The delay upset Turner. In the wake of the escape and subsequent inmate violence, SMCI appointed a new prison superintendent. In the middle of the night on May 30, , a nurse on her rounds found year-old inmate Eddie Shorty bleeding in his cell, according to an incident report obtained by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. Inmates say they heard Shorty, who had been placed in a separate part of the prison under closer scrutiny to ensure his safety, begging an officer for weeks to move him because his cellmate, Jace Hicks, was abusing and extorting him.
No help ever came, the inmate said. MDOC spokeswoman Grace Fisher declined to confirm the memo, which was posted in an inmate dayroom, or comment on it. After finding Shorty in his cell at a. It was unsuccessful.
MTC’s Wilkinson Prison in Mississippi Put Gangs in Charge | The Marshall Project
Paramedics pronounced him dead a half hour-later. We want the person who did it to do the time. Hicks, who has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge, told the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting in a telephone interview that he was sleeping on a mat on the floor, trying to stay cool, when Shorty jumped on top of him and began sexually assaulting him. Hicks said authorities disposed of his blood-stained boxers, destroying what he claimed was evidence of sexual assault. A little over two months later, an inmate broke into the maximum security cell of Tony Howard Jr.
At p. Albert Wilson, who accused Howard of previously throwing feces on him, has been indicted for inflicting second-degree burns on his fellow inmate.
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After recovering, he was sent to another prison, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. Howard did not respond to a letter seeking comment. SMCI needs to be shut down, Howard said. The guards are just there.
In , an attack by several inmates in the dining room gave him a black eye and sent him to the hospital for observation. Carpenter returned to work. But in , with the staff shrinking and the prison growing more violent, he said he and other veteran officers quit. And while the number of inmates has largely remained the same, the number of officers guarding them keeps going down.
In , the vacancy rate for officers at SMCI was less than a third. Mississippi pays the lowest salary for jail and correctional officers in the nation, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The average salary for a correctional officer in the U. The current starting pay is still low enough for a prison guard raising a family of three to qualify for food stamps. The officers who remain are charged with overseeing more and more inmates. The Central Mississippi Correctional Facility had one officer for every 17 inmates. At SMCI, it was 23 inmates for every officer.
The average officer working in a federal prison is responsible for watching 9. In Alabama, the ratio is 9. The lack of staff forces officers to stay on for overtime shifts, a problem highlighted nationally when accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in a federal jail in New York City this month. Two of the officers on duty that night were working overtime shifts, media organizations have reported. At the end of the second shift, some are asked to work a third. Without proper rest, he said, officers can fall asleep when they are watching inmates, he said. Hall said her department is doing all it can to hire qualified officers.
Until Mississippi raises the salaries of correctional officers, this problem will persist, she said. Kevin Schaal, a year-old inmate who is serving time for sale of a controlled substance, drug possession and possession of a weapon, has spent much of his life behind bars. It starts when a prisoner arrives and officials assign him a bunk and a bed number.
The gangs tell him where to sleep. And when he arrives at the bed the gangs assign him, he will probably see a wire frame with no mattress because they have already seized it for themselves, Schaal said. The problem of gangs controlling beds at SMCI has become so common that prison Superintendent Joe Errington told officers in a recent memo to cite inmates who did this with a rules violation, which can keep them behind bars extra months or years. Even if an inmate is transferred to a different part of the prison, his photo arrives ahead of him.
Gangs charge inmates a series of fees for the most basic aspects of life. They have declared control over the beds, wall phones and showers. Inmates say they are forced to pay their debts with money, food, tasks such as carrying contraband for the gangs or Green Dots an online currency used by inmates. If an inmate files a grievance, that paperwork may be intercepted by gang members, who sometimes punish inmates with boiling water, electrical shock and beatings, said Ross Parker Simons, a lawyer from Pascagoula, Mississippi, who represents prisoners at SMCI. On April 8, state Rep. Turner, the newspaper editor, joined him because he is a member of the citizen advisory committee to the prison.
Both men say a top official at SMCI told them that the gangs were running the prison.
Such an assertion contradicts the public safety mission of the agency. The tour came just days before a correctional officer found Henry Armstead on his back between the benches in a dayroom, according to an incident report obtained by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. She found her son on life support.
His swollen head reflected a severe beating, she said.
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After a long stint in the hospital, he has been transferred to the hospital at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, his mother said. Despite the passage of time, Demetrius Armstead said she has yet to hear from prison officials regarding what happened to her son. However, when a case is being investigated, as the case is here, the release of information is limited. Demetrius Armstead called for a federal investigation into the violence against her son and others. With declining staff and increasing violence, lockdowns have become a permanent way of life at SMCI.
Although courts have held that all inmates are entitled to an hour of exercise each weekday , that rarely happens at SMCI, inmates say. Schaal, the inmate who complained about gangs in the prison, has a son he has yet to meet, who was born a year and a half ago. Courts have generally allowed corrections officials to lock down prisons and cancel yard calls in response to threats or violence, but those same courts have drawn a line for other reasons, Fathi said. In a lockdown case decided by the 1st U. And we do it for the public. In a recent interview, Hall said continued lockdowns fuel problems for prisoners.
Wilemon said the gang held him hostage for more than 12 hours. Learn How. Office of Justice Programs. NCJ Number:. The procedures, guidelines, discipline therapy, case management, and program model for Mississippi's Department of Corrections' Regimented Inmate Discipline program are presented in this handbook for program staff members.
Mississippi's Regimented Inmate Discipline program is a correctional model designed to be effective with non-violent first offenders, who possess the mental capacity and emotional stability to profit from para-military training and from psychological interventions. By design, RID participants are subjected to an initially intense, externally-mandated system of forced behavioral changes. Forcing behavior change is only temporarily effective.