Pike County’s largest city won’t try to privatize its public works department. McComb Mayor Whitney Rawlings tells the Enterprise-Journal that he felt department heads weren’t ready to take the move. … An Alabama company, ClearWater solutions, pitched the idea to the city in January. The company runs public works departments and government utilities in several southern states. Some McComb officials said they were worried about whether employees would see cuts to retirement and other benefits if they became employees of ClearWater. …
Source: WLOX, February 13, 2017
Tensions were high at a board meeting in Hancock County Monday night regarding the library system. Community members packed the room, many of them expressing outrage about the possibility of the county privatizing the Hancock County Library system. The system houses five libraries and 26 full time employees. Some believe the privatization would allow an outside company to take over the system, hire their own employees, and depend more on technology than librarians. Many residents at the board meeting said the library system is just fine and that the privatization would have a negative impact. … The Hancock County Board of Supervisors said they’re only exploring their options with the privatization and will discuss the matter again during the next meeting.
Attorney General Jim Hood announced Wednesday his office has filed 11 civil RICO lawsuits against all corporate and individual conspirators connected to the prison bribery scandal involving former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps. … According to Hood’s lawsuits, multiple corporations, including some of the most prominent private prison contractors, paid millions of dollars in so-called “consulting fees” to individuals who then used those fees to pay bribes and kickbacks to Epps. Based on those bribes and kickbacks, Epps awarded, directed or extended approximately $800 million in public contracts to those private prison contractors. Hood alleges that the defendants violated Mississippi’s public ethics, racketeering and antitrust laws, along with several other claims. The Attorney General is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as forfeiture of all funds received by the individuals and corporations that were involved in these conspiracies. … Hood said through private attorneys his office will seek to recoup as much money as possible from what he called tainted contracts.
Prison review group examining no-bid contracts
Source: Emily Wagster Pettus, Hattiesburg American, December 12, 2014
A group reviewing Mississippi prison contracts could recommend changes requiring more accountability in how all state agencies purchase goods or hire people to provide services, members said after their first meeting Friday. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed a bipartisan, five-member task force to examine the Mississippi Department of Corrections’ spending practices after former Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps and businessman Cecil McCrory were indicted last month on federal corruption charges. The two men have pleaded not guilty to charges they face. Authorities allege that McCrory gave Epps hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for Epps steering contracts, some of them without a bidding process, to companies connected to McCrory….
Indictment of Ex-Official Raises Questions on Mississippi’s Private Prisons
Source: Richard Fausset, New York Times, November 16, 2014
In 1982, Christopher B. Epps, a young schoolteacher, took a second job as a guard at the facility known as Parchman Farm, the only prison operated at the time by the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Eventually he had to choose a path. “It worked out that I was making more as a correctional officer than as a teacher,” Mr. Epps would later recall in an interview for a corrections newsletter. By the time he spoke those words in 2009, Mr. Epps was being feted as Mississippi’s longest-serving corrections commissioner. The state inmate population had quadrupled, five private prisons had been built to help house them, and, according to a federal grand jury indictment, Mr. Epps had found a new, secretive way to bolster his income.
Source: Criminal, January 6, 2017
Walnut Grove was such a violent prison that one Federal Judge called it “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts.” Today, we have the story of an especially troubled youth prison, the for-profit corporations that managed it, and the small town that relied on it.
As prison closes, Mississippi still reckons with debt
Source: Jeff Amy, Clarion Ledger, September 25, 2016
If you’ve got to keep paying for something, you might as well use it. That, more than anything, might be the logic behind the announcement from Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher last week that the state prison system intends to seek new uses for the recently closed Walnut Grove Correctional Facility. Fisher said last week saying the department is considering using the 1,500-bed facility as an alternative to prison, as a facility to house prisoners after parole violations, or to help prisoners prepare to re-enter society. … Grace Simmons Fisher, a department spokeswoman who is not related Marshall Fisher, said the department owes almost $194 million overall on Walnut Grove and three other private prisons — East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian, Marshall County Correctional Facility and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. She couldn’t break down exactly how much the state owes for each. But it’s clear from bond documents the debt is largest at Walnut Grove — as much as $91 million. That’s in part because the prison is the newest, having opened in 2001. Walnut Grove and East Mississippi were also more expensive because each has 1,500 beds, while the two older prisons have 1,000 apiece. … Overall, the state is scheduled to be paying $21.8 million a year on the prisons’ debt until 2027. That comes out of money that lawmakers appropriate to the Corrections Department for private prisons — $74.6 million this year. …
Privately Run Mississippi Prison, Called a Scene of Horror, Is Shut Down
Source: Timothy Williams, New York Times, September 15, 2016
A privately operated Mississippi prison that a federal judge once concluded was effectively run by gangs in collusion with corrupt prison guards, closed Thursday, its prisoners transferred to other state facilities, officials said. Conditions at the prison, the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, were deemed so substandard by Judge Carlton Reeves of Federal District Court, that he wrote in a 2012 settlement order that it “paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.” The move to shutter Walnut Grove, in Leake County, comes one month after the Justice Department announced that it would phase out its use of private prisons to house federal inmates after concluding that such facilities are more dangerous and less effective than prisons run by the government. But the Obama administration decision does not affect states, which have increasingly come to rely on private firms to manage prison populations, including Mississippi. … The Mississippi Department of Corrections said in June that it had decided to shutter Walnut Grove not because of the often-unrestrained violence at the facility, but for budget cuts. Grace Simmons Fisher, a corrections department spokeswoman, declined to comment on Thursday. Issa Arnita, a spokesman for the private prison contractor, said on Thursday in a statement that Management and Training Corporation had “made tremendous improvements to overall operations” at Walnut Grove since it took over management in 2012. But the 1,260-bed facility had been operating since 2012 under a federal consent decree for violating prisoners’ constitutional rights, and in 2014, Walnut Grove was the scene of two major riots. Last year, Judge Reeves extended federal oversight of the prison because of continuing constitutional violations. …
Mississippi closing private prison with history of abuse
Source: Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press, September 14, 2016
A Mississippi private prison with a history of inmate abuse is preparing to shut down, three months after state officials announced their intention to close it because of a tight state budget. Thursday is the final day of operations at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Grace Simmons Fisher said. About 900 inmates have been moved to state-run prisons in the past several weeks, and only a few remained in the Walnut Grove prison late Wednesday. Fisher said they would be moved by Thursday. … Utah-based Management and Training Corp. took over management of the prison in 2012 from Florida-based GEO Group Mississippi has been paying MTC $14.6 million a year to run the Walnut Grove prison, which has been one of the largest employers in a town of about 500 residents. The prison had 215 employees in June and was down to 175 about two weeks ago, MTC spokesman Issa Arnita said Wednesday. …
Walnut Grove: Prison loss ‘devastating’
Source: Mollie Bryant, Clarion Ledger, July 9, 2016
Uncertainty hangs in the air of Walnut Grove, a community bracing itself for the loss of its largest employer this fall. The state’s decision to close the privately run Walnut Grove prison, which under federal oversight since 2012 for its conditions, will leave the tiny town facing a precipitous drop in revenue as many residents look for work. … Citing budget cuts and a declining number of inmates, the Mississippi Department of Corrections announced it would close the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in September and transfer its 900 inmates to state-run prisons. The closure will mean about 200 fewer jobs in a town with a population that hovers around 500, and loss of revenue that will lead to furloughs and pay cuts for city employees. … The revenue loss will force the town’s 12 employees to begin a furlough once a week and police to take a $2-per-hour pay cut. … The state pays Management and Training Corp. $14.6 million per year to operate the prison, which is one of four facilities the company runs in Mississippi. While building the private prisons, the state racked up $195 million in debt. The Walnut Grove prison was presented to the community as an opportunity for jobs after the departure of several manufacturing plants. A shirt manufacturing and a glove maker closed several years ago and moved their operations overseas. It was touted as “recession proof.” The city annexed the land where the prison was built in 1999 and later expanded.
Mississippi to close privately-run prison as inmates dwindle
Source: Jeff Amy, Associated Press, June 10, 2016
Mississippi officials plan to close a privately-run prison in Leake County in September, another sign of Mississippi’s falling prison population after lawmakers cut prison sentences. The Mississippi Department of Corrections announced Friday that it would close the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, which is run by Utah-based Management and Training Corp. Commissioner Marshall Fisher said he made the decision because of lower-than-requested state funding in the budget year beginning July 1, as well as the decreasing number of inmates. … Fisher said MTC’s 215 employees at Walnut Grove could apply for jobs at other state prisons. However, the move could be a financial disaster for the 1,900 resident-town in Leake County, Mayor Brian Gomillion said. … The state pays MTC $14.6 million a year to run Walnut Grove. …
Judge Allows Class-Action Suit Over Mississippi Prison Conditions
Source: Timothy Williams, New York Times, October 1, 2015
Inmates at a privately run Mississippi prison where, they say, guards arranged for prisoners to attack one another, ignored fires set by inmates to signal distress, and allowed prisoners to trade whiskey and cellphones will be permitted to file a class-action lawsuit against the facility, a federal court judge ruled this week. The judge, William H. Barbour Jr., granted the request by inmates at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian on Tuesday in their lawsuit against the Mississippi Department of Corrections. … The company that operates the prison, the Management & Training Corporation, based in Utah, also runs another Mississippi prison, the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, which is under federal court oversight for conditions including severe and systematic violence against inmates. … At the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, about 70 percent of the 1,200 inmates have some form of mental illness, advocates say. Inmates there say that they are punished for seeking medical care, that toilets often do not work and frequently overflow, and that some inmates live in near-total darkness because light bulbs are not replaced.
Mississippi prisons prove dangerous to staff, inmates
Source: Jerry Mitchell, Clarion-Ledger, October 5, 2014
Mississippi taxpayers spend more to keep people in prison than on economic development, disaster relief, drug enforcement, hospitals, hospital schools and the state’s entire judicial system combined. So what exactly are taxpayers getting for $389 million in taxes? A system where gangs rule, where corruption festers and where at least one private prison has been called “barbaric.” …. Three different private contractors have operated East Mississippi Correctional Facility since it opened in 1999. The current operator is Utah-based Management & Training Corp., which was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Seeing Squalor and Unconcern in a Mississippi Jail
Source: Erica Goode, New York Times, June 7, 2014
Open fires sometimes burn unheeded in the solitary-confinement units of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, a privately run state prison in Meridian, 90 miles east of here. Inmates spend months in near-total darkness. Illnesses go untreated. Dirt, feces and, occasionally, blood are caked on the walls of cells. For years, the prison, the state’s primary facility for inmates with mental illnesses, has been plagued by problems. When a previous private operator, the GEO Group, left in 2012 after complaints to the state about squalor and lack of medical treatment, hopes rose that conditions would improve. But two years later, advocates for inmates assert that little has changed under the current operator, Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based company. Civil rights lawyers and medical and mental health experts who toured the facility recently painted a picture of an institution where violence is frequent, medical treatment substandard or absent, and corruption common among corrections officers, who receive low wages and minimal training…..
FOR NEARLY TWO decades, the Bureau of Prisons has contracted with a handful of private companies to incarcerate thousands of non-U.S. citizens serving time for low-level federal offenses. Held in a dozen so-called “criminal alien requirement” prisons largely concentrated in remote, rural areas, the inmates in private custody are, for the most part, locked up for immigration offenses or drug violations. CAR facilities have been the target of sustained criticism from advocacy organizations, which argue that their existence reflects a two-tiered federal prison system that outsources a select population of inmates to contractors with a track record of abuse and neglect. In August, it seemed that years of pressure had finally paid off, when the Justice Department announced it would begin phasing out private prisons. … As the policies of the president-elect come into focus, it’s worth revisiting one of the incidents that prompted the DOJ’s resolve to cut ties with the industry in the first place — a deadly clash at a low-security, CCA-run facility on the outskirts of Natchez, Mississippi, that reflects how private prisons not only endanger inmates, but can also force low-wage workers from economically depressed communities into perilous circumstances. In May 2012, inmates at Adams County Correctional Center staged a protest over a litany of grievances, including claims that men had died in custody as a result of medical negligence. Though CCA officials were forewarned that dire conditions had bred a sense of desperation in the prison, they failed to prevent the escalation that followed. … CCA, now CoreCivic, runs three of the country’s CAR prisons; seven are run by the GEO Group and another two by Management and Training Corp. Like many of the isolated areas where CAR prisons operate, Adams County had a poverty rate about twice the national average. When CCA hosted its job fair in Natchez, more than 3,000 people lined up for 409 jobs. “We thought it was a federal prison … and we were under the impression that they would pay like $20 an hour,” Temple said when we met last year, in the closed bar of a casino by the Mississippi River. She was hired as a correctional officer in 2010, starting at $12.60 an hour. “Pretty good for here,” she told me. Later, she was promoted to sergeant. …
… According to federal investigations into the Adams riot, a group of Mexican inmates known as the Paisas, or “countrymen,” exercised considerable influence inside the facility, where only a fraction of the employees spoke Spanish. If inmates had complaints, they would consult with their Paisa representatives, who conveyed their concerns to prison management. In the weeks leading up to May 20, tensions had apparently risen within the group. “The Paisas felt their leadership was ineffective at communicating their grievances to prison officials since their complaints had gone unaddressed for so long,” stated an FBI affidavit later filed in cases related to the incident. The Intercept reached out to former Adams inmates who are now serving time on charges of rioting in a federal correctional facility. Responding in letters in Spanish, several described the unrest as primarily the result of conditions they felt had become increasingly dangerous and intolerable, including medical neglect, excessive use of segregation, spoiled food, a lack of interpreters, and mistreatment by staff. The Intercept is not naming the inmates who responded because of concerns about possible retaliation in their present facilities. …
Federal Officials Ignored Years of Internal Warnings About Deaths at Private Prisons
Source: Seth Freed Wessler, The Nation, June 15, 2016
The fatal uprising at Adams was one of four riots to explode in the BOP’s private prisons since 2008, all triggered by grievances over medical care. A trove of 20,000 pages of previously unreleased monitoring reports, internal investigations, and other documents obtained through an open-records suit show that the BOP had been warned of substandard care by its own monitors for years but failed to act. … In a striking confirmation of these findings, the new records show that BOP monitors documented, between January 2007 and June 2015, the deaths of 34 inmates who were provided substandard medical care. Fourteen of these deaths occurred in prisons run by CCA. Fifteen were in prisons operated by the GEO Group. The BOP didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment or to written questions before deadline. The records and interviews with former BOP officials reveal a pattern: Despite dire reports from dozens of field monitors, top bureau officials repeatedly failed to enforce the correction of dangerous deficiencies and routinely extended contracts for prisons that failed to provide adequate medical care. …
10 indicted in Adams County prison riot
Source: Associated Press, July 24, 2013
Ten people have been indicted for their roles in a riot at a prison in Natchez that left one guard dead, federal authorities said Wednesday. The indictments, announced Wednesday by FBI Special Agent In Charge Daniel McMullen and U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Daniels, are in addition to nine others previously charged in connection with the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately-run Adams County Correctional Center. The prison is owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies….The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after deportation for being in the country illegally….
Guard killed in prison riot / Several injured in uprising at Adams County facility
Source: Therese Apel, Clarion Ledger, May 21, 2012
An uprising in the Adams County Correctional Facility near Natchez Sunday left at least one unidentified guard dead and several more transported to the hospital, officials said. Adams County Coroner James Lee said one prison guard is dead of blunt force trauma to the head after the incident….The Adams County Correctional Facility is a $128 million, 2,567-bed prison owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America. The facility houses adult male illegal immigrants for the Federal Bureau of Prisons….The disturbance started Sunday around 2:40 p.m., according to prison officials. It appears to have been the result of a power struggle among the inmates.
– Miss. prison riot leaves guard dead, 8 hurt
Source: Holbrook Mohr, Associated Press, May 21, 2012
– Fatal Mississippi prison riot quelled, authorities say
Source: Stephanie Gallman, CNN, May 21, 2012
– SWAT Teams have entered the Adams County Prison
Source: WLBT, May 20, 2012
– Mississippi Prison on Lockdown After Guard Dies
Source: Robbie Brown, New York Times, May 22, 2012
3 On Your Side was first to tell you about parking meter problems in Jackson. The debate continued Tuesday at the City Council meeting. The proposal on the table would allow a private company to take over the meter operation and increase fees, but some people want to keep things local. There are more than 1000 Parking meters in the city of Jackson; while some work, many don’t – resulting in unpaid tickets and lost revenue. The city wants to hire Hudson Associates to take over the operation. … The city is expected boost earnings by $150,000 yearly. Also under the plan, the old, broken meters will be replaced with modern ones that you can use a credit card or cell phone to pay. The city also wants to increase hourly parking costs from $.50 to a $1.00 or more. … During Tuesday’s council meeting, some residents spoke out against the privatization partnership. They say the city is losing money because it’s lazy with forcing violators to pay tickets, a problem that can be fixed internally. …
Jackson may privatize parking meters
Source: Jimmie E. Gates, The Clarion-Ledger, November 19, 2015
The city of Jackson will advertise next month for proposals to privatize the city’s parking meter operation. The Jackson City Council voted Thursday to encourage Mayor Tony Yarber’s administration to request proposals. … The Clarion-Ledger has reported at least 1 in 10 parking meters are inoperable in Jackson, and annual revenue from meter change has plummeted by about $312,000 in 15 years. Last fiscal year, Jackson received $154,230 in revenue from about 1,200 parking meters. To compare, Oxford earned $470,902 in revenue from just 286 parking meters last year. Many of the city’s parking meters aren’t working. Possible changes include new meters that would allow debit card use. JPD traffic enforcement officers write parking tickets but the city’s Public Works Department is responsible for daily management and maintenance. In Jackson, parking meters, in effect from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, cost users 50 cents an hour.
About a quarter of the state’s inmate population is housed in facilities run by a private contractor on the mainland. But although the tide has turned elsewhere, Hawaii Gov. David Ige said he sees no way it will change here anytime soon. “The practical reality is that there is a significant shortage of prison bed spaces in Hawaii,” Ige said in a statement last week to Civil Beat. “We have an obligation to treat our prisoners humanely and in a way that protects their rights. Halawa Correctional Facility is currently operating at maximum capacity and has been able to avoid dangerous levels of overcrowding because the state has the option of sending inmates to the contracted facility in Arizona.” … In fact, a handful of states have been doing just that — including Colorado, which has shut down four for-profit prisons since 2009, and Mississippi, which closed a violence-plagued prison last month, even though the state is still footing the bill for the prison’s construction. But it’s still unclear whether other states will begin shifting in the same direction given that for-profit companies are deeply entrenched in prison systems at the state level. Hawaii’s situation is a case in point: In August, the state awarded a new, three-year contract to Nashville, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, the largest for-profit prison company in the country, to house up to 1,926 Hawaii prisoners in Arizona. In fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30, CCA housed a daily average of 1,388 Hawaii prisoners at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, about 70 miles southeast of Phoenix. That’s about a quarter of the state’s inmate population — the fourth-highest rate in the country, according to a 2015 report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. … Four years ago, Hawaii adopted the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, an “evidence-based” measure similar to the reform efforts underway in Colorado and Mississippi. According to the Council of State Governments Justice Center, a nonprofit organization that provided technical assistance in crafting JRI, it held a lot of promise for Hawaii. By shifting resources to efforts that promote rehabilitation and reduce recidivism, the state could slash its overall inmate population by more than 1,000 by the end of fiscal year 2018 — enough to bring back a majority of prisoners from the mainland. But, as Civil Beat has reported, the initiative has so far failed to achieve its projected impacts. As of Sept. 26, the state still housed 5,836 inmates, only 224 fewer than when the initiative was adopted in June 2012. …
A group suing over how Mississippi’s charter schools are funded and governed is pushing for a quick ruling in the case. The Southern Poverty Law Center, representing a group of Jackson residents, filed a motion for summary judgment Monday, telling Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas that the only dispute in the case involves interpreting the state Constitution, making it ripe for decision. Law center lawyer Jody Owens told reporters Tuesday that plaintiffs want to speed the case along because they ultimately expect an appeal to the state Supreme Court. The challengers say charter schools are barred from getting state money because they are not overseen by the state superintendent or a local school superintendent, and thus under previous state Supreme Court decisions, don’t qualify as “free schools.” The state Constitution says only “free schools” can get public money. That part of the constitution is in a section banning public money for religious schools. … The plaintiffs project that the state and Jackson will transfer $4 million this year to three charter schools. About one-third of that money is collected from property taxes on buildings, vehicles and equipment. …
Parents suing State of Mississippi about charter schools receiving public money
Source: Beth Alexander, WJTV, August 23, 2016
The Southern Poverty Law center announced they’ve asked a Hinds County judge for a summary judgement. They hope to speed up the process to determine if charter schools can constitutionally receive tax payer money. Parents and lawyers want a decision and fast. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit against the state in July saying that money taken from the Jackson Public School District and given to charter schools is unconstitutional and that property taxes shouldn’t be shared with schools they don’t control. ….
City Council has decided to go forward with privatizing three city departments with ClearWater Solutions. After hearing presentations since July from two operations and maintenance companies, ClearWater Solutions and Optech Monette, both of which offered to manage the public works, water utility and fleet departments at the start of the 2017 fiscal year, City Council members opted to hear more from ClearWater Solutions.
DEATH INVESTIGATION; INDIANOLA SHOOTING; GREENVILLE SURPLUSE; CITY AGREES TO PRIVATIZE
Source: WXVT 15, August 8, 2016
After several weeks of deliberations, the Greenville City Council has come to a decision regarding the privatization of three departments. … With a five-to-one vote, the council agreed to privatize the city’s water, public works and fleet departments. … Ward 6 Councilman James Wilson voted against privatization, saying he was unhappy with the previous council’s lack of action. … Mayor Errick Simmons said bringing in Clearwater Solutions should have a positive impact on the Greenville community. “The contract between our city attorney and Clearwater makes sure every employee would still be employed,” he said. “Every employee will receive a 5 percent pay increase. The health insurance will be less out of pocket for the employee. City residents will see better services.” …
Despite the bizarre politics on display in Cleveland, sometimes knowing where someone stands on an issue is pretty straightforward. We can be sure about this: The private prison industry doesn’t share our goal of ending mass incarceration. In fact, they profit more the bigger our criminal justice system grows—the country’s two largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, made $361 million in profits in 2015 alone. … In the past few weeks we’ve taken big steps towards getting our money back from the shareholders, executives, and Wall Street banks that profit from mass incarceration:
- Colorado’s Kit Carson Correctional Center, operated by CCA, will close at the end of this month—it will be the fourth private prison to close in the state since 2009. …
- In June, Mississippi announced that the notorious, privately operated Walnut Grove Correctional Facility will soon be closed. …
- U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has introduced legislation that would make it harder for private prison companies to take advantage of federal rules that provide massive tax breaks. After converting themselves into special real estate trusts in 2012, CCA and GEO Group have avoided hundreds of million dollars in federal income taxes—they avoided a combined $113 million in 2015 alone.
- Just last week, a federal judge ruled that the government must make contracts with private prison companies available to the public. …