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May 31, 2013

"Lawsuit alleges 'barbaric' conditions at Mississippi prison"

The title of this post is the headline of this new Reuters article, which gets started this way:

A Mississippi prison for severely mentally ill inmates is infested with rats that prisoners sell to one another as pets, two civil liberties groups claimed in a federal lawsuit filed on Thursday.

Inmates at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian live under "barbaric" conditions, in filthy quarters without working lights or toilets, forcing them to defecate on Styrofoam trays or into trash bags, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center claimed in the lawsuit.

Beatings, rape, robbery and riots are commonplace, and inmates are denied access to medication and psychiatric care, the 83-page complaint stated. The privately run prison "is an extremely dangerous facility operating in a perpetual state of crisis" and inmates' human rights are violated daily, according to the groups. Some prisoners set fires in a desperate attempt to get medical attention in emergencies, the lawsuit said.

"I've been in prisons all around the country, and this is the worst I've ever seen," said Gabriel B. Eber, staff counsel for the ACLU's National Prison Project.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections, whose top officials were named as defendants, declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit, said department spokeswoman Grace Fisher.

The class action lawsuit says state prison officials have been aware of the conditions at the facility for years but have not remedied the problems. In one instance, according to the lawsuit, an otherwise healthy inmate had to have a testicle removed after prison officials repeatedly denied his request for medical help when it swelled to the size of a softball from cancer.

The abundance of rats has resulted in some prisoners using them as currency, trading the captured animals for cigarettes or selling them as pets with makeshift leashes, the lawsuit said.

East Mississippi Correctional Facility houses some 1,500 inmates, almost all of whom are mentally ill, Fisher said. It is operated by Utah-based Management & Training Corporation, a private contractor that took over management of the prison last year.

This webpage via the ACLU and this webpage via the Southern Poverty Law Center provides more information about the lawsuit.  Both pages include a link to this notable YouTube video concerning the prison being sued.

A few recent related (guest) posts on mentally ill offenders and prison conditions:

May 31, 2013 at 07:57 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Easy fix:

1. Place and keep spouses , parents , children , siblings , etc. in a like environment until CEO , COO , CFO , et al., of the private entity change their attitudes .

2. Replace rats with clean laboratory research rats .

Posted by: Just Plain Jim | May 31, 2013 8:04:27 AM

Few Americans truly grasp what can go on inside American prisons. When I was an inmate at USP-1, Coleman, Florida (A Federal BOP institution) circa 2006, the Special Housing Unit (SHU, 23+ hour per day administrative lock down) was kept full, beyond its design capacity. The guards (with the Warden's knowledge and permission) even converted the SHU law library into a cell for inmates, even though it had no sink or toilet. Inmates held in that cell were forced to defecate into plastic bags and pee into empty water bottles. Those conditions clearly violate the standards of the American Correctional Association (and the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment), of which the Bureau of Prisons is a member. The administrators responsible for he conditions in this Mississippi prison should be prosecuted for criminal violations of inmates' civil rights by the U.S. Department of Justice, to send a message to others.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | May 31, 2013 10:18:58 AM

'Civilization can be seen in the way it treats its prisoners." Dostoyevsky.

As reported last year in the Wall Street Journal, “Mississippi is among the states with the worst education systems, highest obesity levels, highest unemployment, and lowest rates of health insurance coverage. The state is an economic black hole, and it shows in the way people suffer there. And, as is true with black holes, it is nearly impossible for the residents of Mississippi to escape their difficult financial situations.”

Mississippi hates gays, blacks, Jews, health care, and women who want to choose whether or not to have children. Is it any surprise that Mississippi hates prisoners?

Posted by: Mindy | May 31, 2013 12:42:15 PM

Mindy/Jim:

The old saying was, "as California goes, so goes the country."

The new saying is and will be, "As Mississippi goes, so goes the country."

When people only learn to hate and choose to remain willfully ignorant, which is happening all across this country at the hands of our current government - to keep us safe, we will all soon turn into Mississippi.

Posted by: albeed | May 31, 2013 1:41:04 PM

It is unconscionable that Mississippi, assuming these allegations are true, confines fellow human beings in these deplorable conditions. In response to similar litigation in the past, the Mississippi DOC has taken courageous steps to clean up its act. As part of a settlement about a decade ago, the Mississippi DOC closed its 1,000-unit supermax facility, created a "step-down" intermediate care unit for individuals with serious mental illnesses, changed its classification system, and improved its mental health programming.

Scholars and commentators lauded the changes effected by the Mississippi DOC, particularly its objective classification system and intermediate care unit. A 2009 article by Terry Kupers et al., discussing the litigation and evaluating the effectiveness of the ensuing reform, included this language, which is important to keep in mind today:

When litigation is brought, the state too often believes that it has to defend its policies and practices, and it is slow or resistant in responding to consent decrees and court orders. But when the parties to the litigation reach an amicable negotiated settlement, as memorialized by the court in a consent decree, then a more collaborative approach to effecting change becomes possible. In Mississippi, the administration of the Department of Corrections eventually welcomed the changes demanded by the plaintiffs in a series of class-action lawsuits, which cleared the way for the changes to be put into effect in an atmosphere of strong collaboration. As such, there [were] at least two levels of collaboration: The expert witnesses in the litigation essentially became consultants to the MDOC, and within the MDOC, there was greatly improved collaboration between custody and mental health staff in effecting the agreed-on changes.

I hope the Mississippi DOC will be as receptive to change today.

Posted by: Lea Johnston | May 31, 2013 10:18:49 PM

i think if even half of it is true. The family and friends of those inside and any other real american has the legal right to overrun the prison using whatever force upto and including lethal to take control and save those inside. They can then hold trials for those operators who survive.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 1, 2013 11:17:18 PM

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