The Trump administration plans to expand the use of private prisons, for-profit corporations that make money for their shareholders but provide few benefits for taxpayers. Such prisons are notorious for abuse, and some have proved such “horrors,” in the words of one federal judge, that they have been placed under federal supervision.
A recent federal civil rights trial held in Jackson, Mississippi, laid bare some of the appalling conditions at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF), run by the privately held Management and Training Corporation, an Orwellian name if there ever was one.
MTC operates two federal prisons and over 20 facilities nationwide.
The lawsuit was filed against the state of Mississippi by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“The Mississippi Department of Corrections allows this prison to fail at even the most fundamental tasks: keeping prisoners safe and secure, treating mental illnesses, providing basic medical treatment, and providing a sanitary environment,”
according to Jody Owens, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s managing attorney for Mississippi as quoted in an ACLU press release.
Mississippi among Worst States for Inmate Abuse – EMCF and MTC Lawsuits
In Mississippi, private prisons must operate at costs 10 percent lower than those operated by the state.
In Mississippi, a state that already spends less per prisoner than other states, and the state pays MTC just $9,500 annually per minimum security prisoner, which averages to $26 per day.
That means fewer correctional officers at such facilities, which leaves inmates more at the mercy of other, more dangerous inmates. That means inmates must protect themselves, and crude weapons inflict constant damage.
An overwhelming number of inmates at EMCF suffer from mental illness, but the cost cutting means there is little in the way of doctor or nursing supervision. While 80 percent of prisoners have some type of mental illness, there is no psychiatrist on staff. The person in charge of mental health for Mississippi prisons is a marriage and family therapist, not a physician.
Less recognition and treatment of mental illness leads to more violent episodes among inmates. Even worse, incentives are granted when the warden stays within or under the budget, but there are no penalties for even the most egregious occurrences, such as when inmates die under dubious circumstances, as happened to four men in 2017.
At the trial, the warden testified he was unaware of situations in which prisoners were beaten so badly they needed hospitalization, although such incidents were common.
Gangs Rule as Guards Run for Cover
In the absence of corrections officers, gangs rule the prison. It’s the gangs who decide who stays in which cell.
The lack of guards, however, results in many inmates not staying in their cells, leaving them free to prey on more vulnerable prisoners. One photo introduced at the trial shows a cell with a floor covered in blood.
In other privately run prisons, assaults on both prisoners and staff are significantly higher than in state-run institutions.
At the trial, one inmate said he was raped in a cell, but when he informed a female guard, she simply made fun of him and the rape was unreported. A surveillance video shows an inmate beaten by others for nearly 15 minutes before corrections officers showed up.
Another inmate testified that he was attacked by a prisoner with a pipe while two guards in the vicinity ran away. At the time, the inmate under attack was shackled at the wrist, ankles and waist, and he was beaten for at least three minutes before other guards arrived to help.
While they rescued the beaten inmate, the guards simply told the attacker not to do it again. The beaten inmate had recently been released from the hospital due to a stab wound. He found his attacker was now in the adjacent cell.
Trump Reverses Obama Decision to Limit Private Prisons
As with so many other issues, President Donald Trump has reversed former President Barack Obama’s ending the DOJ’s private prison reliance.
At the same time, Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeat the canard that the country’s violent crime rate is rising, while credible evidence shows it dropping.
The crackdown on illegal immigrants has been an even bigger boon to the private prison industry, with 65 percent of those detained by the Department of Homeland Security winding up in private prisons.
The horrors of the private prison industry will end up causing more injuries, death and overall abuse. The only winners are the shareholders and owners of these facilities.
If you or a family member are a victim of abuse, violence, or medical neglect in a private prison run by MTC or other private company, you can expose the violence and you may be entitled to compensation for violations of your civil rights. Call 866.836.4684 our legal and investigative team to learn your rights. No-cost. Always Confidential.