Justice Department finds problems with violence, gangs and poor conditions in 3 Mississippi prisons

Feb 28, 2024, 8:56 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi failed to protect inmates in three prisons from violence because it does not adequately supervise incarcerated people, control contraband or investigate harm and misconduct, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday.

“These basic safety failures and the poor living conditions inside the facilities promote violence, including sexual assault,” the department said in a report. “Gangs operate in the void left by staff and use violence to control people and traffic contraband.”

The report covered conditions in Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, South Mississippi Correctional Institution and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility.

“People do not surrender their constitutional rights at the jailhouse door,” Kristen Clarke, the department’s assistant attorney general for civil rights, said during a news conference Wednesday.

The report says the conditions in those three prisons are similar to problems that the department reported in 2022 at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

The new report says “appalling conditions” in restrictive housing practices at the Central Mississippi and Wilkinson prisons cause “substantial risk of serious harm.”

“Restrictive housing units are unsanitary, hazardous, and chaotic, with little supervision,” the Justice Department said. “They are breeding grounds for suicide, self-inflicted injury, fires, and assaults.”

The department said the Mississippi Department of Corrections does not have enough staff to supervise the prison population.

“The mismatch between the size of the incarcerated population and the number of security staff means that gangs dominate much of prison life, and contraband and violence, including sexual violence, proliferate,” the Justice Department said. “Prison officials rely on ineffective and overly harsh restrictive housing practices for control.”

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Justice Department finds problems with violence, gangs and poor conditions in 3 Mississippi prisons