If there’s a Hell on earth, a good candidate is the privately run East Mississippi Correctional Facility, located 90 miles from Jackson near Meridian.
What makes the conditions at EMCF even worse is that fact that 80 percent of the inmates suffer from some form of mental illness, as the prison as designated as the state’s facility to treat such conditions, but there is no psychiatrist on staff and little in the way of medical care overall.
A class action suit was filed by inmates in 2013, and a federal trial was finally underway in 2018.
Dockery vs. Epps and a Tale of Horrors
The class action lawsuit is entitled Dockery vs. Epps, with the latter referring to the state’s former prison commissioner, Christopher Epps.
These days, however, Epps is also an inmate -although not at EMCF - since he pleaded guilty in 2015 on federal bribery charges. Epps admitted receiving at least $1.4 million in kickbacks and bribes from companies contracting with prisons.
The claim alleges that EMCF houses dozens of “seriously mentally ill” inmates who face lockdown for weeks, even years, at a time in filthy cells. Many cells do not have working lights, and inmates are left in the dark. A lack of functioning toilets is a major issue in cells, with prisoners forced to defecate into plastic trash bags or Styrofoam trays.
The only way to get this waste out of the cell is to push it through the cell door slots, where no one picks it up. Rats and mice are everywhere.
The complaint specifies some of the most egregious medical circumstances endured by inmates, including one man who scrotum swelled “to the size of a softball” but was denied medical attention for weeks. By the time he was seen, testicular cancer had invaded his abdomen.
Another inmate went blind after denial of glaucoma treatment, and a prisoner with a huge, untreated open wound was placed in solitary conferment in a filthy cell. He required emergency surgery for a life-threatening infection.
The claim contends that the staff on hand is not properly trained, permitting acts of violence to continue unabated.
The private prison outfit running the facility, Management and Training Corporation (MTC), gives new hires with no experience only a three week training course.
Guards frequently resort to beating inmates or spraying them with chemical agents, even if the prisoners are not posing a threat. Once beaten or sprayed, inmates are denied medical care. Malnourishment is common among inmates.
According to the claim, the state has abdicated its responsibility by turning over the facility to MTC and failing to monitor the company’s performance or hold them accountable. It refers to conditions at EMCF as “grossly inhumane” and notes that such conditions have cost many prisoners their sight, limbs, health and their lives.
So far in 2018, four prisoners have died at EMCF.
The Fire This Time
At EMCF, fires are a way of life. Prisoners set them for various reasons, but a primary one is to catch the attention of understaffed guards. Inmates experiencing a medical emergency or another type of crisis know that setting a fire is one of the only ways to bring attention to their plight.
In 2016, according to the prison’s own records, 1,217 inmates and 47 staff members were injured by fires. Since the prison only holds approximately 1,200 men, that means virtually everyone was affected by a fire or many inmates suffered fire-related injuries multiple times in one year.
Materials damaged from fires are not removed – it’s just one more thing inmates must deal with in their cells. A deputy warden testified at the trial that currently, inmates set fires at least three times a week.
The state maintains that prisoners are “sabotaging” the facility by setting such fires. The state also maintains that the organizations suing Mississippi, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center have an “agenda” and want to “litigate private prisons out of business.”
If MCF is a example of how for-profit prisons operate, and it is certainly is, maybe litigating them out of business is a smart idea.
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. We file federal civil rights lawsuits.
Call 866.836.4684 to connect with our legal and investigative team to learn your rights. No-cost. Always Confidential.