The Mississippi prison system is a well-known hellhole. Its horrible reputation just got worse (if possible) after five inmates were killed, and two are currently missing since violence erupted at three facilities beginning December 29. The Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) states the deaths were partially precipitated by gang violence.
All Prisons on Lockdown
Every prison in the state is now on lockdown. The county coroner told a local newspaper that the situation was “surreal.”
Ironically, the disaster broke out at the same time a federal judge determined that terrible conditions at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility had been resolved, and the prison, which is run privately, no longer violates the inmates’ constitutional rights.
A lawsuit dating back to 2013 alleged that inmates had to deal with rats running amuck, guards using excessive force, and the failure to treat sick prisoners. That lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The spate of fatalities began on December 29, when Terrandance Dobbins, 40, died at the South Mississippi Correctional Facility. On December 31, Walter Gates, 25, was stabbed and succumbed after involvement in a riot at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.
On January 2, Roosvelt Holliman, 32, died in a similar incident. Gregory Emary, 26, also lost his life on January 2 at the Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility. Another Parchman inmate, Denorris Howell, 36, was found stabbed to death in his cell on January 3.
According to MDOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall, four of the five killings were gang-related. She did not specify which death was the exception. Other sources named Howell’s death as unrelated to the gangs. At the same press conference, Hall announced her resignation.
The violence was triggered by confrontations between the Black Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords. There are an estimated 3,000 Black Gangster Disciples and 2,000 Vice Lord members and associates in the state’s prison system. Hall did not comment on inmate injuries resulting from the riots.
Two Missing from Parchman Facility
Two men, David May, 42, and Dillion Williams, 27, were discovered missing from the Parchman facility during an early morning emergency count on December 28. The former is serving a life sentence for aggravated assault, while the latter was sentenced to 40 years for aggravated assault and residential burglary.
High Incarceration Rate
Mississippi has one of the nation’s highest incarceration rates, ranking third behind Oklahoma and Louisiana. It also has one of the lowest pay scales for corrections officers, making it difficult to attract employees.
Many guards become part of the problem. In 2014, 26 Mississippi corrections officers had criminal charges filed against them.
Due to guard shortages, some prisons remain in lockdown virtually all the time. In others, inmates are not housed in individual cells but live in one big room with bunks.
Dobbins’ sister says that prisoners are in control of the facilities, and guards must work with inmates to keep other inmates under control – a system that is obviously failing.
If you or a loved one suffered death or catastrophic injuries at the hands of the police, prison guards or jail staff, you may be entitled to damages. Visit our inmate abuse information page for more details. Ready to see if you have a case? CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.