911 Mississippi State Prisons

I found this article fascinating, albeit troubling as well. You really can’t take the American Correctional Association seriously as an accrediting agency now, seeing him at the helm after getting a great score. They don’t calculate prisoner mortality rates into their evaluations and equations, I guess. How can they have any accreditation at all? Don’t any of those ACA people have a clue about what was happening in Parchman? It ‘s as bad as what’s been going on in the prison Jamie and Gladys Scott have been buried in. Who do they think is responsible for all this if not him? Is the MDOC now the national gold standard for the ACA? That’s pathetic.

I wonder how many of those ACA people even care that this man was fired early in his career, back when he was a corrections officer, for violating the civil rights of an escapee as part of a group of MDOC staff who beat the guy senseless after apprehending him. That’s all according to court records easily enough located on the internet.

They got their jobs back after a fight (no big surprise) – and as we all know he went on to preside over one of the most brutal, negligent departments of corrections in the country. Under his watch, mortality rates among prisoners have skyrocketed to where Mississippi’s is the second highest in the nation. That has also occurred since Wexford took over the health care. I suspect it has something to do with whether or not they’re properly treating – or even bothering to prevent or screen for – illnesses like Hep C, Diabetes, and heart disease and their secondary complications.

I hope a team of investigative journalists or some top notch college students out there in Mississippi pick up on this and run with it – look at all those deaths and try to find out what caused them. Were they from chronic or acute illnesses? Were people getting adequate care or were their pleas for medical attention going unanswered? What’s the mortality rate in the prisons among dialysis patients? Is there a high incidence of Hep C infection among them (much non-IV drug transmission occurs through poorly maintained medical equipment, like dialysis machines. Do you think Wexford would even tell a patient if they ever got infected through dialysis? Do you think the MDOC would?)

What’s the prevalence of diabetes and complicating factors, like kidney disease, among Mississippi prisoners? How about among African American prisoners? I bet you’ll find that a lot of people are dying from illnesses like diabetes related to “lifestyle” (including things the prisons have total control over, like diet) or from secondary complications of disease processes that could have been manged – as in Jamie Scott’s case. I bet it’s pretty high among minority women in prison in particular. I think it’s pretty fair to say that prison life had a lot to do with her developing diabetes and severe kidney disease this early in life.

I have good reason for asking those questions. I was going to embed links that led to some of the answers, but I’ve already covered a lot of that ground – someone else needs to move this from blog to paper. Someone from Mississippi. There’s a whole prison full of women wiling and ready to talk – probably the men are, too. All they need is someone willing to listen and then do something with it.

In the meantime, think on this, America. The man who runs the Mississippi Department of Corrections just became the president of the American Correctional Association, which is supposed to be accrediting all of our jails and prisons. Think any prisoners in Mississippi are going to see justice now? Think any prisoners in ANY state will get what they need in terms of medical care from the directors who now look to him for leadership?

What a reflection of cowardice and self-interest on the part of the membership of the American Correctional Association (dominated and kind of sponsored by the private prison industry, by the way) to put that guy out as their president. Why would they choose him? Certainly not because of his stellar ethical foundation. But I guess every single one of them is knowingly letting people die, too, trying to keep them from making too much noise in the process. That’s what happens here in Arizona. I haven’t heard one prisoner rights activist from any state in the country say that their DoC director is a decent human being who takes full responsibility for the treatment of prisoners in his (her) custody.

I sure hope the Scott Sisters keep making noise, bringing what’s happening there to the world’s attention. We’ll try to keep amplifying your voices – and those of any other prisoners and family members who write to us – as much as possible. We’ve haven’t been posting a lot, but believe me, we’re still out here for you. We haven’t been fooled a bit…

This is from the end of May . The article was in the MS Digital Daily, which I believe is the state of Mississippi’s PR “news” line, not to be confused with a real journalistic venture. If I’m wrong about this being anything other than a press release for the MDOC – or if I’ve erred about facts in my remarks above – then please correct me by leaving a comment at the end of this article, and we’ll look into it. We can execute Troy Davis even if he’s factually innocent, but god forbid we lambaste an abusive man in power.

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Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps Elected American Correctional Association President
posted by Baxter Cannada | 5/25/2010
By KENT CROCKER

Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps has been elected as president of the prestigious American Correctional Association. Commissioner Epps will be the 102nd president of the organization. The first ACA president was Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes later became the nineteenth president of the United States.

The American Correctional Association (ACA), originally founded in 1870 as the National Prison Association, is an international organization of correctional administrators and professionals in various correctional disciplines. At the 1954 Congress of Correction in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the name of the American Prison Association was changed to the American Correctional Association. The organization is composed of more than 20,000 members from 60 countries. Approximately 450 Mississippians are members of the organization.

As ACA president, Commissioner Epps will head a major publishing operation. The ACA magazine Corrections Today is the leading correctional publication. It is accompanied by over 300 other ACA publications, training curricula and videos. The ACA is a primary source of training for correctional professionals. In recognition of the growing correctional health care profession, ACA also publishes Correctional Health Today.

Mississippi is a long term beneficiary of the ACA. Through the American Correctional Association accreditation program, under the leadership of Commissioner Epps, the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) has developed and or enhanced institutional programs, agency operating procedures and overall safety. This improvement is partially responsible for a decrease in recidivism from 34 percent 2003 in to the current 30 percent. Through the accreditation process, Mississippi became the 14th state to receive the ACA Eagle Award. The Eagle Award signifies that every aspect of a correctional agency that can be accredited has been accredited. Since Mississippi received the Eagle Award on August 11, 2008, one other state has received the award. Apart from the agency’s accreditation, several MDOC employees have become accredited through the ACA thus enhancing their value to the taxpayers of Mississippi.

Governor Barbour praised the Mississippi Department of Corrections, under the leadership of Commissioner Christopher Epps, for improvements in agency management and fiscal responsibility. Governor Barbour stated “It is a testimony to the leadership of the MDOC that the agency received full accreditation by an international association that Chris Epps later became president of, even while MDOC reduced its operating costs by more than $100 million during a 5-year period.”

(Interjection: I think this is the magic this man works, folks – cutting costs with lives.
It makes his boss real proud, too. -PA)


James Gondles, Executive Director of the American Correctional Association stated “In our rich and varied 140 year history only 102 women and men have been called to serve in the ACA Presidency. These leaders were the trail-blazers in our industry, the people with ideas to shape new plans for rehabilitation, to enhance public safety, and to turn offender lives around. Commissioner Epps has been called to lead and he certainly fits that pattern. We are excited about our future with President Elect Epps at the helm.”

Commissioner Epps states, “The American Correctional Association has provided me with the professional network to understand the approaches that are working in the other states and various member nations. This has been a valuable component in Mississippi’s endeavor to improve quality while reducing expenditures.” He went on to express his heartfelt appreciation for Governor Barbour’s support, the support of James Gondles, and for the membership of the ACA as a whole. He said, “In my 28 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections and my 8 years as Commissioner of Corrections, I have always known my fellow employees as a second family and have never questioned their support. Each and every one of them knows that this wasn’t just an election of Chris Epps: It was recognition of the Mississippi Department of Corrections as the best corrections agency in the U.S. and the best state agency in Mississippi. As proud as my other family is of me, I am doubly proud of them.”

Prison Health News: Get It.

Dear friends and colleagues,

After a few years break, Prison Health News is back and better than ever — with four extra pages of health care and advocacy information in each issue, and a network of over 2,000 subscribers and contributors in prisons and jails across the country.


In 2001, Prison Health News was launched to meet a critical need for information written by and for people who have been in prison or are currently behind the walls. Our readers are living inside a system that denies them prevention tools and treatment information about HIV, hepatitis, and other health issues. They are dealing with medical neglect, daily humiliations driven by intense stigma, and the destruction of their communities by mass imprisonment. Prison Health News works to build community across the prison walls that divide us.


Now a joint project of the Institute for Community Justice and Reaching Out: A Support Group with Action, each Prison Health News issue is produced by a Philadelphia-based collective of writers and editors, most of whom have been in prison and are living with HIV. Through our collaboration with the Philadelphia FIGHT AIDS Library, we are able to answer the many letters to us from people in prisons and jails asking for resources and health information. We also work in partnership with organizations across the country who assist with distribution, support and advocacy for people incarcerated in their cities and states. Contact one of our Resource Partners to get involved in your local area!


Our relaunch issue features:


  • From the Crack House to the White House – on the inspirational journey of one PHN writing collective member from her incarceration to her involvement in national and international advocacy work

  • Hearts on a Wire – on the work of a Philadelphia-based collective fighting alongside trans folks in the prison system and those coming home for justice, dignity and respect.

  • Staying Safe and Healthy in Prison – on the basics of HIV prevention in correctional settings, based on a Roll Call presentation conducted every June in the Philadelphia Prison System

You can view Issue 8 online. You can also download a printable version of Issue 8, formatted for double-sided photocopying.

The Quality of Mercy: Compassionate Release in America

Medical Parole: Politics vs. Compassion

By Nina Quinn

Dostoevsky reminds us that society can be measured by how it treats its prisoners. And part of that measure must surely be the degree of compassion we show toward the dying. Yet compassionate release, or medical parole, is an under-used and too rarely granted option for terminally ill inmates in our U.S. prisons. 


While some form of medical parole legislation is in place in federal and state jurisdictions, it is often overly restrictive, narrowly interpreted, and muddied by political interests. Unfortunately, a lack of political will affects bureaucratic will and ultimately the number of dying released from prison.

Barry Holman of the National Center for Institutions and Alternatives sardonically states, “There is not much of a constituency for criminals in the United States.” With overtones of Dostoevsky, he adds, “There is a lack of political and bureaucratic will to see dying in prison as a negative marker for what a prison system should be and society as a whole,”

Jack Beck; who has done a careful study of medical parole in New York State reports that not only are few people getting out, there is a downward trend. Both applications and releases are dropping. In 2000, out of 170 New York state prison deaths – most from medical reasons – 81 applied for compassionate release and only 12 were granted.

In New York, the current administration is against parole generally and this spills over to medical parole. This negative influence in not confined to New York. California and other states are facing the same antagonism and similar low release numbers.

Apart from negative political influence, there are other related obstacles. The eligibility criteria can be overly restrictive eliminating, people who are clearly terminally ill. The process can be convoluted and delayed resulting in many inmates dying in prison before their review is completed. In New York, the 2000 statistics show more than twice as many inmates died during the review process than were granted release.

When these three barriers of politics, criteria and process come together they virtually guarantee a fourth: lack of incentive to initiate applications.

While there can be various factors contributing to this, Beck points to a common theme of frustration and futility. The paper burden on the medical providers can be both excessive and judged a waste of medical time when so few are granted parole. Similarly, many prison staff with compassion for the dying, do not want to raise the inmates hopes and put them through the stress of a long waiting period only to have them die in the process or be refused.

Also, the establishing of Regional Medical Units (RMUs) and hospice programs make for a simpler alternative – transfer the inmate. The RMUs run on a fixed DOC’s budget and there is incentive to keep the beds full. Plus it is quicker, less complicated, and does not require the additional work involved in a discharge plan.

Another obstacle Beck articulates is the failure to educate the staff and inmates about the program and the process. This is particularly important in states like New York where correctional staff can initiate but the prime responsibility is placed on the inmate. Beck notes that there are prisons and infirmaries within the state that do not, for whatever reasons; file any applications for their terminally ill inmates.

Other than holding our politicians to a higher standard, what else is required for effective compassionate release policy?

A first requirement is clear legislation that is free from murky political bias, compromise, and overly restrictive criteria. A clearly defined medical prognosis is required. One that includes all terminally ill inmates. It should be clear and factual enough that inmates and their doctors know if they meet the criteria. And it should be fair. 

In New York, where an incapacitation standard is used, some terminally ill are excluded because they can walk-they may die tomorrow but they are excluded because of the legislative restriction on self-ambulation.

Rather than an incapacitation model where the prime emphasis is on risk, Beck makes the case for a terminal illness diagnosis with a one-year life expectancy. Studies show that when a six months diagnosis is used, the median length of stay in hospice is roughly 30 days. One year would increase the possibility of the review process being completed before the applicant dies. Also, it would allow time for the patient to adjust and relate to his family or new surroundings.

Another requirement is that there be a clear separation between the medical prognosis and the assessment of risk upon, release. Medical staff should not be asked to assess risk but solely address the medical status and prognosis of the inmate. Risk assessment is the pervue of the criminal justice system.

It is at this stage that the process generally gets cumbersome and protracted. So many arms and voices within the criminal justice system are included that the inmate may be dead before a decision is reached. The political temptation to spread the risk and decision-making as broadly as possible needs to be reined in and the process streamlined. Maryland has a process that appears to run smoothly. What makes it particularly efficient is not only that they have kept steps to the necessary minimum, they have also mandated short timelines at each stage of the process. Any inmate applying for compassionate release knows that he or she will receive a decision no later than 30 days from the start of the process. In urgent cases, decisions have been made as quickly as one day.

Maryland also meets another requirement by mandating discharge planning as soon as the inmate is given a terminal diagnosis. This ensures that when the decision is made, everything is in place for the inmate’s release.

Communication is also important. The system could benefit from staff being well educated on all aspects of the process and this information should be made available to inmates and their families, including language translation when necessary.

Finally, a key and critical requirement, is that when a doctor makes a terminal diagnosis a mandatory application for release is submitted and the process is started including discharge planning. This standardized application should be as simple and straightforward as possible.

accessed january 29, 2010