Developments in Inmate “Riot” Investigation
The problems at the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) operated facility in Adams County are becoming more obvious as we receive calls and reports from inmates’ families and other sources. For starters: the facility houses undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a crime – but the “criminal record” most of these men carry is that of being deported once and then re-entering the country (a felony under current immigration law).
And though the prison is located in Mississippi, the vast majority of the inmates are imported by CCA from other states, notably, California. MIRA has received many calls from concerned family members, and all of the families are located in California. Exporting inmates to other areas of the country means that family and friends usually can’t make visits. This separation is known to create extremely low morale, and often results in disturbances or riots within prisons.
We received some statements from inmates regarding prison conditions. One man stated that the inmates have nothing against 90% of the guards; however, the remaining 10% of the guards beat inmates, discriminate against them, and humiliate them constantly. Another inmate stated that there were severe management problems, and the head warden didn’t seem interested in resolving any of the issues.
A resounding complaint is that of poor medical care. According to one inmate, there is only one doctor in the facility that houses 2,500 people. There are several nurses on staff who write prescriptions and conduct exams regularly. This man asked why he wasn’t able to see a doctor for his medical care, and the nurse told him not to worry. Another man recounted that over the past year, eleven inmates died due to lack of proper medical treatment. He witnessed one incident in which an elderly inmate passed out, began convulsing, and stopped breathing. Officers in the immediate vicinity had no idea how to respond to the situation; the man counted a full 15 minutes passing before someone began to administer CPR.
These appalling conditions and lack of training of prison staff and officials results in an environment that is substandard both for the inmates and the CCA employees. For more information, see this Jackson Free Press article (http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/index.php/site/comments/cause_of_private_prison_melee_disputed_05242012/), this one at ColorLines.com (http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/05/corrections_corp_of_america_prison_riot_mississippi.html), and the website for the organization Private Corrections Working Group (http://www.privateci.org/). The article at ColorLines.com also includes very telling commentary from a former employee of CCA:
“Condolences to the family of the deceased guard but his blood and the blood of the inmates and injured staff members are on the hands of Haley Barbour, MDOC Commissioner Christopher Epps, Bennie Thompson and all the state officials who let CCA continue to operate here in Mississippi despite the many riots, injuries and inhumane conditions that the staff (and inmates) are forced to deal with. I have been trying to get attention brought to this situation for years without avail and unfortunately it takes someone dying to get national attention brought to this. low pay, under staffing and under trained staff are CCA norms and I KNOW that’s why it took so long for the riot to get under control. The prison I worked at in Tutwiler JUST had a huge riot in December with 26 inmates hospitalized and there was NO MEDIA COVERAGE.
“CCA can’t hide this death like they have the riots in Tallahatchie County or the inmate that died in February from a drug overdose. CCA, Haley Barbour, Phil Bryant, Bennie Thompson, Thad Cochran, Roger Wicker, Jim Hood, Robert Huddleston, David Jordan and any other state representatives and senators as well as local officials who have CCA prisons in their districts are at fault because they have known for years what CCA has operated but turned a blind eye at the expense of the employees and the public who is put in danger because the prisons are SO UNDER STAFFED.
“I used to work at arguably one of the worst prisons in the CCA system in Tutwiler, MS. I was able to view the contract (after almost a year of trying to get it) and to paraphrase it, the responsibility of quelling a disturbance that gets out of hand is on the local authorities THEN the state then the National Guard. Everything that was detailed out in this incident falls RIGHT in place with the contract we got our hands on. The local authorities (police if located in a town, sheriff’s dept.), State (Troopers) and federal (National Guard) handled the situation while CCA was activating the SORT team (my (deceased) brother along with myself were members) CCA has NO responsibility in this.
“I just want the national spotlight to shine brightly on Mississippi so all these crooks can be exposed and everyone responsible not only for Carithers’ death but all the incidents that have occurred at Tallahatchie County (numerous inmate deaths with NO media coverage), Delta Correctional Facility (now closed; 1 death in 2010) and Wilkinson County (numerous incidents) and NO ONE from the local to the federal level has done ANYTHING despite being contacted on numerous occasions.”