROVE, Miss. (AP) — Nine inmates suffered cuts and stab wounds during a fight at a privately run prison in central Mississippi, and the facility was on lockdown Friday, officials said. A fight broke out about 10 p.m. Thursday among a group of inmates in one of the six housing units, said spokesman Issa Arnita of Management and Training Corporation, which runs the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility through a state contract. "Officers attempted to stop the disturbance, but it quickly escalated," he said. "The facility's emergency response team was activated. The team used chemical agents to gain control of the inmates. The incident lasted one hour. The local police and sheriff's departments were on site as a backup." Arnita said the prison was on lockdown Friday. "We're trying to determine how many offenders were actually involved the incident. The unit where the disturbance took place houses 240 inmates," he said. Nine inmates were injured. Arnita said seven were transported by ambulance to the local hospital. Three were then airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. One inmate has since been returned to the prison. "We don't have details on their conditions, and no names are being released at this time. No correctional officers were injured," he said. The prison, the Mississippi Department of Corrections and local authorities are investigating the fight. The Walnut Grove prison has a history of troubles. In April, a federal prison monitor reported violence was out of control, drugs were being smuggled in and guards are not adequately trained. The documents were filed by monitors who oversee the prison and plaintiffs who sued over conditions there. MTC, who took over operation of the prison in 2012, disputed most of the findings. MTC said the prison "has made great progress in creating a safer environment for offenders and staff." A Dec. 31 fight between two gangs left 16 inmates hurt and showed more improvements were needed, the monitor said. An MTC report said the fight went on for about an hour, with inmates using homemade knives and other weapons. Six prison guards and one supervisor were fired or resigned after he December fight, court papers said. Another staff member was placed on administrative leave. The monitor's report said, among other findings, that contraband was being smuggled into the prison and security personnel were ignoring rules violations and fraternizing with prisoners. The prison is under legal scrutiny because of earlier misdeeds. The state removed youth offenders from Walnut Grove after U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves  described conditions as "a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts" while it was being managed by Florida-based GEO Group. Reeves' order came after a Justice Department report charged the state was "deliberately indifferent" to sexual abuse, overuse of force and inadequate medical care for young inmates. The state agreed to improve conditions. GEO Group gave up its contract and the Department of Corrections hired MTC to house adult inmates at Walnut Grove. Since then, all parties agree conditions have improved. The court monitors said half the security staff in December had less than one year's experience. Vail said the staff doesn't have "the necessary skill, experience, and custody expertise" to manage high-risk inmates and called on the state to limit the prison to medium- and minimum-security inmates. MTC, though, said staff meets state training standards. Utah-based MTC operates the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian, the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove, the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in Woodville.

 

Jan 3, 2014 seattlepi.com

WALNUT GROVE, Miss. (AP) — Fourteen of 18 inmates injured during a fight Tuesday have returned to the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility. Issa Arnita, corporate communications director for Management and Training Corporation, says an investigation by the company and the Mississippi Department of Corrections continues. Four people remain hospitalized at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Arnita says the altercation took place in one of the facility's six housing units. He says a correctional officer was treated for minor injuries. No other officers were injured. Staff responded immediately and secured the units soon after the incident began around 7:00 p.m. Tuesday. The facility remains on lock down. Investigators will review video footage of the incident. Walnut Grove opened in 2001 and can house 1,461 inmates.

Mississippi, MTC incident, Walnut Grove Correctional Facility

 

Jan. 1, 2014 clarionledger.com

"At approximately 7 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2013, officers at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility responded to a fight involving several offenders in one of the housing units. The incident appears to be gang related. Some of the injured were transported to local hospitals and later returned to the facility. One correctional officer did sustain minor injuries. The facility is on lock down. The incident is still under investigation. We're working in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Corrections to determine what led up to the incident." The statement was released by Issa Arnita, corporate communications director for MTC. Updated 12:18 p.m: "This is the worst thing a parent can live through," said Leeann Squires of Florence, whose son is at Walnut Grove. Updated 11:24 a.m: University of Mississippi Medical Center spokesman Jack Mazurak confirmed that two patients had been brought in by AirCare from Walnut Grove, and two had come in by ground ambulance. Original story: Mississippi Department of Corrections officials are confirming an incident at Walnut Grove Correctional Facility last night that sources say sent more than 10 people to the hospital. "The MDOC Corrections Investigation Division is investigating the matter," said MDOC spokesperson Tara Booth. "We can confirm there was an incident and our investigators are on the scene as we speak." Details on the incident are scarce, but a responder not authorized to discuss the situation said possibly 13 people may have been hospitalized, many with stab wounds. Stephanie Luckett of Canton said her mother-in-law got a text message that a riot had occurred, and she had called Walnut Grove to check on a loved one in the facility. She called at the same time The Clarion-Ledger was calling the facility and operators somehow connected her with The Clarion-Ledger instead of connecting either caller with Walnut Grove officials. Officials at MTC, Walnut Grove's corporation, have not responded yet to phone calls and emails. The Leake County Sheriff's Department and Walnut Grove Police Department both assisted at the scene, but neither had anyone available to comment. Booth said investigators will look at video footage to find out more about the incident. Walnut Grove is located in Leake County, approximately 11 miles southeast of Carthage. WGCF has a housing capacity of 1,461.


Jul 11, 2013 bloomberg.com

In the four privately run prisons holding Mississippi inmates last year, the assault rate was three times higher on average than in state-run lockups. None was as violent as the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. The for-profit detention center, surrounded by razor wire and near the forests and farms of central Mississippi, had 27 assaults per 100 offenders last year, more than any other prison in the state, according to an April court filing. Staff shortages, mismanagement and lax oversight had long turned it into a cauldron of violence, where female employees had sex with inmates, pitted them against each other, gave them weapons and joined their gangs, according to court records, interviews and a U.S. Justice Department report. More than 130,000 state and federal convicts throughout the U.S. -- 8 percent of the total -- now live in private prisons such as Walnut Grove, as public officials buy into claims that the institutions can deliver profits while preparing inmates for life after release, saving tax dollars and creating jobs.“It was like a jungle,” said Craig Kincaid, 24, a former inmate. “It was an awful place to go when you’re trying to get your life together.” No national data tracks whether the facilities are run as well as public ones, and private-prison lobbyists for years have successfully fought efforts to bring them under federal open-records law. Yet regulatory, court and state records show that the industry has repeatedly experienced the kind of staffing shortages and worker turnover that helped produce years of chaos at Walnut Grove. Saving Money: “There is a systematic failure to provide the level and competency of staffing necessary to run facilities that are safe not only for the people on the inside, but the public,” said Elaine Rizzo, a criminal-justice professor at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, who studied prison privatization for a state advisory board. “It comes back to saving money.” In Texas and Florida, which hold about a third of all privately detained state inmates, employee turnover rates were 50 percent to more than 100 percent higher in private prisons than in public ones, according to data from the Texas Criminal Justice Department and the Florida Law Enforcement Department. In Mississippi, Tennessee and Idaho, company-run prisons have had higher assault rates than public ones, state data show. Geo’s Response: Boca Raton, Florida-based Geo (GEO) Group Inc., the second-largest U.S. prison company, ran the Walnut Grove prison for about two years, from August 2010 until July 2012. Pablo Paez, a spokesman for Geo, said focusing on troubled institutions such as Walnut Grove “yields an unfair, unbalanced, and inaccurate portrayal of the totality of our industry’s and our company’s long standing record of quality operations and services which have delivered significant savings for taxpayers.” The Mississippi prison “faced significant operational challenges for several years” before Geo took over, and the company invested “significant resources, time, and effort” to improve conditions at the facility, Paez said by e-mail. The for-profit prison industry has encountered staffing issues in other states. Idaho Corrections Department officials voted last month not to renew a contract with Nashville, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, the largest U.S. prison company, after it admitted billing for hours that weren’t worked. Dangerous Situation: State and federal officials have reported dangerous conditions at understaffed privately run prisons in Ohio, Colorado and in Mississippi. New Mexico fined Geo $2.4 million in 2012 for excessive staff vacancies at three prisons in 2011 and 2012, according to Jim Brewster, general counsel for the state corrections department. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration last year sought $104,000 in penalties against Geo, including $70,000 for worker shortages, faulty cells and inadequate training at a prison in Meridian, Mississippi, that the agency said put workers at risk of being attacked. Geo is contesting the matter. In May, inmates at the prison, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the state in U.S. District Court in Jackson alleging “barbaric and horrific conditions” at the facility, now run by a different company. A 2004 report by the Colorado Corrections Department blamed a riot at a Corrections Corp. prison on chronic understaffing and high employee turnover: The attrition rate was double that of state-run facilities. Inexperience and lack of staff cohesion isn’t lost on rioting inmates, according to the report. Public Difference: In Colorado’s public prisons, “offenders know that attempts to defeat security” will be met by “a confident and experienced staff,” according to the report. “No corrections system -- public or private -- is immune to incidents,” Steven Owen, a Corrections Corp. spokesman, said by e-mail. “In Colorado, our dedicated, professional employees are required to meet or exceed the same training requirements as their public counterparts.” The private corrections industry has delivered for investors. The number of inmates in for-profit prisons throughout the U.S. rose 44 percent in the past decade. BlackRock Inc. (BLK) and Renaissance Technologies LLC are among dozens of money-management firms that have invested in the business. As of March 31, BlackRock reported holding stakes worth more than $254 million in Geo and $236 million in Corrections Corp. (CXW), while Renaissance disclosed owning about $39 million of Geo shares and about $36 million in Corrections Corp. stock, according to datacompiled by Bloomberg. Geo has more than doubled since December 2011, while Corrections Corp. has risen 87 percent, both outpacing a 33 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Representatives of BlackRock and Renaissance declined to comment. Low Pay: Pay and staffing ratios are lower in private prisons than in public ones, state and federal data show. The median annual pay in company-run facilities was $30,460 in 2010, according to the U.S. Labor Department, 21 percent less than for correctional officers employed by states. In Texas, wages and benefits are “generally lower” in private prisons than in public ones, according to a 2008 legislative report. Nationally, private prisons had one corrections officer for every 6.9 inmates in 2005, compared with one for every five in public lockups, according to the Justice Department’s most recent statistics. Geo took over Walnut Grove after it acquired Houston-based Cornell Cos. Under its new management company, the prison now holds only inmates 18 and older, and Youth is out of its name. Big Bonus: In 2012, Geo had revenue of $1.48 billion, up from $569 million 10 years earlier, with net income of $135 million. George Zoley, its chairman and chief executive officer, received almost $6 million last year, including a $2.2 million bonus for profit surpassing targets, according to company filings. The company has drawn repeated scrutiny and criticism from regulators and lawyers for inmates, faulting it for dangerous or derelict care. Geo lost civil wrongful-death lawsuits in Texas and Oklahoma, including a $47.5 million jury award in Texas state court in 2006 to the family of an inmate beaten to death with padlock-stuffed socks four days before his release, according to court documents. The company appealed that verdict before settling. The company said it would appeal the Oklahoma ruling. Geo’s contracts to house Idaho and Texas inmates at two prisons in Texas were canceled after state reports of unsafe conditions. Inmates Sue: In November 2010, inmates at Walnut Grove sued Mississippi and Geo in federal court in Jackson over conditions there. In an order last year, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves, who oversaw that lawsuit, said what happened at Walnut Grove “paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.” Geo’s Paez said the judge based his order partly on the Justice Department report about Walnut Grove, which related to events that largely took place either before Geo took over or in the first few months after it assumed management of the prison. As few as two corrections officers worked units with 240 inmates during the day, or one for 120 prisoners, according to a 2011 report to the state by MGT of America Inc., a Tallahassee, Florida-based consulting firm. That ratio is more than 10 times what’s typical at youth facilities, said Ned Loughran, executive director of the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators. “I’ve never seen ratios that risky in terms of supervising kids,” he said. The Walnut Grove prison sits on the edge of a town of about 500, where the downtown has a gas station, two diners, a city hall and a bank. It had lost one of its biggest employers, a glove factory, when community leaders decided to pursue a private prison in a quest for jobs and revenue. Dying Town: “The town was dying,” Mayor J. Brian Gomillion said. “We struggled even after we opened. But it re-invigorated the community.” State Representative Bennett Malone, a Democrat whose district included the area and who led the corrections committee in the Mississippi House, championed the prison. It was originally authorized to hold 500 inmates as old as 19. The prison would be the biggest economic boon the area had ever seen and give troubled boys a second chance, with teachers, counselors, spiritual advisers, psychologists and training, Malone and other backers told the Jackson Clarion Ledger Newspaper at the time.Expanded Capacity: The prison opened in 2001. Cornell took over about a decade ago, predicting annual revenue of $11 million. By 2007, through legislation pushed by Malone, Mississippi had expanded Walnut Grove’s permitted capacity to 1,500 inmates as old as 22. “It never pleases me to see young people locked up, but it does please me to know the custody and care will be provided by the dedicated people of my district,” Malone said at agroundbreaking for the expansion. Malone got campaign contributions of $2,000 from Cornell and $1,000 from Geo in 2006, accounting for 30 percent of what he raised that year, state campaign-finance reports show. Malone didn’t respond to e-mails and telephone calls seeking comment. When Geo bought Cornell in August 2010 for $730 million in cash, stock and debt, the prison was showing signs of strain. A riot had hospitalized six young inmates. A 2010 legislative audit showed that staff levels had failed to keep pace with the expanding population. By then, the town depended on the prison, which now pays it $180,000 a year, or a quarter of its budget. Merchants saw little of the economic boom once promised, said Carl Sistrunk, owner of the gas station where the prison fuels transport vehicles. Hurting Community: “It has helped and it has hurt, if you ask me,” Sistrunk said. “You hear about some of the things going on in there and that hurts us all.” Caleb Williams was 12 when Malone introduced the legislation creating Walnut Grove -- and already headed there. One of 11 children of a single mother on welfare in Starkville and in foster care since age three, Williams was about to be kicked out of school, was stealing and dealing drugs and could barely read or write, he recalled. “I wasn’t a bad child,” he said. “I was just misguided. I had my heart set on having things that weren’t there.” Williams landed in Walnut Grove after he was arrested at age 16 for stealing a car’s compact-disc player, then stabbing an officer with a pen while trying to flee. Williams admits all except the stabbing. Honors Student: Ross Walton was on a different path. An honors student, he played the piano, volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and had a third-degree Karate black belt, activities he said were pushed by a mother determined to keep him from becoming another locked-up black man from the Mississippi Delta. Walton entered Walnut Grove at 18, convicted of aggravated assault after a fight in a bowling alley, his first brush with the law. The prison was nothing like its backers once promised, former inmates said. Gangs ruled the 60-inmate, 30-cell housing units, Williams and Walton said. There were at least 13 present in the facility, according to the 2010 audit. Corrections officers sometimes slept while prisoners fought, the inmates said. Assaults were common. Officers often did nothing. Some provoked fights and then used pepper spray and other deterrents, said Williams. “You saw blood on the floor, everywhere,” he said. ‘Inappropriate Relationships:' Their accounts are echoed in the 2012 Justice Department report and the ACLU-backed lawsuit, which was settled last year. The federal report found “numerous inappropriate relationships between staff and youth,” with corrections officers giving inmates personal mobile phone numbers, wiring money to their commissary accounts and providing them with banned items, including weapons. State oversight was minimal. The 2011 MGT report found no evidence the state ever surveyed inmates, reviewed their records, or did annual checks of prison operations, as required under the contract. A state monitor received no training and relied on the company running the facility for data, which the state never attempted to verify, it said. Staff shortages were chronic, according to inmates and Cleveland McAfee, a former corrections officer. The prison struggled to retain workers, with many quitting within weeks of starting work, McAfee said. After he was promoted to lieutenant, he frequently had to fill in on the front line. “I just got burned out because they just didn’t have the staff,” McAfee said. Delayed Releases: The shortages led to lockdowns, according to Walton and the inmate lawsuit that was also backed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. That meant they couldn’t go to school, slowing the release of those who had to complete high-school equivalency degrees to get out, Walton said. “The longer the stay, the more money the prison makes,” he said. Corrections officers were eager to make more money and smuggling was rampant, said Williams. “If they’ll bring in a pack of gum, they’ll bring in a pack of T-shirts,” he said. “If they bring in a pack of T-shirts, they’ll bring in a knife.” In fiscal 2010, officials confiscated 137 weapons at the prison, according to the audit by the Mississippi legislature. There were 80 assaults with weapons on staff and inmates, a rate of one every five days. Seventy percent of Walnut Grove’s security staff was female, according to the 2011 consultant’s report. Sexual tension ran high. In one incident, a female corrections officer stripped off her shirt in a housing-unit control center and danced “provocatively” over four hours in front of inmates, touching one  inappropriately,” the Justice Department said. Sexual Tensions: Inmates flirted with the female officers and fought over them. They got propositioned by them and punished if they rebuffed them, with written reprimands that added months to sentences, Walton said. “Because you would not perform a sexual act with them, they make you stay longer,” he said. “We would have brand new guards come through, doing a walk-through right out of training. They would come through telling us they were looking for boyfriends, looking for a man, before they even started their jobs.” “They were just hiring anybody to fill those spots and that made it worse, because they didn’t know what they were doing,” he said. “I had one guard -- I was older than her.” Safety depended on staying out of the common areas in each 60-inmate cell unit. Avoiding ‘Sharks: Williams spent his first two years confined to his zone, unable to attend school or go outside. He stayed in his cell 23 hours a day, teaching himself to read and writing in journals. He learned to lip read to anticipate fights and avoid violence that corrections officers were too few or too scared to prevent. He didn’t have to worry about food or shelter, Williams said. “All I had to worry about was being around these sharks, these lions and tigers and bears, in this poisonous world, where people are waking up with madness on their minds,” he said. Berl Goff, a former captain at Walnut Grove, was hired to improve security in November 2009 by then-warden Brick Tripp. Goff, an experienced corrections officer, said the prison was having three or four bloodshed-causing fights every week. “It goes back to the fact that these folks were not trained right,” he said of the staff. “They had never worked in a real prison.” After four months on the job, Goff said he’d made progress. Then he intercepted a ballot inmates were passing between cells. A gang called the Vice Lords was voting on whether to attack a rival group’s leader. Goff’s bosses rebuffed his request for more help: “They told me to handle it,” he said. Bloody Riot: Eighteen corrections officers were at the prison the day of the assault, he said -- one for every 60 prisoners. One, a gang member herself, walked through the cellblock freeing Vice Lords, then left. When the beatings and stabbings stopped, six inmates were rushed to the hospital, one with permanent brain damage. “You got 60 inmates there and it’s just me,” said McAfee, the former guard and one of those who responded to the melee. “You just had to sit there and wait while people are fighting. It was a horrible experience.” The worst hurt was Michael McIntosh, then 20. Six weeks after the incident, his father found him in a hospital three hours away in Greenville. The younger McIntosh’s eyes were red and blinded by blood. He had a baseball-sized lump on his head, multiple stab wounds and brain damage. He made noises like a small child. Blinded Son: “He couldn’t see me,” said his father, Michael McIntosh Sr. “He was just reaching, saying ‘Daaa.’” Geo bought Cornell in August 2010, adding Walnut Grove to the two other prisons it ran in Mississippi. The three delivered $44.9 million in revenue the next year, according to Geo’s 2012 annual report. Paez, the Geo spokesman, said the company inherited the prison’s troubles. “Any reasonable party would agree that significant resources, time and effort would be required to turn around a facility that had faced significant operational problems for several years,” Paez said in a the e-mail. “That is in fact what Geo did.” Walnut Grove received an accreditation score of 100 percent in an audit conducted in early 2012 by the American Correctional Association, an Alexandria, Virginia-based organization that represents public and private prisons, Paez said. Substantially Unchanged: The 2012 Justice Department report said key personnel, policies and training at the prison “did not change substantially, despite Geo’s claim that it made corrective reforms.” Goff, the former prison captain, said staffing got worse under Geo, which kept 5 percent of positions vacant. For weeks at a time, he said he had 13 to 15 officers on the night shift, instead of the 23 he needed. “There were nights when I was captain when I walked all night long, all night by myself,” Goff said. “There was no one in the control centers. They kept saying we had to economize.” At a March 2012 hearing at the federal courthouse in Jackson, where the settlement of the civil lawsuit against the prison and the state was reviewed, Walnut Grove inmates described continuing violence behind the facility’s walls. One 15-year-old said the advice of a judge, who wanted him to have special protection, was ignored. “He didn’t want me in the cell with nobody smarter than me and nobody older than me,” the inmate said. Prison administrators gave him a 19-year-old cellmate who had raped him days earlier. Bloomberg News doesn’t identify victims of sexual assault. Perpetrators Unpunished: “I just have not heard anything that says to me that any of these perpetrators, any of these people, have paid the price for what they have done to some of these children,” said Reeves, the federal judge presiding over the hearing. There are five privately run prisons in Mississippi, though one houses only inmates fromCalifornia, according to the state Corrections Department. Three other prisons are run by the state. In fiscal 2012, Walnut Grove had 284 assaults, the April court filing shows, more than in any of the three other private prisons with Mississippi inmates. It also exceeded the most violent state facility, which had three times the population. Mississippi replaced Geo as Walnut Grove’s operator a year ago. “We moved them out, because that’s just totally unacceptable,” said Governor Phil Bryant, a Republican elected in 2011, referring to the troubles at Walnut Grove. “We just won’t tolerate that type of behavior, and we’re working with the Justice Department to be sure it doesn’t happen again.” Isolated Situation: “Private prisons have worked well,” he said. “For years, we’ve had a lot of success with them. This was one bad incident, we got rid of the player involved, and we got another company in that we think will do a better job.” Geo’s Paez said it has a long-standing record of “adhering to industry-leading standards set by independent accreditation entities” and rehabilitating prisoners with programs to help them re-enter society. “Our company is proud of the incredible dedication and effort of our more than 18,000 employees worldwide, who strive every day to make a difference in the lives of the more than 60,000 men and women who are entrusted daily to our care,” he said. Walnut Grove is now run by Management & Training Corp., a closely held company based in Centerville, Utah. Brick Tripp, Walnut Grove’s former warden, runs another Geo prison in North Carolina. Through Paez, he declined to comment. Goff, the former captain, now works for another private prison company he says is better run. McIntosh will be released in September and only sometimes remembers life before his injury, his father said. Walton is a 28-year-old accounting student at Mississippi State University in Starkville. He says Walnut Grove “scarred me; I will never be the same.” Williams owns a barber shop in Greenville, where he sleeps at night on a cot in a storage room. It’s the same dimensions as his cell in Walnut Grove.


April 20, 2013 sunherald.com

WALNUT GROVE -- Most privately run prisons in Mississippi had assault rates two to three times higher than state-run prisons in 2012, a new report shows. Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, one private prison in Mississippi, had an assault rate of 27 per 100 prisoners last year, according to the report filed by monitors charged with making sure the prison complies with an agreement to improve safety and living conditions. The highest assault rate at a state or regional prison run by the state Department of Corrections was 7 per 100 inmates, the report said. Differences in population and custody levels may be one reason for the higher rates of violence in private prisons. "The privates may have more inmates in higher custody levels," resulting in a more-violent inmate population, prisoners' rights attorney Ron Welch said. "Or, private prisons have higher staffing turnover, so the staffing may be too thin and inmates may be not be properly supervised." Mississippi began relying on private prisons after 1996 when lawmakers decided convicts must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. State law mandates private prisons provide their services for 10 percent less than it would cost the state. "That's really when private prisons started booming, especially in Mississippi, because we were poor like we are now," said Christopher Epps, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, which has an annual budget of almost $340 million. "It sounded good that you could go out and contract to build a prison and get somebody to operate at 10 percent cheaper than we can." The contractors save money by paying their staff less than state employees are paid, firing employees in a quick and less-expensive manner, and by providing shorter educational and vocational programs to inmates, Epps said. The state spends an average of $49.76 per inmate per day at its own prisons, for example, and pays the operator of Walnut Grove $37.68 per inmate per day. But the new report renews questions about the added risks. The court monitor's report follows a series of riots and allegations of abuse and hazardous conditions at other privately run prisons in Mississippi in the past year. "I've had two (guards) arrested in the last two days," said Patricia Doty, the deputy warden at Walnut Grove, in late March. The prison is run by Management and Training Corp. of Utah. Doty said she has had problems retaining staff. Almost half the guards who started in January have already quit or been fired. Concerns over safety, liability, compliance and cost have led some states to eschew private prisons. Illinois and New York won't allow private prisons, and Louisiana has a moratorium on new contracts, though Gov. Bobby Jindal has recently supported legislation allowing privatization. In late March, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted for a bill that would ban private prisons. Nevertheless, the private prison industry continues to grow. At least 30 states have contracts with these companies. The companies In Mississippi, three companies have operated six prisons over the years: The GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and Management and Training Corp. However, The GEO Group, which ran Walnut Grove and two other prisons, left the state in 2012. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration filed a complaint in December 2011 against the East Mississippi Correctional Facility alleging employees were exposed to violence due to staff shortage and inadequate staff training. The GEO Group, which ran the prison, was fined more than $100,000. Earlier in 2011, an inmate there stabbed a guard in the face. "No one was supposed to be in the housing units alone, but there wasn't enough staff there to follow that directive," said Berl Goff, who was working there at the time as captain and unit manager. The GEO Group did not respond to repeated requests for comments. Conditions at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in the Delta are also troublesome, said Patrick Perry, a former guard there. Perry recalled a day in the prison when he tried to report an inmate riot to supervisors but the call never went through. "We were supposed to have a five-week (training) class, and we were barely in class three weeks when they put us on the floor," he said. "We never went back to finish our training because they were always short (on staff). Every day it's at least 40 to 50 officers short, and people are frustrated because they got to do the job of three or four officers." Repeated requests to Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America for comments were not answered. The future In many circles, people are looking to solutions, both locally and nationally, to the bursting levels of prison populations. The economic downturn has also pushed governments to look for money-saving options. "The long-term growth opportunities of our business remain very attractive," Corrections Corporation of America told investors in its annual report. Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group posted combined profits of more than $300 million in 2012. Their stocks have jumped 35 percent or more in a year. In Mississippi, which has the nation's second-highest incarceration rate, officials are suggesting alternatives such as reducing low-risk offenses to misdemeanors, placing more inmates under house arrest, and offering earlier parole. The court monitor's report about widespread problems at Walnut Grove and other private prisons may accelerate those discussions. "On its face, that's a huge disparity (between violence rates at private prisons and state prisons). If inmates in private prisons are not as safe as those in the state, something needs to be done about it," Welch said. "The PEER (Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review) committee should investigate and come up with recommendations as to whether the (private prison) contracts need to be changed, whether there are performance requirements that ought to be included." Jody Owens, managing staff attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said: "The state has done a better job on keeping violence lower than private prisons can …. Whatever discount private prisons offer, they do so at the jeopardy of the inmates in their care." Kathryn Royals, a Jackson native, is a graduate student in the mass communications program at LSU. She produced this story using research from her thesis on private prisons in the state. Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2013/04/20/4608209/report-private-prisons-in-state.html#storylink=cpy

June 14, 2012 Huffington Post
After years of widespread violence and sexual abuse at Mississippi's for-profit prison for juvenile offenders, state officials and civil rights groups signed a federal court decree in March aimed at overhauling a facility described by a federal judge as "a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts." U.S. Justice Department investigators found that both state officials and the GEO Group Inc., the nation's second-largest operator of private prisons, had essentially ignored the safety of youth prisoners, denying them basic health care and employing guards with known gang affiliations. Sexual misconduct between staff and inmates at the Walnut Grove youth prison was "among the worst we have seen in any facility anywhere in the nation," the Justice Department's investigation concluded. Yet two months after a federal court settlement, violence and poor staffing have persisted, including a fight that resulted in a young man being stabbed in the eye, according to recent court transcripts. In response, a top Mississippi state prison official recently testified that the state has no authority to force the GEO Group to improve security at the chronically understaffed facility, raising questions about the lines of authority for corrections policy in Mississippi. "All we can do is make a request," said Emmitt Sparkman, deputy commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, in federal court testimony two weeks ago. He added that the GEO Group was "under no obligation" to increase staffing under the terms of its contract with the state. Though a federal judge found that state officials "repeatedly failed to monitor the contracts with GEO," Mississippi plans to replace GEO with Management & Training Corp., a private company responsible for one of the most tragic prison breaks in recent memory. The GEO Group, which has donated more than $56,000 to Mississippi elected officials over the past decade, did not respond to questions about its contracts in the state. A spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Corrections declined to make officials available for comment. GEO Group has operated Walnut Grove since 2010, after acquiring the prison in a merger with another prison corporation, Cornell Companies Inc.

June 7, 2012 WTOK
MTC will officially take over operation at East Mississippi Correctional Facility on July 9th. The company got its start working with young people outside the corrections system. The Vice President of Corrections at MTC explained the company's history via a video news release. "We started 30 years ago by providing training for young adults to succeed in life," says Odie Washington, "we've taken that and applied it to our corrections division. "All you are going to see is a change in the name over the door," that's the opinion of Frank Smith, a private prison watchdog, "it's not going to be a change in operations." Smith works as a consultant for Private Corrections Working Group. "The problem is there is such turnover that there is no mentoring process so everybody is just kind of new on the job, and they don't know what to do when the problems arise." MTC officials say they plan on providing EMCF with all the resources it needs to operate effectively. "We'll provide each facility the resources necessary for them to operate safely and effectively," says Washington, and we look forward to applying these high standards to our new Mississippi facilities as well." Only time will tell whether MTC will have a successful run in the Magnolia State.

June 7, 2012 AP
A Utah-based private prison operator will take over management of three Mississippi correctional institutions beginning in July. Management & Training Corporation of Centreville, Utah, has signed 10-year operating contracts for the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near the Lost Gap community beginning July 2; Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove on July 9; and the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs on Aug. 13. Financial details of the contracts were not made public. The announcement came Thursday by the company and the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The Corrections Department and the GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., in April agreed to end GEO's management contract at the three prisons. At the time Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps told the AP that the department felt it might get a better price if all three prisons were presented as a package to other corrections management companies. "The Mississippi Department of Corrections is looking forward to a great partnership with MTC," Epps said in a statement Thursday. "There is a need for different types of prisons, including state and regional as well as private facilities in Mississippi. MTC will be held to the same high standards as set by MDOC and I feel extremely confident that MTC will do a great job." "We look forward to the opportunity to work in Mississippi," said MTC senior vice president of corrections Odie Washington in the statement. "We have partnered with state and federal governments in operating correctional facilities for the past 25 years, and have a strong record of providing safe, secure and well-run facilities."

May 20, 2012 WLBT
A celebration in Smith Park commemorated changes at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. The Friends and Family Members of Youth Incarcerated at Walnut Grove held a rally Sunday morning. Parents of children at the facility thanked department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps for ending the private prison contract with the GEO Group. They said their children were mistreated under the company's management from being denied medical treatment to education. "I would like to urge the commissioner to continue to do the right thing by our children and to not allow another private, for profit company to take over Walnut Grove," said Walnut Grove parent Kimberly Carson. "The GEO Group is making money off of these young men. They don't seem willing to spend any of that money to make sure they have been properly rehabilitated," said Walnut Grove parent Marietta Larry. GEO managed Walnut Grove and the East Mississippi and Marshall County Correctional facilities until last month.

April 24, 2012 NPR
In 2010, former inmate Ross Walton describes mistreatment he says inmates received from guards. Faced with a court order to reform the Walnut Grove juvenile prison, the company managing the prison is leaving Mississippi. One month after a federal court ordered sweeping changes at a troubled juvenile prison in rural Mississippi, the private company managing the prison has announced it is pulling out of the state. A report by the Justice Department describes "systemic, egregious and dangerous practices" at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. As those words imply, the official report is scathing. Federal Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that the youth prison "has allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk." Walnut Grove, located an hour's drive east of Jackson, is a 1,450-bed prison that houses inmates ages 13 to 22 who are minors convicted as adults. It is run by GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., the nation's second-largest for-profit prison corporation, which posted a profit of $284 million last year. The Mississippi Department of Corrections pays GEO to manage the prison. Jonathan Smith is chief of special litigation in the civil rights section at the Justice Department, which spent two years looking into conditions at Walnut Grove. "To have a prison that's chaotic, poorly run, dangerous, didn't provide services, highly sexualized and highly violent really limits the ability of the state to turn those folks around, and to ensure public safety upon their release from prison," Smith said. Among the conditions described in the report released last month: Prison staff had sex with incarcerated youth, which investigators called "among the worst that we've seen in any facility anywhere in the nation." Poorly trained guards brutally beat youth and used excessive pepper spray as a first response. The prison showed "deliberate indifference" to prisoners possessing homemade knives, which were used in gang fights and inmate rapes. Some guards had gang affiliations — a finding confirmed to NPR last year by former inmate Justin Bowling. "A lot of times, the guards are in the same gang," Bowling said. "If an inmate wanted something done, they got it. If they wanted a cell popped open to handle some business about some fighting or something like that, it just pretty much happened." A GEO spokesman said via email that the abuses documented by the government occurred before GEO took over Walnut Grove in late 2010. Another private prison company, Cornell Companies, ran the Walnut Grove facility until Cornell was purchased by GEO. At the Justice Department, Jonathan Smith does not accept that statement. He said troubles at the prison continued after GEO stepped in. In an interview last Thursday, Mississippi state Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps had nothing but praise for GEO. "Since GEO took over August 2010, have there been incidents? The answer is yes," he said. "Will there be more? The answer is yes. But they're doing better, and I'm pleased with it." On Friday, the news broke that GEO was pulling out of all three prisons in Mississippi that it manages by July. Later that day, Epps had changed his tune. He told The Associated Press that a new operator at all three state prisons may "do a better job in the operation of the facilities" than GEO did. GEO did not give a reason why it was pulling out of Mississippi. Last week, CEO George Zoley said the company was discontinuing its contract at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility that houses inmates with mental illness because the facility had been "financially underperforming." The Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility houses 1,200 boys and young men east of Jackson, Miss. The Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility houses 1,200 boys and young men east of Jackson, Miss. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU have been investigating reports of abuse and inmate suicides at the GEO-run East Mississippi Correctional Facility, located near the city of Meridian. Sheila Bedi, deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that her group is considering legal action against the prison. Regarding Walnut Grove, Bedi said whoever takes over management of the facility, at least the juvenile offenders held there will be safer under the court order. "Some of the more significant relief includes an agreement to remove all children from that facility, and to put them in a stand-alone unit that will be operated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections and governed by juvenile justice, as opposed to adult correctional standards," she said. The state corrections commissioner said they'll be looking for a new operator for the three GEO-run prisons. With one of the prisons under a stern federal court order and another prison the possible target of a class-action lawsuit in the future, it remains to be seen how attractive those properties will be for a private company.

April 20, 2012 AP
The Mississippi Department of Corrections says GEO Group Inc., one of the country's largest private prison operators, will no longer manage three facilities in Mississippi. On Thursday, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company said it was backing out of a contract to manage the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near the Lost Gap community by July 19. Company officials told The Associated Press on Friday that it had nothing else to say. Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps told the AP on Friday that the department felt it might get a better price if all three prisons were presented as a package to other corrections management companies. Epps said he would expect GEO Group to end its ties to the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove and Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs by July 20. "We feel this may be a golden opportunity to provide a better price for the taxpayers of the state and at the same time maybe do a better job in the operation of the facilities," Epps said. "That's what I would like to see." Epps said there was some concern at MDOC about incidents at all three prisons. The Walnut Grove facility is presently under a federal court order to remove juvenile inmates amid allegations of physical and sexual abuse. That court order came in a settlement of a lawsuit filed against Walnut Grove in 2010. GEO Group has repeatedly declined to comment on the lawsuit. Epps has said his plan is to send the 17-and-younger inmates to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County by Oct. 1. He said there are about 1,000 vacant beds at that prison now, so there is no need for a new building. Walnut Grove also houses adults. They would remain there under a settlement that ended a 2010 lawsuit. Epps said Friday that local authority boards deal with management contracts at EMCF and Walnut Grove with MDOC help. He said MDOC works directly with vendors at Marshall County. "There are a lot of these management companies out there. We're reaching out to those private operators to see what the best proposal is we might get," he said. In its announcement, GEO chairman/CEO George C. Zoley said EMCF was "financially underperforming." GEO Group vice president Pablo E. Paez said Friday the company would have no other comment.

March 29, 2012 Sun Herald
A federal judge has approved an agreement that would move juvenile offenders out of a privately run prison that has been hounded by allegations of physical and sexual abuse. The settlement was reached between civil rights advocates and the state of Mississippi in a 2010 lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves approved the agreement in a March 26 order made public Thursday. Reeves had harsh words for the state in his order noting that officials "have been derelict in their duties and remain deliberately indifferent to the serious medical and mental health needs of the offenders." "The sum of these actions and inactions ... paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world," Reeves wrote. Walnut Grove opened in 2001 in Leake County and holds inmates ages 13-22 who were minors convicted as adults. It was run by the private prison firm Cornell Companies Inc. until Cornell was acquired by the GEO Group Inc. in a $730 million deal in 2010. GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., is now the nation's second largest private prison company. The company has declined to comment on the lawsuit. Reeves said the misconduct was widespread. He said the facility was "deliberately indifferent to the serious and substantial risk of harm to which these youth are subjected." "And to add one final insult to these injuries, State officials repeatedly failed to monitor the contracts with GEO and simply rewarded the company by either extending or offering new contracts, or by not revoking the existing contract despite 'systemic, egregious, and dangerous practices exacerbated by a lack of accountability and controls.'" Reeves said. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and Jackson attorney Robert McDuff sued the state over conditions at the facility in 2010. The class action suit claimed guards smuggled drugs to inmates, had sex with some of them and denied others medical treatment and basic educational services. The sides reached a proposed settlement in February that would require youth to be moved to a facility governed by juvenile justice standards. Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps has said his plan is to send the 17-and-younger inmates to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility by Oct. 1. He said there are about 1,000 vacant beds at CMCF now, so there is no need for a new building.

March 24, 2012 AP
A federal judge is considering whether to approve an agreement that would move juvenile offenders out of a privately-run prison that has been hounded by allegations of physical and sexual abuse. Six young inmates from Walnut Grove Correctional Facility attended a hearing in Jackson on Thursday and urged U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves to approve the settlement reached between civil rights advocates and the state of Mississippi in a 2010 lawsuit. The hearing came just two days after the Justice Department issued a scathing report that said sexual misconduct at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in central Mississippi "was among the worst that we have seen in any facility anywhere in the nation." Walnut Grove opened in 2001 in Leake County and holds inmates ages 13-22 who were minors convicted as adults. It was run by the private prison firm Cornell Companies Inc. until Cornell was acquired by the GEO Group Inc. in a $730 million deal in 2010. GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., is now the nation's second largest private prison company. The company has declined to comment on the lawsuit or the Justice Department findings. The Mississippi Department of Corrections declined to comment before the settlement is approved. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and Jackson attorney Robert McDuff sued the state over conditions at the facility in 2010. The class action suit claimed guards smuggled drugs to inmates, had sex with some of them and denied others medical treatment and basic educational services. The sides reached a proposed settlement in February that would require youth to be moved to a facility governed by juvenile justice standards. Reeves must sign off on the deal, known as a consent decree. Corrections officials have already been making plans to move the prisoners. State lawmakers have worked on legislation that would allow them to be moved to a separated unit at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl. The settlement hearing Thursday was considered a formality by some involved, but Reeves said he wanted to consider the issue before making a decision. The prisoners who attended the hearing wore yellow prison jumpsuits and shackles. Nearly 50 supporters wore matching orange shirts with a Bible verse that says to "remember those in prison, as though in prison with them." The prisoners testified about stabbings, beatings, a lack of mental health treatment and educational opportunities and long periods of confinement.

March 21, 2012 AP
The Justice Department says juveniles were subjected to sexual misconduct and other abuses at a privately run Mississippi prison, though the report comes three weeks after plans were revealed to move youth to another facility. The report dated Tuesday says sexual misconduct at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in south Mississippi "was among the worst that we have seen in any facility anywhere in the nation." Walnut Grove — which also houses adults — is run by GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., the nation's second largest private prison company. A spokesman for GEO Group declined to comment Wednesday. The company assumed management of the facility in late 2010. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and Jackson attorney Robert McDuff sued the state over conditions at the facility in 2010. The suit, filed on behalf of 13 plaintiffs, claimed guards smuggled drugs to inmates, had sex with some of them and denied others medical treatment and basic educational services. A proposed settlement reached in February requires youth to be moved to a facility governed by juvenile justice standards. State lawmakers have worked on legislation that would allow juveniles to be moved to a separated unit at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl. The lawsuit settlement would also ban the practice of housing youth in long-term isolation. "The Department of Justice's groundbreaking investigation into the GEO-Group operated Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility confirms what Mississippi's communities have known for over a decade: the combination of a profit hungry private prison, and a bad law that allows too many teenagers to enter the adult justice system has created a public safety crisis in Mississippi," said Sheila Bedi, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center. "This is a crisis that destroys young lives and has wasted over $100 million in taxpayer dollars. In the wake of this report, Mississippi lawmakers should examine the harm that private prisons inflict on our communities and take action to end the practice of trying children in the adult criminal justice system." The Justice Department report listed numerous problems, including that the facility was "deliberately indifferent to staff sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior with youth." It also said the facility used excessive force, is indifferent to gang affiliations within the ranks of correctional staff and is indifferent to risks that young inmates posed to others. "Youth also reported staff involvement with youth gang members and that, in fact, several staff members are actually members of various gangs and are involved in gang activity at the Facility. Surprisingly, a high ranking WGYCF official acknowledged to our DOJ investigative team that some of the Facility staff are involved in gangs," the report said. The facility also didn't provide adequate mental health and failed to adequately assess and treat youth at risk of suicide, the report said. Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility opened in 2001 in Leake County and holds inmates ages 13-22 who were minors convicted as adults. A federal judge must approve the settlement agreement, known as a consent decree. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Jackson.

February, 27, 2012 AP
A proposed settlement of a lawsuit would prohibit minors in Mississippi from being held in solitary confinement and would require corrections officials to move youth out of a privately run prison where there were allegations of sexual and physical abuse. The 2010 lawsuit claimed that some guards at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility smuggled drugs into the prison, had sex with some inmates, assaulted others and put some in solitary confinement. The lawsuit was filed in November 2010 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and Jackson attorney Robert McDuff, It also claimed inmates weren't given proper medical care or educational opportunities, among other things. Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility opened in 2001 in Leake County and holds inmates ages 13-22 who were minors convicted as adults. It's operated by GEO Group Inc., the second largest private prison company in the country. The proposed deal would require the Mississippi Department of Corrections to move the underage prisoners to a facility governed by juvenile justice standards. A federal judge must approve the agreement, known as a consent decree. A hearing is scheduled for March 22 in U.S. District Court in Jackson. Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps was at a legislative hearing Monday at which the House Corrections Committee approved a bill dealing with Walnut Grove. Epps said the bill is a direct response to the lawsuit settlement. The law would separate anyone 17 and younger who is now housed at Walnut Grove from those 18 and older. Epps told The Associated Press after the meeting that his plan is to send the 17-and-younger inmates to a building at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County. He said that would happen by Oct. 1, under the bill He said there are about 1,000 vacant beds at CMCF now, so there is no need for a new building. Bill 523 now moves to the full House for consideration sometime in the next few weeks. Pablo Paez, a GEO spokesman, said Monday that the company doesn't comment on litigation. The advocacy groups that filed the lawsuit said the settlement, if approved, would be the first time a federal court has banned the practice of housing youth in long-term isolation. Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU National Prison Project, said in a statement that the ban on solitary confinement for young people would be "truly unprecedented." "It's been known for a long time that prolonged solitary confinement causes terrible suffering and psychiatric breakdown even in mature healthy adults - let alone in emotionally vulnerable children and teenagers," she said. Sheila Bedi, deputy legal director for SPLC, said in a statement that the deal "represents a sea change in the way MDOC will treat children in its custody." "As a result of this litigation, Mississippi's children will no longer languish in an abusive, privately operated prison that profits each time a young man is tried as an adult and ends up behind bars," she said.

October 26, 2011 Ya'll Politics
State Auditor Stacey Pickering announced today that a demand has been issued against Walnut Grove mayor Grady Sims in the amount of $31,530.29 for using city employees and city equipment to work on private prison facilities and allowing city equipment to be used on personal property. The investigation analyzed records from 2008 until 2010. “The demand issued against Mayor Sims represents multiple instances where city employees were directed by the mayor to do work at a private prison facilities located in Walnut Grove,” said State Auditor Stacey Pickering. “Taxpayers of Walnut Grove have been paying for equipment and labor to do work at these facilities that are for-profit, private prisons. In addition, town equipment and labor have been used on private property at taxpayer expense.” In addition to the civil demand issued by the State Auditor, the Federal Grand Jury has indicted the mayor on federal charges unrelated to the State Auditor’s investigation, and Sims was arraigned today in United States District Court.

May 17, 2011 NEMS Daily Journal
A riot was under way the night Tyler Edmonds began his three-year stay in hell. Edmonds, now almost 22, was sentenced to life in prison in 2004 after an Oktibbeha County jury found him guilty in the shooting death of his stepsister’s husband. “They walked me to my unit, and a riot was going on,” he recalled last week. “Guys in khaki pants, black T-shirts, gas masks, cans of pepper spray and shotguns against some brawling inmates – it was a horrible shock. “I went from hell to the deepest depths of hell.” The West Point native breathes free air these days, after a new trial in 2008 set him free. His original trial drew national headlines because he was just 13 when he arrested for the crime. “I wonder how I came out a decent person – I ask myself, how did I keep from losing my mind?” Edmonds said about the experience. Today, Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, where he spent those torturous years, has drawn public attention with hundreds of petitions to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, alleging systematic brutality of its 22-and-under aged prisoners. The petitions ask MDOC to cancel its contract with GEO Group Inc., the Florida-based company that runs the state’s only youth prison. Walnut Grove, in central Mississippi southeast of Carthage, also is the object of a federal lawsuit on behalf of 13 of its 1,200 prisoners. And the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating treatment of juveniles there. Walnut Grove officials have yet to respond to the lawsuit filed in the Southern District of U.S. District Court in Jackson. Speaking during his lunch break at a Yuma, Ariz., auto dealership, Edmonds blamed poor staff training and structural instability for making a bad situation worse at Walnut Grove. “There were problems there every day,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen. People at Walnut Grove don’t want to be there. They’d rather be at Parchman.” Edmonds said that’s because prisoners at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman can count on a regular system of sleep, meals, exercise and other activities. That’s not what he found at Walnut Grove, where he said whatever happened depended on what the guards felt like. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and you have to be tougher or smarter than everybody else to stay safe.” Edmonds, whose youthful appearance belies his years, said he fit into the “smarter” category but at times had to fight. “I was a kid. I needed stability,” he recalled. “That kind of environment contributes to mental and emotional instability. “It’s like putting a bear in a cage and poking it with a stick.” During his time at Walnut Grove, Edmonds said the guards didn’t seem to know any other way to control prisoners except with violence. “Fights are going to happen, but that doesn’t mean the prisoners aren’t people,” he noted. “The employees just aren’t trained to deal with it any other way.” He said some guards belonged to the same gangs as some of the prisoners, and this created its own problems. “I’m not surprised to hear of public complaints about Walnut Grove,” he said. “People haven’t been blind to what’s going on there, but they’ve just chosen not to see it.” While held in the facility, Edmonds said prisoners couldn’t be certain of any kind of routine, and after entire zones were locked down because of small fights, the rest of the zone’s inmates would come out of lockdown ready to punish the ones who caused lockdown in the first place. “I would just stand with my back against the wall, when that happened, and if you’re going to come close to me, you’re going to get hit,” he said. “It’s not that I wanted to – it was the only way to survive.”

May 13, 2011 The Root
Amid the furor over conditions at a private youth prison in Mississippi, the father of a brain-damaged inmate seeks answers. Mike McIntosh II, 21, used to be a vibrant athlete who loved doing kick flips on his skateboard, scoring goals on the soccer field and executing extreme bike tricks on his BMX. He was smart, too, studying welding at a community college, his father recalled recently. "He was a sports fanatic," the father, Michael McIntosh, 47, told The Root. "He used to work out with me, so I knew he was a strong kid, because I'm a former U.S. Marine." But now the 5-foot-8 youth of medium build is a shell of his former self, physically hobbled and brain damaged during a 2010 riot at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, the private prison in Jackson, Miss., where he remains incarcerated, his father said. (The elder McIntosh declined to discuss the reason for the arrest that led to his son's incarceration because of pending litigation.) McIntosh blames the prison for lack of supervision and a staff that flouts the law, engaging in abuse of young prisoners themselves. "He drags his right leg when he walks now, and he's just gaining use of his right arm," McIntosh said. "He has brain damage. He can't tell you what happened. He doesn't remember things we talked about yesterday. It's sad and torturous for me." Taking Legal Action -- On May 5, dozens of members of Friends and Family Members of Youth Incarcerated at Walnut Grove -- an organization founded by McIntosh -- held a news conference to announce the delivery of petitions to Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps, calling on him to cancel the system's contract with the GEO Group, the Florida company that runs the facility. (Epps said in an email to The Root that he could not comment because of pending litigation. Pablo Paez, a spokesman for GEO Group, also declined to comment via email.) The petitions, with 1,600 signatures, are part of a long-running battle between families and Walnut Grove. In November 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union and civil rights attorney Robert B. McDuff filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of 13 inmates against GEO, the prison administration and state officials. The suit charges that children are forced to live in barbaric and unconstitutional conditions and are subjected to excessive force by prison staff. The prison houses 1,200 young men between the ages of 13 and 22 who have been tried and convicted as adults. More than two-thirds of the facility's inmates have been incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, and the population is about 90 percent African American. The suit unveils a litany of disturbing complaints, including internecine warfare, prison staff exploiting youths by selling drugs inside the facility, and staff engaging in sexual relationships with youths in their care. It also reveals that inmates like McIntosh have received serious, permanent injuries as a result of Walnut Grove's deficient security policies and violent staff members. One young man, according to the lawsuit, was tied to his bunk for almost 24 hours by another inmate, then brutally raped and sexually assaulted after prison staff failed to respond to his cries for protection. In yet another example, the suit says that other youths suffered multiple stabbings and beatings at the hands of inmates and staff, said Sheila Bedi, deputy legal director of the SPLC. Profits, Not Rehab -- At the core of the suit is the allegation that the purpose of Walnut Grove and other for-profit prisons is intrinsically flawed because they are set up to maintain prison populations rather than rehabilitate and release inmates, Jody Owens II, director of the Jackson office of the SPLC, told The Root. It's a condition that's getting increasing attention as the ranks of inmates in private prisons grow. As of June 30, 2008, there were 126,249 prisoners in private facilities, accounting for 7.8 percent of all prisoners in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That's up from 6.5 percent in 2000. Owens lauded NPR, which in March ran a hard-hitting series about the conundrum of for-profit prisons, which supply jobs and revenue to the communities in which they're based. The GEO Group is paid based on the number of youths housed at Walnut Grove, which was constructed with more than $41 million of taxpayer funding. When it opened in 2001, it was praised as a model youth facility, but since then, independent consultants have had to help overhaul procedures. It has also tripled in size, resulting in significant profits for the GEO Group. "Facilities like Walnut Grove receive federal dollars to educate these inmates," Owens said. "The kids say they never go to school, or attend very irregularly. Instead of an everyday thing, they might go once every three weeks because guards find reasons not to let them go. You hear things about excessive lockdown, where kids are left in the cells 23 hours a day. You imagine what life is like for these youth." The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice recently began investigating some of the allegations, according to NPR. A Father's Search for His Son -- For his part, Michael McIntosh, an environmental biologist, is waiting for justice to be served. He tells the poignant story of showing up at the prison one Sunday in March 2010 to find his child gone, like so much air. "I was told that he was not there," he said. "I knew something was wrong with that answer because he would have called when he was released. No one at the facility would let me know where he was. They suggested I call during regular business hours. "After three days of trying to get answers, the warden called me back," McIntosh continued. "He said there was an incident and my son was involved. They still would not tell me where my son was. They referred me to the Department of Corrections. They in turn played kick the can. So I bounced back and forth between the two for 2½ weeks." McIntosh recalled how, during that time, he also began a frantic search of local hospitals. After about 3½ weeks, he found his son at a local hospital, but staff refused to allow him to visit, referring him instead to the Department of Corrections. The department granted him authorization to see Mike, but when he arrived, he was told that his son had been moved to another facility the previous day. After another search, he found him, this time at a hospital two hours away, he said. He was permitted to see Mike after a week of red tape. "I went into the room to see my son. I was overcome with emotion," he said. "I was two feet away from him, and he could not see me. He had cuts all over his face. He couldn't walk, couldn't talk and couldn't sit up. He couldn't do anything. His eyes were bloodshot, and he had a severe head injury. He was in critical condition. "By this time, I'm upset and hurt. He can't remember anything," McIntosh continued. "I had to contact the Department of Corrections again, and they refused to answer any more questions. Walnut Grove wouldn't answer any questions. No one ever said sorry. "It wasn't until some time later that I found out there was a riot and my son was jumped on, severely beaten and almost lost his life," he said. "They did nothing to warn or tell me that. They just decided to try to sweep it under the rug as much as they could. But I'm not going to let that happen. I'm not going to let that happen at all."

May 5, 2011 Clarion Ledger
Those upset with conditions at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility delivered hundreds of petitions to Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps Thursday, calling for him to cancel the contract with GEO Group, the Florida-based company that runs the prison. Because of pending litigation, the Mississippi Department of Corrections cannot comment, said MDOC spokeswoman Tara Booth. Mississippi's lone youth prison that holds 1,200 inmates remains the target of a federal probe and lawsuit. Michael McIntosh said it's been 14 months since his son was brutally beaten and stabbed, resulting in irreparable brain damage. A number of young inmates were injured in a Feb. 27, 2010, melee. The Rev. Milton Johnson, an associate pastor in Meridian, noted that delivering these petitions was appropriate on the National Day of Prayer. "If we succeed in real rehabilitation, then they (youth) will be an asset to our communities and state, not society rejects," he said. "We cannot allow our children to abandon hope." Ethel Thomas Heard noted that this Mother's Day, her only son will remain behind bars at Walnut Grove, and she is not alone, she said. "We know what it feels like to wake up with our heads on tear-drenched pillows." A number of young The U.S. Department of Justice is now investigating the treatment of juveniles at the prison. In November, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and Jackson lawyer Robert McDuff filed a lawsuit against the GEO Group on behalf of 13 offenders at the Leake County prison. The lawsuit alleges young offenders are being forced to live in "barbaric, unconstitutional conditions." The lawsuit alleges guards beat inmates, smuggled drugs to the youths and engaged in sexual acts with them.

February 28, 2011 Clarion Ledger
Friends and relatives of those incarcerated at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility held a candle-light vigil Monday to mark the first anniversary of violence that reportedly injured dozens of inmates. More than a dozen gathered in protest outside the Mississippi Department of Corrections building at 723 President St. Former inmate Monico Lopez, 22, told reporters he was among the inmates injured at the state’s youth prison, which is the target of a federal probe and lawsuit. The attacks began on Feb. 27, 2010, when some inmates grabbed shanks, pieces of glass and other weapons and began slashing, he said. “It was like a war zone.” He said both he and his cell mate, Michael McIntosh Jr., were stabbed repeatedly and that he dragged McIntosh to one of the doors and began banging for help. He said it took guards 15 minutes to respond. The guards never intervened to halt the violence among inmates, he said. He doesn’t know what started the violence and woke up four days later in the hospital, he said. McIntosh’s father, Michael McIntosh Sr., said his son was brain injured from the attack and that he didn’t learn of his son’s injuries until five weeks later. His son is no longer in Walnut Grove but remains in custody, he said. Both the elder McIntosh and Lopez called for authorities to close down Walnut Grove. MDOC officials referred questions on the incident to the Walnut Grove Correctional Authority, which oversees the private prison. In January, former inmates, family members and the state’s corrections commissioner gave conflicting accounts of conditions at the state’s youth prison. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the facility. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit in federal court in November, alleging guards beat inmates, smuggled drugs to the youths and engaged in sexual acts with them. The Justice Department informed Gov. Haley Barbour late last year that it had begun an investigation into the treatment of juveniles at the prison.

January 12, 2011 AP
A former employee at a privately run youth prison says many inmates were denied access to an education because they were often placed on lockdown for days or weeks at a time. George Cole, who was a principal at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility from 2005 to 2009, told a House committee Tuesday that he also saw evidence of physical abuse of inmates. “I thought I was going to a place interested in rehabilitating children. They were not,” Cole said during a House Juvenile Justice Committee hearing that drew dozens of former inmates or their relatives. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the facility. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit in federal court in November claiming guards beat inmates, smuggled drugs to the youth and engaged in sexual acts with them. Democratic Rep. Earle Banks of Jackson, chairman of the House committee, said he’s pursuing legislation to address some of the alleged problems at the facility, including requiring more training for guards and stiffer penalties for contraband. The prison is run by a private company under a contract by the town. The state pays the town to house state inmates there. Banks (said) the correctional authority and Florida-based GEO Group, which is contracted to operate the facility, were invited to the hearing, though no one came. City officials and the GEO Group didn’t immediately respond to The Associated Press for comment. “The committee is determined to get them here if we have to subpoena them,” Banks said.

January 10, 2011 Clarion-Ledger
A former inmate testified today at a House Juvenile Justice Committee hearing that he was beaten at the state's youth prison. "The Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility was hell," recalled Ross Walton, a 25-year-old former inmate. The private prison is the target of a federal investigation. The U.S. Department of Justice informed Gov. Haley Barbour late last year that it had begun an investigation into the treatment of juveniles at the prison. In November, he Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and Jackson lawyer Robert McDuff filed at lawsuit against Florida-based the GEO Group on behalf of 13 youthful offenders at the Leake County prison. It alleges young offenders at the 1,200-inmate prison are being forced to live in "barbaric, unconstitutional conditions." Other defendants in the lawsuit are state Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps and the Walnut Grove Correctional Authority, which was created by the city to oversee the facility, and others. Walton told state lawmakers today of being beaten by guards and seeing other inmates being beaten. "I've witnessed guards beat inmates over drug money," he said. He said he's seen the staff bring drugs to the facility, including marijuana, cocaine and pills. Prices at the prison canteen are hugely inflated, he said. The price of a bar of Irish Spring? $2. The price of a tube of Colgate? $5. "A lot of times, it caused fights," he said. "It's hard to continue paying off the lawyer and have to send off money to your children." Shannon Busby and her husband told the committee that the same Ramen soup that cost 15 cents at Walmart is $4.60 in the canteen. She told the committee about the experiences of her son, Kenneth Page, at the prison. "He wants to be be somebody," she said. "He wants to change his past." They are unable to send him a Bible, she said. The only Bible he can get they must order from the prison's website. The same website allowed them to buy him a Christmas dinner for $100, she said. "We didn't do it because we couldn't afford it." "One dinner?" a lawmaker asked. "Yes," she replied. Walton already had a high school degree, but he said he saw other young offenders denied an education. George Cole, who served as principal at Walnut Grove between 2005 and 2009, said many of the students were bright, scoring as high as 33 on an ACT test. But unfortunately the prison had so many lockdown days, the school was never able to meet the 180 days required for certification, he said. He wound up being disappointed and quit, he said. "I thought they would really be interested in rehabilitation." Walton is now getting an accounting degree in Jackson State University. "Being labeled as a convicted felon I'm still being punished," he said. "Not only did I deal with abuse, I've had employers tell me they don't want to work with convicted felons." Michael McIntosh Sr. said his son, Michael Jr., was beaten so severely at Walnut Grove that he suffered permanent brain damage. Tom Burnham, superintendent of the state Department of Education, testified he was bothered by what he had heard about education at the facility. He said when he was researching a dissertation at the State Penitentiary at Parchman in the 1980s he saw a series of lockdowns that delayed the inmates’ education. "We're now in 2010, and obviously some of the things that were going on then are still going on," he said.

November 18, 2010 Courthouse News
Mississippi underwrites a privately run juvenile prison where youngsters "live in barbaric, unconstitutional conditions," where rape, beatings, drug smuggling by guards and medical and educational neglect are the norm, 13 boys and young men say in a federal class action. The Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, built with more than $41 million in taxpayer dollars, "has generated approximately $100 million for the various for-profit entities that have operated the prison since it opened its doors in 2001," according to the complaint. Mississippi taxpayers pay Walnut Grove Correctional Authority $14 million a year to run the prison. "In turn, the WGCA contracts with the GEO Group Inc., the second-largest private correctional company in the United States, to oversee the prison's daily operations," the complaint states. Walnut Grove, the GEO Group, and top prison officials are named as defendants, as are Health Assurance LLC, which provides medical services in the prison, and the Superintendent of the Mississippi Department of Education. Walnut Grove is a private prison for 13- to 22-year-old offenders, most of whom are jailed for nonviolent offenses. The teens say the prison is extremely dangerous, with violent fights every week. They say they "live in unconstitutional and inhumane conditions and endure great risks to their safety and security." Understaffing is the norm; the Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure and a corrections auditor warned that lack of staffing could cause an increase in violence. The complaint adds that the jail is "dangerously understaffed and because existing staff lack the training and supervision necessary to care for the youth in their custody, corruption and violence is rampant." One "young man was held hostage in his cell for almost 24 hours, brutally raped and physically assaulted after prison staff failed to heed his pleas for protection," the complaint states. "Other youth suffered multiple stabbings and beatings - including one youth who lives with permanent brain damage as a result of an attack in which prison staff were entirely complicit." Inmates attacked by cellmates say prison staff ignore requests to be moved, and say the staff, especially those working in protective custody, "routinely incite violence among prisoners by leaving cell doors open." They add that prison doors can be "rigged" to remain unlocked when shut, which has led to numerous assaults. "Prison staff exploit youth by selling drugs inside the facility," the complaint states. "Other staff members abuse their power by engaging in sexual relationships with the youth in their care. ... Youth who are handcuffed and defenseless have been kicked, punched, and beaten all over their bodies. For the sole purpose of inflicting excruciating pain, some WGYCF staff have sprayed dangerous chemical restraints on young men who are secure in their cells. Some youth are stripped naked and held in isolation for weeks at a time." Prison staff ignore inmates who are suicidal; one young man committed suicide after telling guards he was going to kill himself. The staff put nonsuicidal inmates into a "suicide watch cell" where they are stripped naked, forced to sleep on a steel bed frame without a mattress, given only one blanket and confined to the cell for 24 hours a day. Inmates say they are denied the legally required "free and appropriate education;" some have had to wait weeks or months for medical treatment, and they have been denied necessary medications. The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment and an injunction, correction of the unconstitutional abuses, costs and damages. They are represented by Sheila A. Bedi with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

November 17, 2010 Clarion-Ledger
A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday against the private prison company that runs the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility claims young offenders are being forced to live in "barbaric, unconstitutional conditions." The lawsuit, which represents one side of a legal argument, accuses Florida-based GEO Group of perpetuating violence and corruption. Some prison staff exploit youth by selling drugs inside the facility and engaging in sexual relationships with youth in their care, the suit alleges. Many youth have suffered physical injuries, some permanent as a result of dangerously deficient security policies. The litigation came weeks after U.S. Department of Justice officials told Gov. Haley Barbour they had begun an investigation into the treatment of juveniles at the prison. "As a matter of policy, our company cannot comment on litigation-related matters," said Pablo Paez, vice president of corporate relations for the GEO Group, said Tuesday. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and Jackson lawyer Robert McDuff brought the litigation on behalf of 13 youthful offenders at the Leake County prison, which holds 1,200 inmates between the ages of 13 and 22. In addition to the GEO Group, the suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson against Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps and the Walnut Grove Correctional Authority, which was created by the city to oversee the facility, and others. Suzanne Singletary, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Department, said the agency had not seen the complaint and could not comment until the department had time to review it. Jeff Webb, an attorney for the city of Walnut Grove, could not be reached for comment. Sheila Bedi, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Mississippians spent $41 million to build the prison designed to give young men a second chance. "Unfortunately, private prison companies prioritized their profits over the well-being of Mississippi's youth," she said. State law requires prison officials to educate teenagers kept at the Walnut Grove facility and many judges require offenders to earn GEDs. But Bedi said less than half of those behind bars are actually getting an education. "Lawmakers deciding to send children as young as 13 into the adult criminal justice system is a symptom of our nation's addiction to mass incarceration," Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU National Prison Project, said in a statement. In 2007, Dennis Earl Holmes died after a lawsuit claimed he was denied adequate medical care. He suffered from treatable diabetes, according to a lawsuit his family filed on Oct. 29 in federal court. Two years later, Victor Allen died in an apparent suicide at the facility. House Juvenile Justice Committee Chairman Earle Banks, D-Jackson, said teenagers at the prison were convicted of adult crimes but "the brutality they sometimes experience on a daily basis should not be part of their sentence." Banks said he would seek reforms at Walnut Grove. "Every community in the state would benefit if these youth become productive, law-abiding, taxpaying adults," said Banks. Ross Walton, who spent three years inside the prison, said he saw fellow inmates handcuffed and beaten. "The officers did nothing to protect kids from beat downs and sexual assaults," he said. There was little time for education, he said, "because the place was so disorganized, and the officers didn't care about our future." Michael McIntosh of Hazlehurst alleges that because of the abuse his 21-year-old son suffered in the Walnut Grove prison, "he will live with permanent brain damage for the rest of his life." Under Mississippi law, juveniles 13 or older are automatically tried as adults if charged with murder, rape or armed robbery. Those as young as 13 are automatically transferred to Walnut Grove if they use a deadly weapon in a felony. Also under state law, 17-year-olds are automatically considered adults if they commit any felony. When Walnut Grove opened in 2001, it held 321 offenders, none of them older than 18.

November 16, 2010 AP
The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a lawsuit over conditions at a juvenile prison in Walnut Grove, where the group contends youthful offenders have been abused and denied medical treatment. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Jackson on behalf of 13 offenders. The lawsuit, which gives only one side of the legal argument, alleges mistreatment by staff. Sheila Bedi, an attorney with the law center, says the U.S. Justice Department also is investigating the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. It houses youthful offenders ages 13-22.

November 3, 2010 WXVT
The family of a deceased inmate is suing the town of Walnut Grove and a private corrections company, claiming Dennis Earl Homes was denied adequate medical care before dying of diabetes. The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, said Homes went to Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility on a robbery conviction in 2007. The lawsuit alleges Homes lost 30 pounds over five months before dying Nov. 1, 2007. He was 20. The lawsuit said Walnut Grove is named as a defendant because the town has a contract with the state to house inmates ages 12-21. GEO Group Inc. and Cornell Companies Inc., which runs the facility, are also named as defendants. The town attorney didn't immediately respond to a message. GEO Group had no comment.

December 8, 2004 Commercial Appeal
The convictions of two Leake County prison inmates on charges of plotting an escape were upheld Tuesday by the state Court of Appeals. Steven Farris, serving a life sentence for a 1998 murder, and Thomas Frederick, serving a four-year sentence on car burglary, were accused of conspiring to escape the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in 2001. The Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, in Leake County, is privately run and houses juveniles who have been sentenced as adults. Witnesses testified at their 2003 trial that prison officials intercepted telephone calls and letters between the inmates and their mothers, alerting them to the escape plans.

Walnut Grove Transition Center
Leake County, Mississippi
American Transition Services

June 9, 2012 AP
A former prison warden who was also one of the longest serving mayors in Mississippi will soon be an inmate himself for telling a prisoner to lie about having sex with him. Grady Sims, who served as the mayor of Walnut Grove in east-central Mississippi for 31 years, is scheduled to report to a federal prison in Miami by Monday to begin serving a seven-month sentence for witness intimidation. He is also to serve six months on house arrest and two years of probation. U.S. District Judge David Bramlette in Jackson allowed him to report to prison on his own. Sims' attorney did not immediately respond to a message seeking an interview with Sims or a comment. A letter filed in court records in May by Sims' lawyer, Christopher Collins, requested permission to travel to Tampa, Fla., this past week to visit a relatives before reporting to prison. The judge allowed it. During his sentencing hearing in April, Sims apologized to the court and his family and said he made a mistake that embarrassed him and his family, and cost him his job as mayor and his personal vending business. He said he was a Christian who lost his way, but later "came back to God" and accepted responsibility for his mistakes. "I am ashamed and sorrowful to be here," he said then. Sims, 61, was first elected mayor in 1981 and served in a part-time capacity for the town of about 1,900. In October 2009, he became warden of the Walnut Grove Transition Center, a privately-run prison designed as a "re-entry" facility where inmates are allowed to get jobs in the private sector. Court records do not describe how he became involved with the female inmate or what kind of relationship they developed, but prosecutors said he drove her to a hotel in a nearby town to have sex in November 2009. He was secretly recorded a few months later in telephone conversations telling the inmate to lie to investigators in an attempt to influence the grand jury investigation.

April 21, 2012 AP
Before he got caught for having sex with a prisoner, Grady Sims was one of the longest serving mayors in Mississippi and the warden of a private prison in his hometown of Walnut Grove. On Tuesday, Sims will stand before a federal judge in Jackson and find out how long he could spend in prison himself. He faces up to 20 years and a $250,000 fine. Authorities say he took a female inmate to a hotel for sex in 2009. Sims was indicted on Oct. 18, 2011, and charged with sexually assaulting the Walnut Grove Transition Center prisoner and intimidating a witness. He pleaded guilty to the intimidation charge as part of a plea deal in February. He was required to resign as mayor immediately.

October 25, 2011 AP
The longtime mayor of a small Mississippi town who once worked as a jail warden has been charged with sexually assaulting an inmate and trying to cover it up, authorities said Tuesday. William Grady Sims, who’s the mayor of Walnut Grove and the former warden of Walnut Grove Transition Center, was indicted on two federal charges last week. He appeared Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Jackson and was released on a $10,000 bond. A trial date for was set for Jan. 9. The indictment alleges the mayor assaulted the inmate in November 2009. He’s also charged with telling the inmate to lie to investigators in March 2010. Sims was first elected in 1981 and is in his eighth term. He didn’t immediately respond to messages left Tuesday at his office and home. A call to his attorney wasn’t answered. The lawyer’s voice mailbox was full. U.S. Attorney John Dowdy and Daniel McMullen, the top FBI agent in Mississippi, announced Sims’ indictment Tuesday in a news release, saying Sims was charged with sexual assault of an inmate while acting under color of law. Court records only identified the inmate by initials and did not say whether the prisoner was male or female. The Walnut Grove Transition Center is privately run, but houses house men and women in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. State Auditor Stacey Pickering announced Tuesday that Sims has been ordered to pay $31,530 for using city employees and equipment to work on private prisons in the area, including the one he ran. “The demand issued against Mayor Sims represents multiple instances where city employees were directed by the mayor to do work at a private prison facilities located in Walnut Grove,” Pickering said in a news release. “Taxpayers of Walnut Grove have been paying for equipment and labor to do work at these facilities that are for-profit, private prisons. In addition, town equipment and labor have been used on private property at taxpayer expense.”

October 21, 2009 Clarion Ledger
Seven probationers who absconded from an inmate re-entry facility in Walnut Grove Sunday night remain at large. Mississippi Department of Corrections has issued warrants for the escapees. A Walnut Grove Transition Center official said the men walked off the minimum-security campus during an evening smoking break. "They were in a fenced-in area and were able to take the bar that connects the chain link to the post and bend it to get out," said Cecil McCrory, a managing partner of the center. "These guys are kind of like parolees in a halfway house setting. They can walk away but most don't because they are there to pay restitution." McCrory said the absences were noticed during a routine head count, which guards conduct every two hours. All of the guards on duty at the time of the escape have been fired. And wardens have made head counts more frequent and have eliminated nighttime outdoor smoking breaks. The 200-bed center in Leake County is owned by American Transition Services and opened in March.

Wilkinson Correctional Facility
Woodville, MS
CCA
May 28, 2014 natchezdemocrat.com

WOODVILLE (AP) — A prison official says one inmate has died and several were injured in a fight at a prison in Wilkinson County that resulted in the facility being put on lockdown. Wilkinson County Correctional Facility spokesman Issa Arnita says inmate Kendrick Walker died in a fight involving six inmates Sunday afternoon in one of the prison’s housing units. Another inmate was seriously injured. Four others have injuries that aren’t life-threatening. Arnita says the correctional facility remains on lockdown Monday and the death is being investigated. He says authorities don’t yet know the motive behind the fight. Mississippi Department of Corrections records indicate that the 33-year-old Walker was serving a 10-year sentence for convictions including cocaine possession, marijuana possession with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Those charges originated in Franklin and Pike counties. Walker’s tentative release date was May 2015. Utah-based Management & Training Corp. runs the prison, which has 950 inmates. A spokeswoman for Department of Corrections referred comment to MTC. An inmate died at the same prison in April 2013 in a broader disturbance, when it was run by Corrections Corporation of America.


May 25, 2013 jacksonfreepress.com

Last year, a woman—who asked that her name not be printed—drove 125 miles through a thunderstorm from her home in the Jackson metro to visit her son at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in Woodville. Even though she'd called the previous day to make sure the prison was allowing visits, when she arrived, prison staff informed her that visits had been cancelled. "I sat at that desk and cried like a baby. I hadn't seen my son in three months. I drove 125 miles just to talk to him for an hour through the phone," she said. The woman's son complained that the understaffed prison was often locked down, served poor quality food and offered little to no educational programs even though many prisoners are under court orders to work toward high-school equivalency diplomas. "He would say, 'Mom, these people treat you like you ain't nothing,'" the woman said. A Utah-based private-prison firm hopes that it can turn things around at the Wilkinson County facility. Starting July 1, when the state's fiscal year begins, Management & Training Corporation will assume operations at the 1,000-bed facility under a five-year contract. Previously, Corrections Corporation of America held the contract to run the prison with the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Issa Arnita, an MTC spokesman, said the company puts safety and security first but prides itself on its educational programming. He added that MTC, which is also the nation's largest contractor for the Job Corps program, has not yet made any specific plans for when it takes over at Wilkinson County. In recent months, the Woodville prison has seen its share of problems. In April, a Jackson man, Demond Flowers, 21,was stabbed to death during a weekend disturbance. In 2011, Flowers was convicted of vehicle burglary and robbery in Hinds County and sentenced to serve 18 years. Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private corrections firm, operates the Wilkinson County prison, as well as the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler and the federal Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez. MTC runs East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian, Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Leake County and Marshall County Correction Facility in Holly Springs. Over the years, Mississippi has had a number of high-profile lawsuits resulting from the state contracting with private corrections firms. In March 2012, lawyers representing a group of boys and young men who alleged abuse at Walnut Grove, then owned by Florida-based GEO Group, reached a settlement in the case. The suit charged prison managers with creating a violent and corrupt culture where staff sold drugs in the prison and engaged in sex with the youths they were charged with supervising. In late 2011, MDOC allowed CCA to break its contract to operate the 1,172-bed Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood. MTC recently won a contract from the federal Bureau of Prisons to run that facility in LeFlore County, but federal budget cuts have stalled plans to fill the prison with inmates. Patrick Perry, a former correctional officer at a CCA-run prison in the Mississippi Delta who is now an anti-privatization advocate, started an online petition after Flowers' death at Wilkinson County, calling on Mississippi officials to halt further expansion of private facilities to protect prisoners and staff. Despite MDOC switching management firms, Perry remains doubtful that conditions will improve. "It's still a private prison company. It's still the same thing," he said. "CCA is the biggest one, and if they don't staff (the prison) like it's supposed to be staffed, and GEO didn't do it when they had Walnut Grove—and they were No. 2—I know MTC won't do it."


May 17, 2013 www.natchezdemocrat.com

WOODVILLE — A new management company will take over operations of the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in July. In a news release from Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private corrections company, MTC officials announced the company had received a five-year contract from the Mississippi Department of Corrections to operate the state prison facility in Woodville. The news release says MTC plans to retain the “vast majority” of WCCF’s current employees. Corrections Corporation of America — the same company that runs the federal immigration prison north of Natchez, the Adams County Correctional Center —currently operates WCCF. The MTC contract has two 12-month options for extension.MTC currently operates in Mississippi at the East Mississippi, Walnut Grove and Marshal County correctional facilities. “MTC prides itself on performance and integrity. We look forward to a long and successful partnership with the Department of Corrections and the community of Woodville,” MTC Senior Vice President of Corrections Odie Washington said.

June 20, 2012 AP
A series of fights between inmates led to 23 inmates being injured Tuesday at the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, the prison's operator says. Corrections Corp. of America tells The Natchez Democrat that fights broke out in multiple parts of the Woodville prison Tuesday night. Three inmates were taken to area hospitals for treatment. Another 20 were treated at the prison for injuries. CCA, based in Nashville, Tenn., said it took employees about an hour to contain the fights. The company said no staff members were injured. It said the Mississippi Department of Corrections had sent officials to the 995-bed prison, which houses state inmates. A riot last month at CCA's Adams County Correctional Facility near Natchez resulted in the death of a prison guard. That prison houses federal inmates.

December 29, 2011 WLBT
A Wilkinson County inmate is recovering from stab wounds. Enoch Taylor, 27, was stabbed at the county's correctional facility around 5:00 Thursday morning. Taylor has been an inmate at the prison since January of 2009. He's serving time for uttering forgery and robbery. Officials at the private prison are currently collecting information about the incident. They say Taylor's injuries are not life threatening.

November 12, 2009 The Prisoner of the Census
County Supervisors in Wilkinson County, Mississippi faced a quandary after the last census. The Corrections Corporation of America had just opened a large private prison in the county, and, per its usual practice, the Census Bureau credited the population of the prison to the county. Should the county draw a county legislative district where almost half of the population was incarcerated in the private prison? This would give the actual residents of the prison district almost twice as much influence over county affairs as residents of the other districts. They wrote to State Attorney General Mike Moore to seek his advice. He replied: Inmates under the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Department of Corrections … are not deemed “residents” of that county or locality, as incarceration cannot be viewed as a voluntary abandonment of residency in one locale in favor of residency in the facility or jail. For purposes of the Census, these individuals should have been counted in their actual place of residence. Such inmates should not be used in determining the population of county supervisor districts for redistricting purposes by virtue of their temporary presence in a detention facility or jail in the county, unless their actual place of residence is also in the county. (Emphasis added. Opinion No. 2002-0060; 2002 WL 321998 (Miss. A.G.)) The Attorney General is right. Until the Census Bureau changes where it counts incarcerated people, the people who draw districts need to correct the Census.

November 11, 2004 The Advocate
A Louisiana State Penitentiary bloodhound chase team captured one of three escapees Tuesday night from a prison in neighboring Wilkinson County, Miss., Warden Burl Cain said. The team responded to a request for help from the Wilkinson County Sheriff's Office after three inmates escaped from the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, a private prison north of Woodville, Miss., Cain said.

July 15, 2002
Crime and politics drive the private prison industry, and Wilkinson County may have climbed aboard at the right time.   But how long will the ride last?   It is a question many people in the county are asking after state actions put the private prison industry's future in doubt.   Five privately operated prisons were built in Mississippi during the late 1990s, including the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility (WCCF), which opened in 1998.   The state's prison population soared then due to "truth in sentencing" laws, which required inmates to serve 85 percent of their sentences before parole eligibility.   However, lower crime rates, shorter sentences for nonviolent first-time offenders an alternative sentencing options - such as drug courts and house arrests - have slowed the boom in private prison construction.   Last week, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove announce plans to renegotiate state contracts with private prisons   The result, he said, will save between $6 million and $12 million. The governor said he will call a special session of the Legislature to approve the smaller private prison budgets.   Despite more than 2,500 empty state prison beds, the Legislature budgeted $54.7 million for private prison operations in the 2003 fiscal year, which began July 1.   Shortly after the legislative session ended in April, Musgrove exercised a line-item veto power to cut the $54.7 million out of a larger appropriations bill. Corrections Commissioner Robert Johnson has suggested closing or taking over privately run facilities in Greenwood and Holly Springs which house routine, medium-security inmates.   Wilkinson County Chancery Clerk Thomas Tolliver said the prison has been "nothing but beneficial to the county."   Tolliver also serves on the Wilkinson County Industrial Development Authority, a non-profit entity that was formed to recruit the prison and oversee its management.  The Development Authority subcontracts the actual operation of the prison to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).  "The Development Authority receives $200,000 each year from CCA as a Community Impact Fee for economic development," he said, adding that the money is used to help recruit and support new industries.   Wilkinson County and CCA are profiting from WCCF, but the taxpayers are paying the bill.   WCCF's per diem is higher than some other private facilities are paid. The state is also paying the cost of building the prison.   M. Binford Williams, a Jackson attorney who represents the Development Authority, said $31.4 million was raised to fund the construction in 1996.   Williams said certificates of participation, which are similar to bonds, were sold to investors.  (The Democrat)