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.


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

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.”

DOJ: It’s long past time to CRIPA Mississippi.

These were collected from clippings saved by the guys at the Private Corrections Working Group. Obviously, there’s a pattern of medical neglect and institutional disregard for human life. The DOJ should already be in there investigating Mississippi’s health care for prisoners; if they aren’t yet, they’d best get on the ball before Jamie dies, because it would look really awful for Holder’s possible Supreme Court nomination to have her death on his head…


Wexford Rap Sheet: Mississippi Department of Corrections

———————————-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.”

Executing Justice: Mississippi DOC, Wexford, and Jamie Scott.

For Jamie Scott, an $11 Robbery in Mississippi May Carry a Death Sentence

From Solitary Watch
March 5-7, 2010

On February 25, a small crowd gathered outside the state capitol in Jackson, Mississippi, to push for the release of sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott, who are serving two consecutive life sentences apiece for a 1993 armed robbery in which no one was injured and the take, by most accounts, was about $11. Supporters of the Scott sisters have long tried to draw attention to their case, as an extreme example of the distorted justice and Draconian sentencing policies that have overloaded prisons, crippled state budgets, and torn families apart across the United States. But in recent months, their cause has taken on a new urgency, because for Jamie Scott, an unwarranted life sentence may soon become a death sentence.

Jamie Scott, 38, is suffering from kidney failure. At the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) in Pearl, where Jamie and Gladys are incarcerated, medical services are provided by a private contractor called Wexford, which has been the subject of lawsuits and legislative investigations in several states over inadequate treatment of the inmates in its care. According to Jamie Scott’s family, in the six weeks since her condition became life-threatening, she has endured faulty or missed dialysis sessions, infections, and other complications. She has received no indication that a kidney transplant is being considered as an option, though her sister is a willing donor.
Jamie Scott’s family and legal advisors believe the poor health care she is receiving in prison places her life at risk. They have sent pleas for clemency or compassionate release to Governor Haley Barbour, whose tough-on-crime posturing and dubious record on issuing pardons do not bode well for Jamie. The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) has a provision for what it calls “conditional medical release,” but Scott is not a candidate, department spokesperson Suzanne Garbo Singletary said in an email last week, because “MDOC policy provides that an inmate must have a condition that is ‘incapacitating, totally disabling and/or terminal in nature’ in order to qualify.” So Jamie Scott appears to be caught in a deadly Catch-22: In order to be released from prison, she must convince the MDOC that her illness is terminal or “totally disabling”; but the only sure way for her to prove this is to die in prison.
Cruel and Unusual Health Care
In telephone interviews earlier this week, the Scott sisters’ mother, Evelyn Rasco, described the treatment Jamie has received at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF), based on her own observations and information provided by her two daughters. Jamie, who has diabetes and bouts of high blood pressure, said that medical staff at the prison first diagnosed possible kidney problems in 1997–but until recently, she received minimal treatment outside of her regular insulin. Jamie’s physical and mental health suffered last fall when she spent 23 days in solitary confinement (for being found in an “unauthorized area” in the prison gym) and was cut off from her routine of work, classes, church, and occasional visits with her sister. Then, in mid-January, Jamie became seriously ill when both her kidneys began shutting down. She was sent to the prison infirmary and, after a week’s delay, taken to the hospital. There, doctors inserted a shunt in Jamie’s neck to allow her to receive dialysis through a catheter, and she was promptly returned to prison.
Rather than letting Jamie Scott leave the prison regularly for dialysis, prison authorities chose to truck in dialysis machines. About three times a week, Jamie has received hemodialysis in a trailer on the prison grounds—if the machines are working properly, which she reports isn’t always the case. At one session, Jamie told her mother, the blood was flowing out of her through a catheter into the dialysis machine—but it wasn’t flowing back in, so the treatment had to be stopped. At the end of January, another inmate looked in on Jamie, who was locked up alone in her cell, and found her unconscious. She was rushed to the hospital, where doctors told her there were problems with the shunt inserted into her neck. They made adjustments, and she was again taken back to prison.
Evelyn Rasco lives in Pensacola, Florida, where she cares for her daughters’ five children while they are behind bars. Since Jamie and Gladys went to prison, Rasco’s husband of 30 years died of a heart attack; another daughter died of congestive heart failure; and her oldest son was away for several years serving with the Army in Iraq. In a letter to supporters last year, Jamie Scott wrote: “When I think of the word ‘strongest,’ I think of my mother. She is 4 feet 9 inches tall and has the strength of Job in the Bible.”
Rasco lacks the time and financial resources to visit her daughters often, but in mid-February, she managed to make the trip to Mississippi. When she visited the prison on February 18, along with Jamie’s 18-year-old son, Jamie was feeling sick but was able to make it to the visiting room. When Rasco returned two days later, she found Jamie in a cell attached to the infirmary. “She was real weak,” Rasco said. “She couldn’t walk.” An infection appeared to have developed at the site of Jamie’s catheter, which had filled with blood and pus. Nurses reportedly told Rasco that Jamie should be in the hospital, but the paperwork hadn’t been done.
Rasco said that when she entered her daughter’s cell, Jamie was sitting on the edge of a hospital bed with dirty linens, near a toilet and wash bowl that had not been cleaned. Prison staff arrived with a plate of food—a hamburger swimming in grease, some side dishes, and a cookie–but Jamie said it looked so bad she couldn’t eat it. The doctors at the hospital had given her a list of foods she should eat, including meat, fish, and vegetables, but they were not available, and she did not have permission to purchase food at the prison commissary. (That permission has since been granted.) So Jamie sat on her grimy bed eating a Snickers bar. “She sat right there with me,” Rasco said, “and tried to give me a piece.” Knowing it was the only nourishment her daughter was likely to have, her mother declined.
Since Evelyn Rasco’s visit, Jamie was back in the hospital for a day after experiencing chest pains following dialysis, and to a clinic where her dialysis shunt was again adjusted and she was tested for infections. To date, the family does not know the results.
Evelyn Rasco also said that when Gladys Scott, 34, learned of her sister’s kidney failure, she immediately offered to give Jamie a kidney. If Gladys were to prove a viable match, this would be by far the best medical option for Jamie: Studies show that patients in their thirties who receive successful transplants live considerably longer than those who remain on dialysis. Gladys says that CMCF staff told her that state prisoners don’t qualify as donors, and that a transplant would be too expensive, though there is no indication that their statements reflect official MDOC policy. Rasco said that she was hoping the prison would at least let Gladys to care for Jamie—feed her and bathe her—as inmates are sometime allowed to do for ailing relatives. When Rasco last spoke to her, Gladys had not received the necessary permission.
Chokwe Lumumba, a longtime activist and attorney who also serves on the Jackson City Council, is representing the family in the medical matter. In an interview last week, Lumumba said, “Our first idea is to get some medical attention into the jail. Asking for a private doctor to go in there and see her.” But what Jamie Scott really needs, he told me, is “to be in hospital until a kidney transplant.”
Suzanne Garbo Singletary, Director of the MDOC’s Division of Communications, replied to several email inquiries regarding Jamie Scott’s care. In one email, she wrote that “MDOC cannot comment on any specific medical condition or treatment for an inmate.” In another, she referred to patient privacy laws when asked whether a kidney transplant was being considered for Jamie Scott. Regarding transplants for state prisoners in general, Singltary said that “the state would pay for a needed and necessary transplant” and would do so “when evaluated the Dr. as needed [sic].” Singletary added in another message: “Dialysis units are fully operational with no malfunctions documented in the past several years.” She also restated the MDOC’s policy that “chronic, but stable, medical conditions are not eligible for conditional medical release consideration.”
At the Central Mississippi Correctional Center, Jamie Scott’s care is in the hands of Wexford Health Sources, a Pittsburgh-based private company that provides prison medical services. According to information compiled by the Private Corrections Working Group, Wexford’s record includes lawsuits by prisoners and current or former employees in at least four states, as well as allegations involving racial discrimination and improper gifts to public officials. In 2006, the Santa Fe Reporter launched an investigation into Wexford, which supplied health care to New Mexico’s 6,000 prisoners. It discovered widespread complaints about Wexford’s care.

Those who have raised concerns about Wexford include the company’s former regional medical director, the former medical director of Lea County Correctional Facility (LCCF) in Hobbs and numerous former and current Wexford medical employees. Their allegations are all hauntingly similar:

Wexford refuses to fill critical medical positions. Wexford refuses to grant off-site visits for seriously ill inmates. Wexford refuses to renew critical prescription medicine for inmates. And, according to those who worked for the company, and some who still do, the company’s insistence on the bottom line over the care of its charges causes inmates to suffer, sometimes with lasting, even fatal, results.
The investigation prompted hearings on prison health care in the New Mexico state legislature, and in December 2006, after just two years with Wexford, Governor Bill Richardson ordered the New Mexico Corrections Department to find a new health care provider.
Wexford’s reported resistance “to grant off-site visits for seriously ill inmates,” is particularly relevant to the case of Jamie Scott, and the potentially dangerous delays she has experienced before being sent to the hospital. The same issue surfaced in a 2002 case in Pennsylvania, where a 26-year-old prisoner named Erin Finley suffered a fatal asthma attack in prison while under Wexford’s care. According to the Wilkes Barre Times Herald, Finley’s family eventually received a $2.15 million settlement, after their lawyer presented evidence showing that “Finley desperately sought medical care for severe asthma she had had since she was a child, but she was repeatedly rejected based on a prison doctor’s belief that she was ‘faking’ her symptoms.”
On the day of her death, Finley was taken to the prison infirmary several hours after complaining that she was having trouble breathing. A physician’s assistant examined her and told the doctor she needed to go to a hospital, “but he refused to see her and left the prison at 2:40 p.m. Twenty minutes later, Finley lost consciousness and stopped breathing,” according to the Times Herald. Finally she was sent to the hospital—only to be pronounced dead.
In Mississippi, where Wexford took over health care for the majority of the state’s prisoners in 2006 under a three-year, $95 million contract, the Jackson Clarion Ledger reported in November 2008 that “a search of the federal court system found more than a dozen open lawsuits filed by inmates against MDOC on medical issues.At Central Mississippi Correctional Facility–the prison where the Scott sisters are housed—the sister of a dead inmate said she watched her brother waste away for months from inadequately treated Crohn’s Disease, an inflammation of the digestive tract. “He literally starved,” Charlotte Byrd said of her brother William Byrd, who died in November 2008. “We watched him turn into a skeleton.” Byrd told the Clarion Ledger that people might lack sympathy for prisoners like her brother, a convicted rapist, but “Even a dog needs medical attention.” She said she believes that “If they are doing him that way, they are going to let somebody else die, too.”
In fact, Mississippi has one of the highest prisoner death rates in the nation, according to a review of prison statistics carried out by the Jackson Clarion Ledger’s Chris Joyner, and the death rate in 2007 was 34 percent higher than in 2006—the year Wexford took over the MDOC’s medical care. A December 2007 report conducted by the Mississippi Legislature’s Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) concluded that inmates were not receiving timely and adequate medical treatment from Wexford. Among other things, the PEER report found that Wexford “did not meet medical care standards set forth under its contract with the state,” and that the company “did not adhere to its own standards in following up on inmates with chronic health problems.” When questioned about the report and the high prisoner death rates, the Clarion Ledger reported, Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps “said he is satisfied with the contractor’s performance.The budget presented by Epps for the coming fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2010, shows a request of $37.4 million to Wexford for medical services.
In response to questions about care provided by Wexford, MDOC spokesperson Suzanne Garbo Singletary wrote: “Jamie Scott is receiving quality medical care for her condition. Wexford provides basic medical care for all inmates at MDOC prisons. Inmates are sent to hospitals if the need for hospital care arises.” Singletary stated that such decisions are made by the attending doctor at the prison, who is a Wexford employee. Wexford did not respond to requests for comment.
Unpardonable Offenses
Nancy Lockhart, a legal investigator and analyst based in South Carolina, has been working with Evelyn Rasco for several years, organizing a grassroots campaign to secure decent treatment for the Scotts and either a review of their case or some provision for their early release. In interviews last week, Lockhart said that she had helped Rasco appeal to the Obama Justice Department, which informed her that the statute of limitations was up for civil rights claims. They plan to try again, offering proof of earlier letters to the DOJ. They have also organized letter writing and email campaigns to numerous state and MDOC officials, and set up a web site. The Scott sisters’ group of supporters is growing, but they have received no meaningful responses to their pleas.
During her recent visit to Mississippi, Evelyn Rasco had the opportunity to confront Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps in person when she attended a meeting at the state capitol on prison budget cuts. She spotted the Epps, whom she recognized from his photograph, walked up to him, and told him about her daughter’s poor health and the problems with her medical treatment. According to Rasco, Epps said that he was getting a lot of messages about Jamie Scott, and that he would do what he could obtain a pardon or clemency for the Scott sisters. He told her that he was “giving his word on this,” although he had no power to actually make it happen himself.
The person who could make it happen is Governor Haley Barbour, whose past record on pardons does not bode well for Jamie and Gladys Scott. Barbour, who took office in 2004, was initially known for refusing to grant any pardons. In his second term he changed course–but only for a particular set of offenders. A 2008 investigation by the Jackson Free Press found that Barbour had pardoned or suspended the sentences of five murderers, four of whom had killed their former or current wives or girlfriends. All five men were part of a prison trusty program under which they did odd jobs at the governor’s mansion.

Writing in Slate, Radley Balko summarized Haley Barbour’s policy on pardons as “show[ing] mercy only to murderers who work on his house.”

Jamie Scott’s health crisis has also coincided with a protracted struggle between the governor and state legislators over how to handle budget shortfalls. Throughout, the ambitious Barbour, who is talked about as a possible 2012 presidential candidate, has appeared determined to polish his reputation for being both fiscally conservative and tough on crime. With revenue down due to the recession, Barbour implemented a series of deep, across-the-board cuts to state spending in the current fiscal year. Last week the he vetoed a bill that would have restored some of that funding, primarily to education. At the same time, he asked the legislature to put $16 million back into the Department of Corrections budget. “We have the resources to restore funding to our priorities this year,” the governor said in a statement, “including law enforcement and corrections.”
Against opponents who argued that Mississippi already spends more on prisoners than it does on schoolchildren, Barbour held up the specter of what could happen if prison spending was cut: 3,000 to 4,000 inmates would have to be released early. “The threat of convicted criminals on the streets,” the Jackson Free Press wrote earlier this month, “has provided Barbour a rhetorical trump card in budget negotiations.”
Jamie and Gladys Scott
Even amidst this kind of rhetoric, it would be difficult to see the Scott sisters as dangerous or violent offenders, although the state of Mississippi went to great lengths to depict them as such. On Christmas Eve of 1993, Jamie and Gladys, then 22 and 19, were both young mothers with no criminal records. They were at the local mini-mart buying heating fuel when they ran into two young men they knew, who offered to give them a ride. Sometime later that evening, the two young men were robbed by a group of three boys, ages 14 to 18, who arrived in another car, armed with a shotgun.
Jamie and Gladys say that they had already left the scene to walk home when the robbery took place, and had nothing to do with it. The state insisted they were an integral part of the crime, and in fact had set up the victims to be robbed. Wherever the truth lies, trial transcripts clearly reveal a the case based on the highly questionable testimony of two of the teenaged co-defendants–who had turned state’s evidence against the Scott sisters in return for eight-year sentences—and a prosecutor who appears determined to demonize the two young women.
Jamie and Gladys Scott were not initially arrested for the crime. But ten months later, the 14-year-old co-defendant–who had been in jail on remand during that time–signed a statement implicating them. When questioned by the Scotts’ attorney, the boy confirmed that he had been “told that before you would be allowed to plead guilty” to a lesser charge, “you would have to testify against Jamie Scott and Gladys Scott.”
The boy also testified that he had neither written nor read the statement before signing it. It had been written for him by someone at the county sheriff’s office, he said, and he “didn’t know what it was.” But he had been told that if he signed it “they would let me out of jail the next morning, and that if I didn’t participate with them, that they would send me to Parchman [state penitentiary] and make me out a female”—which he took to mean he would be raped. The 18-year-old co-defendant who testified against the Scott sisters also said he was testifying against the Scotts as a condition of his guilty plea to a lesser charge.
But the prosecutor succeeded in depicting Jamie and Gladys Scott not only as participants in the crime robbery, but as its masterminds—two older women who had lured three impressionable boys into the robbing the victims at gunpoint. (This despite the fact that the oldest of the co-defendants was just a year younger than Gladys, and was driving around with a shotgun in his car.) In his summation, he told the jury:

“They thought it up. They came up with the plan. They duped three young teenage boys into going along and doing something stupid that is going to cost them the next eight years of their lives in the penitentiary.

That probably makes me, at least, as mad about this case, simply at least as much, as the fact that two people got robbed. That three young boys were duped into doing the dirty work.”

The prosecutor also reminded jurors that while Jamie and Gladys Scott admittedly did not have a weapon, the judge’s instructions “tell you that if they encourage someone else or counsel them or aid them in any way in committing this robbery they are equally guilty.”
It took the jury just 36 minutes to convict the Scott sisters. And while there was a range of possible sentences for the crime of armed robbery, the state asked for—and received—two consecutive life sentences for the Scott sisters. In contrast, Edgar Ray Killen, the man convicted in 2005 of manslaughter in the 1964 deaths of civil rights workers Schwerner, Cheney, and Goodman, received a sentence of 60 years–meted out by the same judge who presided over the trial of Jamie and Gladys Scott. A direct appeal, carried out by the same lawyers who defended them at trial, failed to overturn the Scotts’ conviction.
Because they were tried for a crime committed before October 1994, when even harsher sentencing rules were put in place in Mississippi, the Scott sisters will be eligible for parole in 2014, after they have served 20 years—though there is no guarantee they will receive it. In the meantime, Evelyn Rasco is praying for mercy, for a good lawyer—and for her daughter Jamie to live that long.
James Ridgeway and Jean Casella can be reached at Solitary Watch, where this article originally appeared.

Wexford/MDOC: Promoting Ignorance is Negligence, not Bliss.

There’s no legitimate reason why the MDOC and Wexford don’t sit down with a third party patient advocate/health educator, Jamie, and her family and go over her records, diagnosis, treatment options, etc. Commissioner Epps could just order them to do it – connect with the American Diabetes Association or something and have a big family meeting. It’s really incumbent upon them to do so, whether or not they think Jamie has any choices to make in her medical care anyway. Arguably, keeping one’s patient and family in the dark about their medical conditions and treatment options is negligence. And how is anyone supposed to grieve a medical decision if they don’t know what all the circumstances and alternatives are? I think that’s a denial of due process of some kind.
If Commissioner Epps is sincerely concerned about Mrs. Rasco’s well-being, too, he’ll find out personally when Jamie is hospitalized and why, and call her mom himself with the information she needs to know that her daughter is being taken care of. She shouldn’t be getting “unconfirmed reports” – she should get an official report promptly with essential information from a prison or health care provider administrator, beginning with letting her know as soon as they decide Jamie’s being transported to the hospital in the first place, and assuring that MDOC staff follow up with Jamie’s status and Mrs. Rasco from there. 
Really, this is prison. There should never be a time when the MDOC doesn’t know where Jamie is, as long as she’s their prisoner, and therefore her mother and son should always be able to find her. They know full well that Mrs. Rasco won’t try and orchestrate an escape if she knows where her daughter is being treated.
Think about that, Commissioner. You have in your custody and care two women (and certainly many more) who are very likely innocent, one of whose life hangs precariously in the balance right now. Do everything you can, as you promised, to try to get Jamie free – which first means helping her stay alive. Please don’t make a promise like that to a critically ill woman’s mother if you don’t plan to keep it.

Yesterday Mrs. Rasco received an unconfirmed report that Jamie had been rushed to the hospital due to chest pains and today that information has been confirmed.  To the best of anyone’s knowledge Jamie is still in the hospital and Mrs. Rasco has been told that she is “resting comfortably.”  She has been given no information regarding Jamie’s diagnosis or condition.  We will post updates as soon as they become available.

Today was dedicated to the Scott Sisters by Mississippi Radio’s Rip Daniels, where a ton of information has been regularly aired and today even a song was dedicated to them.  It was stated that now, after 15 years, Mississippi is finally hearing Mrs. Rasco’s pleas for justice for her daughters.  Mrs. Rasco is very grateful to Bros. Rip Daniels and Charles Evers for doing such a fantastic job raising this case to a high level in Mississippi. 

Mrs. Rasco was interviewed by WLBT Mississippi TV 3 reporter Julie Straw for a 10pm story they are working on covering today’s rally, preliminary reports of which are that it was well attended.  

More updates to come, please continue to support however you are able!


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Wexford, Mississippi, and Women’s Health Care in Prison

(originally posted at the Prison Abolitionist 1/26/10 as “Jamie Scott, Prisoner Abuse, Self-defense.”)
Things are not looking any better for Jamie, folks. I’ve been working all morning on this and still have more links to embed for you, but here’s a start. Please read and think and act today.

Mississippi‘s prison health care services are privatized. Here’s a little info about the company that contracts with Mississippi to provide their prisoner health care, Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (that’s the link to their rap sheet with the guys at Private Corrections Working Group; there are more news links at the bottom about New Mexico’s investigation. Just Google Wexford if you want their propaganda). 
That’s who’s doing the day to day care. The Mississippi Department of Corrections is no doubt in on it, of course – they monitor the contract, and I’m sure they set the limits for what they’ll pay them for – which bring this back to the Governor’s office and the legislature, really. Dealing with the people at the level of the prison administration – even the medical administrator – seems to be a waste of time.  
Now, I’m no lawyer – I’ve been going to school for nearly 2 decades and still haven’t been able to finish my BS in Justice Studies, so keep that in mind. But I’ve been reading up on some of this stuff that’s been coming to my attention lately, and I think I should at least pass what I do know – or think I know – along. We’re not going to get better care for anyone unless the state knows we’re well-armed and that Jamie’s complaints can’t get tossed out right off the bat for her failing to “exhaust administrative remedies” (thank Bob Dole and Bill Clinton for championing the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which is routinely used to deny relief or protection to victims of institutional abuse in correctional settings on technicalities. Signed in 1996, it gutted federal protection of prisoner rights and legal recourse. We need to tear that thing up and start over.)
The Mississippi Department of Corrections, of course, knows full well that Jamie needs to be grieving every single thing in writing, if she isn’t already – or there will never be recourse if they continue to harm her. They probably won’t be advising her to take that route; here’s their administrative remedy policy. She then needs to get copies of that documentation out of the prison on a regular basis, because prisons are notorious for searching litigants’ cells and destroying whatever possible evidence they may have against them (I’m sure Mississippi is already covering themselves on this one). As far as I know, no prison employees have ever been prosecuted for destroying evidence (which usually includes prisoner as well as state property) that might be used against their institution – though you know what would happen to any of us if we tried to destroy evidence the state had against us in a civil or criminal case…
I wonder how much of this has to do with the “duly convicted” being constitutionally designated as slaves of the state? The 13th Amendment really did leave us with some problems.
Don’t ask how someone as sick as she is should be expected to know all the hoops she has to get through to get help, and then leap through each one. I don’t think the law takes that into account. Or the fact that some states – like Arizona – go to extremes to make it hard for prisoners to access the resources necessary to represent themselves or even just assert their civil rights. You have to know the law and grievance procedures from the start, because the steps involved have time frames for filing and responding to grievances (I guess that’s to protect the right of the state and their employees to a timely settlement of such issues – though we never seem to get timely settlements). Judges seem to love to tell prisoners that ignorance is no excuse.
As far as I can tell there’s no assurance that you’ll be protected from retaliation if you do pursue grievances – there will likely be retaliation of some kind. But this is how prisoners – women prisoners, in particular – have managed to change the conditions of their incarceration – they grieve everything and take it to court.
It should not just be Jamie grieving her care – all the other women who have suffered harm as a result of the same shoddy standards need to grieve too. En masse – but make sure it’s the best of the best cases you put forward if you’re showing a pattern of civil rights violations (that’s necessary to prove a Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act violation. Personally, I think the potential claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act need to be explored more. By an attorney, not me.)
If/when it gets to court, the first thing that the judges will look at is whether or not the prisoner (not the prison) followed proper procedures to seek relief before getting there. It just isn’t fair to the poor prison administrators if prisoners they’ve harmed don’t have to overcome extraordinary hurdles to even get their case heard in the courts. For some women that’s meant filing a grievance about sexual harassment by guards while the officers their complaint is about continue to have access and exert influence over their lives through the course of the “investigation.” It’s very easy to hurt a prisoner and get away with it. Women are set up to be assaulted by other inmates just as readily as men are.
In many cases the prisoner is also threatened with being prosecuted for filing frivolous complaints or false charges if their perpetrator ends up being cleared of everything. I don’t know how often most DAs take that approach with women who aren’t imprisoned who report that they’ve been victimized, or if that tactic is just reserved for prisoners who accuse the people with the authority of state violence and the keys to their chains of being the criminals.
In any case, there’s a tremendous disincentive for prisoners to report rape, assault, or other abuse or neglect. They will not necessarily be protected from their assailants once they make their accusation, and there are so few people in the system whose primary interest or responsibility is prisoner welfare – everyone works for the state, to serve the interests of the state. It is in the best interests of the state to cover up the more atrocious examples of corruption and abuse, as well as to minimize public shock over the dehumanizing nature of standard operating procedures for prisons. But it is in the best interests of the people (that’s us) to know what’s going on in those places – throughout the criminal justice system, really – and to be empowered to change it.
There are some good links in this article about Wexford’s adventures in New Mexico prisons, where they eventually lost the contract to do business and got sued. Similar stories seem to follow them around the country. Scott family and friends might want to see what more you can find out about this company’s history in Mississippi. Are there any lawsuits by prisoners pending there? You’ll need to dig deeper than Google – dig into the state’s court websites. How long have they been around? Check out what folks in the Mississippi Prison Talk community have to say about the health services. Are there patterns of neglect surfacing there? What about grievances that have been filed at the prison or throughout the system?
I’ll put more thoughts on strategy for the Scott Sisters’ family and friends into a separate private message. In general, though, the more supporting documentation you have that is accessible and organized now, the more likely it will be we can get an investigative journalist in and help you get legal assistance as this unfolds. First the fight to save her life, and the lives of other Mississippi prisoners – this is injustice regardless of what Jamie’s convictions or sentence may be, though it’s clearly all about how little a lifer is worth to the rest of us.

The justification for this kind of rationing is the same slippery slope that made it okay to conduct medical experiments on African Americans, on prisoners, insane asylum patients, soldiers, and the mentally impaired for so long: their lives just aren’t worth the lives of the members of the “public” (still considered to be white upper-middle-class America -many of whom, of course, are repeat offenders of some crime that have just never been caught).Guess a lot of experimentation is still done on  prisoners.

Well, as a member of the American public (albeit the poorer class), I have to say that I don’t care much for Nazi science and “medicine” being practiced in America in my name, against my people, over my strenuous objections. Nor do I think will many other people, if this is brought up in the context of a conversation about the history of southern prisons, prisoners and the crimes of the medical profession in America.
Especially when it comes to black women. Scholars who have studied women’s resistance to slavery should also be shining some light on women resisting their criminalization and the conditions of incarceration or the terms of their punishment – women resisting violence.
That’s what Oprah should really be most interested in herself, if anyone can get her ear: her PR people are probably just thinking in terms of human interest stories and ratings, but Oprah herself would pick up on the broader ramifications of the Scott family’s fight – the ways in which racism today is so cloaked and insidious, and the depth of the injustice still done to so many as a result. The racism is systemic and multi-faceted (intersecting with gender, class, sexual identity/orientation, etc.) – we need to elevate it to the proper level right away, because most of the prison administrators (and probably most guards in the department) are people of color themselves who have been well-indoctrinated to support the state line and positioned to act as examples of how non-racist the state is. 
Jamie’s life has been determined by the state to not be worth certain medical and environmental interventions that would be standard if we were basing prisoner health care on community standards (for the poor, of course). But we don’t use community standards for them anymore – we base prisoner health care on what is “constitutionally mandated” – which is about as bare bones as you can get. Prison doctors basically have to commit at the very least negligent homicide or intentionally mutilate you in the course of what constitutes more than just gross malpractice to prove that you didn’t get a constitutionally-mandated level of medical care. And the damage done to you as a result of the neglect or abuse has to be permanent (or lasting, as of the time of the case).
That’s what’s so wrong with prison health care across the country – the laws have been changed at some point to lower standards because too many prisoners were winning lawsuits, prisons were having to clean up their acts and cut back on the rape and violence, and the states were facing hefty federal fines. Prisoners weren’t being “frivolous” with lawsuits any more so than non-prisoners – they were defending themselves against state violence and dehumanization, and finally getting justice done.
And most of us out here since the 80’s with a voice and a vote who should have known better let most of it get undone again because we weren’t paying attention.
We need to pay attention, now. And we’ll have to get these laws changed again – which means hitting candidates now with questions specifically about the Prison Litigation Reform Act (good ACLU fact sheet for prisoners), the Prison Abuse Remedies Act, and – in Arizona – what we need to put into Marcia’s Law to protect our people from abuse and rip out the prison systems revolving door and meat-grinding machinery. That means a lot of folks here need to study-up. We need to be more literate than the Department of Corrections on our stuff – and have the empirical evidence in hand.
Can you imagine if it was that hard to prove negligence or malpractice in the community? If people could just so casually be left to die – all the while begging for help – because our medical providers have to determine whether or not our lives should be saved based on some formula applied to our crimes of our youth or addictions and the nature of our punishments, there would be a health care consumer revolt. Help me pin this down folks – do some research out there. This is what’s happening in every state I’m coming across: dealing with just about any health care issue for prisoners the standard of care to research is “constitutionally-mandated”.
I’ll have more on this issue, because the same minimum standards of care for prisoners and mandate that one exhausts all administrative measures before seeking relief in the courts is a huge problem for prisoners in Arizona, of course. In the meantime, here’s who we could end up with providing our prisoner health car too (the people who do Mississippi and once did New Mexico….), if they bid on our ADC medical care contract, too (everyone knows that our prison health care services are supposed to be privatized this year, too, right?).
By the way, in doing all this research I came across an interesting article on the last Medical Director for the Mississippi Department of Corrections. At some point along the way this woman would have made decisions to ration prisoner health care – maybe even signed off on cutting Jamie’s life short by excluding certain treatments from the prisoner “benefits” plan. I wonder if the fact she embezzled nearly $100,000 from the department has anything to do with the fact that they can’t “afford” to give Jamie – a woman accused of stealing $11 over 15 years ago – her medically-recommended diet even as her kidneys are failing. That woman is likely to get house arrest for her crimes. She’s arguing that prison would be cruel and unusual for her because she was in a position of authority over inmates.
It’s not a good thing for an abolitionist to say – I’m far from perfect, folks – but it sounds to me like a prison term for the former medical director of that place might actually, for once, bring a measure of justice to the institutions’ victims. I have to admit, I do want some of these people to pay more than restitution – I want a chunk ripped out of their lives, too. I want them to know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of their abuse…which is precisely the kind of mentality that landed us where we are today, with mass incarceration, and increasing numbers of young people being thrown away for life. I guess if the violent retaliation Americans call criminal justice isn’t changed by us, who will it be changed by? Do we really want to leave this multi-headed hydra as our generation’s legacy?
I don’t think so. At some point here, in the course of protecting our people and dismembering this beast, we need to figure out what we’ll do with the perpetrators of state violence if we ever get our hands on them. We need to make them examples of restorative justice, not more retribution. When we seek justice, we need to avoid dehumanizing and brutalizing others as they do, and instead use every opportunity to help people and communities heal and be kinder in the future. As for the ones with no conscience – the sociopaths and CEOs who would rape the world for their own greed or grisly pleasure – I’m still not sure what to do with them, but they don’t get an embrace and another chance to offend from me. We need to protect people from them – beginning with protecting our prisoners.
Here’s the latest bad news on Jamie and the State of Mississippi. Please do stop and drop Gladys a note, too, and let her know what you’re doing to help. It will mean a lot.

Nancy Lockhart sent a message to the members of Free The Scott Sisters.

Subject: Urgent Update – Jamie Scott ~ By Sis Marpessa ~ ACTION IS NEEDED!

Jamie Scott is presently locked down in a cell in the infirmary on a hospital bed on the men’s side of the prison.  She has had some of the toxins removed from her body through a temporary catheter, but she is still seriously ill and should be hospitalized! The prison has known that Jamie was sick for some time, yet her condition was allowed to manifest and deteriorate to this level and we do not trust them to provide her with sufficient medical care at all, their track record with Jamie is horrendous!

Jamie Scott was a healthy young woman in 1993 when she was snatched away from her family for no good reason and locked down in tortuous conditions for 15 yrs, now her condition is life-threatening, must this horrific injustice now become a death sentence?!

Gladys Scott is extremely upset by all of this, as you can well imagine.  As reported earlier, she has offered one of her own kidneys for Jamie and was told that as a state prisoner she doesn’t qualify.  With each passing day she is becoming more and more alarmed and could really use some cards/ letters from supporters:

Gladys Scott #19142
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8550

Please continue to contact the governor’s office, we cannot rest or believe that our efforts are in vain.  Call into talk radio, enter info on as many blogs, Ning groups, etc., as possible, we need to really make a very loud NOISE in order to be heard! We need all of your ideas and talents, thank you all!



(same numbers/contacts as in previous posts)

The Wexford Files

from the Santa Fe Reporter

By: 01/16/2008

Our ongoing investigation into prison health care in New Mexico.

Outtakes, March 21: “Let There Be Light
Outtakes, Feb. 7: “Audit ABCs
Outtakes, Jan. 10: “Under Correction
Top 10 Stories of 2006, Dec. 20: “Prison Break
Outtakes, Dec. 13: “Wexford Under Fire
Outtakes, Nov. 29: “Backlash
Outtakes, Nov. 22: “Unhealthy Diagnosis
Outtakes, Nov. 8: “Prison Audit Ahead
Outtakes, Oct. 25: “Medical Test
Outtakes, Oct. 18: “Corrections Concerns
Outtakes, Oct. 4: “Medical Waste
Outtakes, Sept. 13: “Checkup
Outtakes, Aug. 30: “Inmate Care Critics
Outtakes, Aug. 23: “Unhealthy Proposal
Cover story, Aug. 9: “Hard Cell?