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.
From: SF Bay View, September 26, 2014
by Amy Buckley
On July 18, 2014, I was told to pack and was transferred to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Miss. Since I was not informed as to why I was being transferred, I have surmised that it was for medical purposes because I had abnormal results on some recent lab work.
I originally left this compound on Sept. 24, 2010, with the hope of never seeing it again, but here I sit. I wish I could say that things here have improved. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
CMCF is the processing center for all men and women coming into the prison system. This facility also houses just over 2,300 men long-term and less than 1,000 women who are compound-restricted due to medical conditions such as AIDS, pregnancy and heart problems and those with life sentences. Sadly, this is one of the worst – it is the worst for women – facilities in the state.
Conditions here are deplorable. There are 116 women per open zone (dorm) and no air conditioning. Lice, boils, staph infections, scabies and AIDS are rampant. The food is barely edible. Medical care is insufficient to non-existent. Mold grows on the shower walls and no matter how many times you scrub it off it grows right back. These are simply a few of the problems here.
Since arriving here on Friday, I have yet to be seen by a case manager and have not been issued any clothes. For five days now I have been wearing the same jumpsuit I was made to put on for being transported.
I approached Lt. Bates several times attempting to ask about getting clothes, only to be swatted away like I was a pesky fly. I also approached the case manager, Ms. Gattis, who said she would see me later but failed to do so. I have also written both of the above and received no response.
Without seeing the case manager, I cannot use the phones to contact my family because I have to fill out a phone list and get a PIN number to do so. Ms. Gattis would also be able to address any issues and concerns that I have at this time. To add to this incompetence, I have yet to see a doctor to find out what, if anything, needs to be done concerning my medical needs.
Being back here saddens me because I see the condition of some of these women. Many walk around like zombies, drugged out of their minds and seemingly unaware of their surroundings.
It is easier for a person to see the prison psychiatrist and get any psych drug available, even if they do not need it, than it is to see a nurse or medical doctor when one is truly ill. Many are denied medical care until hospitalization is the only option left and others die waiting to see a doctor.
I know how easy it is to get stuck on this compound, lost in this broken system, forced to work in inhumane conditions without pay or be written up for refusing to work until you land in Max. Despite being prisoners of the state of Mississippi, we have the right to receive prompt medical treatment, clean clothes to wear, a clean and safe living environment and access to our families, i.e., phone calls and visits.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections may not care about my health, but my health is important to me and my family. When I came into this system I was healthy and I plan to leave healthy! I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve. The beast will not win!
I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve.
Send our sister some love and light: Amy Buckley, 150005, CMCF-2A B-Zone 162, P.O. Box 88550, Pearl, MS 39288. Transcribed by Adrian McKinney from handwritten letter.
Amy has cervical cancer – write the Parole Board to release her
Amy Buckley is known across the country as a wise and courageous advocate for women prisoners. This is the Bay View’s most recent letter from Amy, postmarked July 30. Activist Twitch Entropy reports hearing from Amy that as of Sept. 6, despite an apparent diagnosis of cervical cancer, she still hasn’t seen a doctor, though she’d been in severe pain for a week. She hopes the cancer will be arrested with a hysterectomy.
Back home, her father is suffering from advanced mantle cell lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer, and her son needs her. So her aunt is gathering parole support letters.
Your letter should be addressed to State of Mississippi Parole Board, Attn: Steve Pickett and Parole Board Members, 660 North St., Suite 100A, Jackson, MS 39202. Don’t mail it direct to the board but rather to Amy’s aunt: Trish Gray-Lee, 862 Jolly Road, Columbus, MS 39705. Amy deserves a special dispensation for her own and her father’s medical crises, justifying a supervised medical release, Twitch suggests.
Please listen to the recording of August 8th FREE ALABAMA-MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT’S blogtalkradio show as we continue our “HANDS OFF OF OUR WOMEN AT TUTWILER” series ahead of our “MARCH ON TUTWILER” AND rally at the State Capitol on August 23, 2014, beginning at 11 a.m.
Also, we will get an update on our FAMILY… in Georgia, and learn about new developments and oppressive tactics that are being carried out by the State against the Men and Women who want their FREEDOM over there also.
“MISSISSIPPI BROWN” will be back again and we look forward to another great show.
By Jody Owens II, Managing Attorney – Mississippi
As the managing attorney for the SPLC’s Mississippi office, I’ve seen the terrible toll the state’s broken criminal justice system has taken on its communities.
The state has the shameful distinction of having the second-highest incarceration rate in the nation – ranking behind only Louisiana, according to the Department of Justice. The last decade has seen Mississippi’s prison population grow by 17 percent to more than 22,000 prisoners last year.
Many prisoners aren’t hardened, violent criminals. Nearly three-quarters of the people entering Mississippi prisons in 2012, in fact, were nonviolent offenders, according to a task force that examined the state’s prisons. And the system fails them: Almost one in three nonviolent offenders are back behind bars within three years of their release. These statistics paint a grim future of a state with a skyrocketing prison population that costs taxpayers, communities and the people caught in this broken system dearly.
This morning, I was pleased to witness Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant sign groundbreaking reforms into law that can help repair this broken system. As a member of the task force that issued recommendations for reform, I can attest that these reforms address many longstanding issues. They help protect our communities from violent offenders but take steps to prevent low-level offenders from returning to prison.
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.
This is reblogged from Lockup Reform:
April 22nd 2013
The 2002 conviction of Jeffrey Havard reeks of WRONGFUL in a really bad, alarming sort of way. The kind of way that caused me to wonder if at this moment I was somehow involved in some sort of freak situation that could earn me a wrongful conviction, landing me in solitary confinement on death row for years on end, all due to some outrageous misinterpretation or spinning of facts as they occurred—all completely out of my control.
I was not familiar with Havard’s case until a colleague and friend, Lori Howard (@LoriHoward16), who is a relentless advocate for the wrongfully convicted (she’s got a one-track mind and a drive I envy, which she claims materialized after coming this close to catching a serious wrongful conviction case of her own five years ago), started sharing bits and pieces of his story with me. Her devotion to freeing Havard inspired me to examine the facts for myself, so guided by Lori, I started reading and reading on the case.
I advocate for criminal justice reform and prisoners’ rights in my own work, but really focus my efforts on people held in prolonged solitary confinement, so this was new territory for me. But as I started processing the information, the facts and the countless stories on Havard, I was appalled. If you’re not familiar with Jeffrey Havard’s case, Bruce Fischer provides a good background on GroundReport. Or here’s the real quick and dirty of it (as posted on the official Free Jeffrey Havard Facebook page):
Backtracking to 2002 when Havard was convicted, it’s important to note two important details, each of which unquestionably impacted the outcome of his case, facilitating Mississippi state’s determination that he is no longer worthy of life. As reported in a recent story on WAPT News:
With these injustices in mind, new information and details have continued to surface in connection with the original evidence incriminating Havard, which has from the start been perceived by many as dubious at best (not even). Recently there has been increased media attention to the already well known, controversial case, including a story published yesterday by The Clarion-Ledger, from which I quote liberally throughout this post:
Now the flimsy evidence used to build a case against Havard—the same evidence on which the great state of Mississippi based its conviction and death sentence of a young man—has been further discredited. As stated by The Clarion-Ledger:
And now I give props to the good people at The Clarion-Ledger for their huge show of support and efforts to finally get Havard the trial he should have had over a decade ago:
The outcome of the new examination? I was very pleased but not surprised at Baden’s conclusions:
Wrapping up, The Clarion-Ledger concludes:
In his latest petition, Havard asks the court for relief of the original conviction and sentence, also requesting “at the very least,” permission to produce evidence raised in the petition during a proposed evidenciary hearing in federal court. I’d be hard-pressed to find a reason to deny his hard-earned requests, already paid for in full by Havard personally with over a decade of his life, wasted in the bowels of Mississippi’s penal system—in solitary confinement and on death row, likely wondering if his only ticket out of the hellhole in which Mississippi currently holds him is his own death.
From: Gulf Live, Mississippi Press
Jan. 10th 2013
“We’re tired of being treated like animals.”
By Jen Waller andThomas Hintze
Waging Nonviolence, via: http://www.indypendent.org/2012/06/01/wave-prisoner-resistance-sweeps-south
Thanks to: The Real Cost of Prisons
June 1, 2012
Last week, prisoners in two different facilities in the United States resisted inhumane conditions — one through an uprising that the mainstream media dubbed a “riot,” and the other through a hunger strike. The tactics employed by the two groups differ, but the messages are clearly linked: Prisoners are protesting their conditions and are willing to put their lives on the line to fight for better treatment.
On May 20, inmates took control of the Adams County Correctional Facility in Mississippi for over eight hours. One inmate managed to access a cell phone during the uprising and called WLBT TV in Jackson, proving his presence in the prison by sending pictures. He gave the station the following statement: “They beat us; we’re just [paying] them back. We just need better treatment and services. We need medical attention. We just want some respect. They call us wetbacks” — referring to a racist slur used against undocumented immigrants.
The prison is privately owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which manages over 60 facilities and touts a capacity of 90,000 beds. The prison in Adams County is populated by immigrants from over 70 countries awaiting deportation and is part of a larger war on undocumented immigrants in the United States. 2011 was a record year for deportations: 396,000 people were removed from the country, and more than half of those people were convicted of crimes and held at private immigration detention facilities like the one in Adams County.
During the uprising, one guard was killed, and several guards and inmates were injured. Over two dozen guards were reportedly held hostage. The prisoners were subdued by SWAT teams, which dropped pepper spray grenades and tear gas bombs into the facility. Before it was quashed, more than 600 of about 2,500 total inmates were reportedly involved in the takeover.
The mainstream media, much like the prison officials themselves, have sought to silence the grievances that motivated the uprising. Nearly every headline has emphasized images of violence, tumult, disorder. Many news outlets claimed that a gang fight started the revolt, yet they fail to explain how a clash between rival gangs could result in an apparently unified uprising with clear demands.
The nature of the uprising and the death of a prison guard in the midst of it have given the media a pretext to ignore the massive violence and brutality that prisoners suffer across the country every single day. The incident is also symptomatic of the fact that the privatization of prisons like the one in Adams County means a lack of oversight and responsibility, which results in inhumane conditions for inmates. The Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance has received numerous complaints about the conditions of this CCA facilitity and many others, with reports of beatings, overcrowding, substandard food and lack of proper medical care, among other grievances. These are precisely the kinds of problems that were cited by those who took matters into their own hands in Mississippi by mounting an occupation.
Meanwhile, 45 prisoners at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Virginia were plotting another kind of resistance: a hunger strike, which they launched on May 22. With the help of a network of prisoner-support activists in the area, the hunger strikers released 10 demands and a press advisory. Among these demands were such basics as fully-cooked food and access to fresh fruit and vegetables, access to complaint and grievance forms, an end to torture in the form of indefinite segregation, and adequate medical care. Five hundred of the 1,700 inmates at Red Onion — Virginia’s only “supermax” prison — spend 23 hours a day in isolation. Inmates at Red Onion have also reported being beaten by guards and bitten by dogs.
Prisoner hunger strikes like this have been growing in frequency. Just in the past year, hunger strikes have happened at the Ohio State Penitentiary, the Corcoran State Prison, Pelican Bay State Prison, Ironwood State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison and more. Prisoners around the world are also choosing to resist by hunger striking, most notably the 2,500-strong Palestinian prisoner hunger strike that went on for weeks and was ultimately hailed as a victory. As we write, there are prisoners fasting in resistance in Dubai, Morocco, Egypt and, earlier this week, a 110-day hunger strike ended in Bahrain.
On Tuesday, a flurry of articles, including one in The Washington Post, ran with headlines claiming that the hunger strike at Red Onion prison had ended. In order for the state to officially recognize a hunger strike, inmates must reject their meals for nine consecutive days, which Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke said they had not. In response to the news, activists with the group Solidarity with Virginia Prison Hunger Strikers issued a response challenging the validity of the DOC’s statements:
There has been a history of organizing at this prison to protest the inhumane conditions since the opening of the prison. Because it was the prisoners themselves who put their bodies on the line to call attention to injustices at Red Onion, it should be the prisoners to whom we listen over the press releases of the Virginia Department of Correction. Given that the VA DOC both failed to acknowledge the hunger strike at the onset and engaged in sending out misinformation, their version of events is suspect.
At Red Onion, one of the hunger strikers’ representatives denounced the inhumanity of the prison:
We’re tired of being treated like animals. There are only two classes at this prison: the oppressor and the oppressed. We, the oppressed, despite divisions of sexual preference, gang affiliation, race and religion, are coming together. We are rival gang members but now are united as revolutionaries.
Those affirmative words echo a rich and varying legacy of prisoner resistance that is all but forgotten in the American consciousness. Perhaps the most famous prison uprising in U.S. history was the Attica rebellion of 1971, when prisoners took control of the facility in upstate New York for five days before Governor Nelson Rockefeller approved a military siege. Thirty-one prisoners were killed, and nine guards died in the hail of bullets used to quash the occupation. Yet, over the course of those five days, the prisoners at Attica built a sense of community, about which one black prisoner later said, “I never thought whites could really get it on … But I can’t tell you what the yard was like, I actually cried it was so close, everyone so together.”
As the speaker from Attica and the representative at Red Onion State Prison both allude to, it is when divides of race, identity, and affiliation start to break down that prisoners are empowered to seek better conditions and more rights. These struggles also depend on those on the outside who show solidarity and help to spread awareness of the prisoners’ grievances. Supporters of the Red Onion hunger strike are organizing through their website and an online petition. The San Francisco Bay View has posted a further list of ways people can support the Red Onion revolutionaries. Inmates are putting their lives in danger to fight for meaningful change in a brutal system, but without people outside the prisons echoing them, their cries can continue being silenced and ignored.
This article was originally published by Waging Nonviolence.