Ex-Mississippi Prison Boss Faces Bribery Charges

JACKSON, Miss. — Nov 6, 2014
By JEFF AMY Associated Press
Associated Press (via ABC)

Former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps has been charged with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a businessman connected to several private prison companies.

Epps is accused of receiving more than $700,000 from 2008 to 2014.

The 49-count federal indictment also charges Cecil McCrory of Brandon with paying Epps to obtain contracts for himself and other companies. It was unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Jackson. McCrory and Epps were scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Keith Ball on Thursday.

Read the rest here and also read a larger story, titled: Private prison operator in Mississippi fires indicted consultant Cecil McCroryhere.

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Mississippi to end century-old program of conjugal visits for prisoners

From the Globe and Mail, Jan. 16, 2014: 
“That’s the only time when we get to see each other and we don’t have somebody telling us that we’re too close or that our hug lasted too long,” said Kelly Muscolino, 35. “We need that bond.”
Once a common practice in prisons across the country, soon only California, New Mexico, Washington and New York state prisons will permit conjugal visits. Federal prisons do not allow them.
… “I have a good job,” she said. “I take care of my children.” Conjugal visits provide more than sex, inmates’ spouses said. They offer a chance “to talk and comfort one another like any other husband and wife,” Mason said.
Read the rest here. 

America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Walnut Grove

This is from the series in MotherJones Magazine

“A picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.”

—By James Ridgeway and Jean Casella
May. 13, 2013

Serving time in prison is not supposed to be pleasant. Nor, however, is it supposed to include being raped by fellow prisoners or staff, beaten by guards for the slightest provocation, driven mad by long-term solitary confinement, or killed off by medical neglect. These are the fates of thousands of prisoners every year—men, women, and children housed in lockups that give Gitmo and Abu Ghraib a run for their money.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around, and while not all of the facilities described in this series have all of the problems we explore, some stand out as particularly bad actors. We’ve compiled this subjective list of America’s 10 worst lockups (plus a handful of dishonorable mentions) based on three years of research, correspondence with prisoners, and interviews with criminal-justice reform advocates concerning the penal facilities with the grimmest claims to infamy.

We will roll out the final contenders this week, complete with photos and video. Number 9 is a corporate-run facility where children allegedly have been subjected to a heartrending pattern of brutal beatings, rapes, and isolation.

Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (Leake County, Mississippi)

Number of prisoners: Capacity 1,450 (actual population in flux)

Who’s in charge: (current) Lawrence Mack, warden; (former) George Zoley, CEO, the GEO Group; Christopher B. Epps, commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections

The basics: Efforts are underway to clean up and clear out Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, which one federal judge called “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts” visited upon children as young as 13. For years, the kids at Walnut Grove were subjected to a gauntlet of physical and sexual assaults, and psychological abuse including long-term solitary confinement. All of this took place under the management of private prison conglomerate the GEO Group.

The backlash: Evidence gathered for a report by the Justice Department and a lawsuit by the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center “paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world,” Federal District Judge Carleton Reeves wrote in a 2012 court order. The court found that conditions at Walnut Grove violated the Constitution, not to mention state and federal civil and criminal laws. Guards regularly had sex with their young charges and the facility’s pattern of “brutal” rapes among prisoners was the worst of “any facility anywhere in the nation” (court’s emphasis). Guards also were deemed excessively violent—beating, kicking, and punching “handcuffed and defenseless” youths and frequently subjecting them to chemical restraints such as pepper spray, even for insignificant infractions.

The guards also sold drugs on site and staged “gladiator-style” fights. “It’d be like setting up a fight deal like you would with two dogs,” one former resident told NPR. “They actually bet on it. It was payday for the guards.” Said another: “A lot of times, the guards are in the same gang. If the inmates wanted something done, they got it. If they wanted a cell popped open to handle some business about fighting or something like that, it just pretty much happened.” Kids who complained or tried to report these incidents faced harsh retribution, including long stints in solitary.

Judge Reeves wrote that the state had turned a blind eye to the prison company’s abuses: Walnut Grove’s charges, “some of whom are mere children, are at risk every minute, every hour, every day.” In accord with a court decree, the facility’s youngest residents have been moved to a state-run juvenile facility, and Mississippi canceled its contract with GEO—which still runs some 65 prisons nationwide. The contract was handed over to another private prison company, Management and Training Corporation, which also has been a target of criticism for advocates of criminal justice reform.

Also read:The Lost Boys,” about what happens when you put kids in an adult isolation facility.

Watch: Local news report on a protest by Walnut Grove parents.

Protests against MDOC: Natural Allies

These are the folks we need to connect with – they’re rooted and engaged in community organizing and direct action – and have been pretty agitated lately about prisoner rights. Here they’re confronting inmate abuse at Parchman. According to this, the FBI was contacted about the abuse issues, so they’re on alert. They still need pressure from us on Jamie, though.

Protesters Demand Epps Stop Inmate Abuse addthis_pub = ‘jacksonfreepress’; var addthis_config = { services_compact: ’email, facebook, myspace, twitter, more’, services_exclude: ‘print’ }

Adam Lynch
Protesters gathered outside MDOC headquarters on President Street this morning, demanding humane treatment for inmates.

by Adam Lynch
November 6, 2009

Members of the Southeastern Christian Association, Operation Help Civil Rights Group, and Mothers of Inmates protested outside Mississippi Department of Corrections headquarters on President Street in Jackson today, lobbying for fair treatment of sons and husbands who are inmates in MDOC correctional facilities.

“A lot of inmates are being mistreated and their civil rights are being violated at Parchman,” said Wyndol Lee, president of Operation Help Civil Rights Group. “They’re going to bed hungry. A lot of inmates are complaining that they’re being raped by other inmates, or beaten by security workers even though they’re not violating any rules. They’ve come to us for help, and we’re going to make their problems known.”

Protesters stood before the MDOC building, shouting for Commissioner Christopher Epps to come down and face questions about inmate mistreatment at the facilities. Gillam claimed Epps told him he would come down and speak, though Epps did not appear this morning. In response to Jackson Free Press inquiries, Epps’ office sent a statement via e-mail claiming he had earlier attempted to make contact with protest organizers.

“Since I heard (Gillam) would return to Jackson, I have made contact with Dr. Gillam on several occasions. At no time during these contacts did he request an appointment with me. It is regrettable that the complaints of these citizens are not being brought to the agency in a productive manner that allows specific complaints to be addressed,” Epps wrote. “I have never refused to meet with anyone and am always ready to address concerns of inmate family members in a productive manner.”

Epps added that he looked forward to “meeting with Dr. Gillam again,” and was “hopeful” that Gillam would provide more specific accounts of abuse at MDOC facilities.

Mothers of Inmates President Jean Smith said she had plenty of specifics to offer Epps. “I have mothers with children who are being harassed not just by the gang activity, but by correction officers who are not processed correctly by human resources there, and who treat inmates brutally,” said Smith, a West Point, Miss., resident, whose son John Anderson is incarcerated at Parchman. “When their time is almost up, the officers provoke them into bad behavior to make them serve more time. We’re not paying our taxes to pay a correctional officer to harass, provoke and beat our children. Someone in this state government will be held liable for our children if nothing is done.”

“Epps and Haley Barbour both know this,” Smith added. “We’ve been here in the past, and we’re not going away.”

Other mothers claim their children are begging them to ask facility authorities to keep them in solitary confinement to protect them from more violent fellow inmates.

Lisa Williams complains that her son, Sam McCarter, is told to work in the fields at Parchman: “They’re making him pull hay all day and putting him to bed hungry. If he doesn’t want to work in a field all day he shouldn’t have to,” Williams said. “The days of slavery are supposed to be over.”

Other protesters had more personal complaints. Sardis resident Cordelia Ward said handlers moved her brother Ricky Ward from Parchman to a holding facility in Rankin County with no initial explanation or warning of the transfer. She also complains that guards at Parchman shamed her with repeated invasive searches when she came to visit.

“They made me pull off all my clothes and went inside of my vagina looking for things. They made some women take off their wigs, and it’s really embarrassing for older women visiting their relatives and grandchildren,” Ward said.

Gillam said he had compiled a list of officers accused of beating one inmate, and would be taking the list to the FBI in hopes of sparking an investigation into allegations of abuse in MDOC facilities. “We have the names of specific officers who have been beating inmates. Three weeks ago they beat an inmate until he was so wobbly he couldn’t stand up, and we’re taking this information to the federal government because they’re treating people worse than animals here in this state,” Gillam said.

In his statement, Epps said “no allegation of mistreatment I receive goes idle. Each and every one is looked into, and action is taken if any level of our inmate care is falling below standards.”

Epps insisted Gillam speak with him personally regarding the beating allegations, adding: “To do otherwise would be uncooperative and counterproductive.”

Gillam said protesters would hold their next rally in January.

More Medical Neglect: Parchman.

Nancy came across this radio show this AM. Sounds like more of the same that Jamie’s been getting – and characteristically, the family is left in the dark – as is probably the patient.

This suggests a pattern of medical neglect that the Department of Justice should investigate for violations of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). Direct them to this blog. The more people who forward this post to their offices with a request that they investigate medical care urgently at the MDOC, the better. Here’s the link to the contact page for the Special Litigation Section at the DOJ which handles CRIPA complaints
– call and get an email addresss you can forward documentation to them at, then just click the little envelope at the bottom of this post, where you can email them from. Do that whenever we have a new post about another case of medical neglect/abuse.


If anyone else comes up with some recent info on complaints about prison medical services – or if there are families out there right now struggling with similar issues – email us, please. Let us tell your story, too. This site can become a respository of stories of prisoners and families fighting for rights – stories which may end up as testimony. It’s important that your voices are heard. It would be good to learn more about how often medical releases are ever granted, too.

Peg.

——————
“It appears that Jamie Scott is not the only prisoner having problems with the MDOC medical clinic…” – nancy

Southeastern Christian Association
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Web Page: http://www.southeasternchristianassociation.com/

E-mail: http://www.blogger.com/Southeastern0@aol.com

Inmate Vincent Carnell Hudson, age 61, of Louisville, Mississippi entered the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman October 2008 in very good health. He was well enough to be assigned to work in the cafeteria. September 27, 2009 Vincent was placed “in the hole” as a disciplinary action for having a cell phone in his possession.

After his 2-3 week confinement “in the hole”, Vincent emerged a very frail and weak man suffering from severe pneumonia. He complained about pain in his side and that he could hardly walk. He was sent to the infirmary at Parchment where he stayed for 3 weeks; while there he coded twice before being transferred to Greenwood Leflore Hospital in Greenwood, Mississippi on November 5, 2009. Where he coded once again, required a tracheotomy, was placed on a respirator, dialysis and required insertion of a feeding tube.

Vincent was discharged from the hospital on Friday, December 4, 2009 and remanded back to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, still a gravely ill man in need of proper medical care. He was laid in the infirmary in a bed that had dingy sheets with holes in them and a balled up sheet under his head for a pillow. In that room there was chairs for the family to sit, that was very dusty. Surely not a place for a person with a trach or feeding tube should be. His family asked when was his feeding time? They were told that he could not be fed because there was no feeding order. But, Dr. Perry told them that there was a feeding order. He has been returned to the very location that facilitated his physical demise, Parchman and its hospital/ infirmary. He is unable to walk, speak, see or eat. He still has a trach and feeding tube inserted, is partially paralyzed and incontinent. His family states that he appears to be malnourished and dehydrated.

After a calls from Southeastern Christian Association, Mothers of Inmates, NAACP and various churches in the state of Mississippi to the Governor, Radio Stations T.V. Stations, on December 7, 2009, Mississippi State Department of Corrections (MDOC) Commissioner Christopher B. Epps had Vincent Carnell Hudson transferred from the infirmary of Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman back to the long term care treatment facility more adept to care for his comprehensive medical needs. On that same day we also petitioned him for a Medical Release of Vincent due to the severe impairment of his health. Vincent’s prognosis is dismal and his medical circumstance renders him completely harmless.

On December 31, 2009, Vincent was sent back to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman infirmary. Today is January 15, 2010, and Mr. Vincent is still in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman infirmary. The family does not know his condition, because MDOC have not as of today permitted the family to see their brother. They are afraid for his life.

We have been told by the MDOC Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Gloria Perry that the Medical Release has been processed and is now on Commissioner Epps’ desk awaiting his final determination.