DOJ report finds ‘serious and systemic’ problems at Mississippi jail

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — A Mississippi prison violated the constitutional rights of inmates by failing to protect them from violence, failing to meet their mental health needs, failing to take adequate steps to prevent suicide and relying too heavily on prolonged solitary confinement, the US Department of Justice said on Wednesday.

The department released the findings of its two-year investigation into the state’s oldest prison, Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. The investigation began after an outbreak of violence in late 2019 and early 2020.

“The problems at Parchman are serious, systemic, and exacerbated by serious staffing and oversight deficiencies,” the department said in its report.

He said the Mississippi Department of Corrections “has been advised of these deficiencies for years and has failed to take reasonable steps to address the violations, in part due to non-functional liability or corrective action.” quality assurance”.

“Years of willful indifference by MDOC have resulted in serious harm and substantial risk of serious harm to those confined to Parchman,” the department said.

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Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said 10 homicides and 12 suicides have occurred among Parchman inmates since 2019.

The department said it found “gross understaffing” and “unchecked gang activity.” He also found that the insufficient security gave detainees “unfettered access to contraband.”

Clarke said Mississippi officials have been cooperating with the investigation and the Justice Department and the state will work on steps to resolve the issues.

“This is the first time the Justice Department has found that a prison’s use of solitary confinement violates the constitutional rights of people without serious mental illness,” Clarke said on a conference call announcing the findings. .

The Justice Department has investigated prison conditions in recent years in other states, including Alabama, Texas, South Carolina and Georgia.

The department continues to investigate conditions at three other Mississippi prisons – Southern Mississippi Correctional Facility, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility.

Violence has been a longstanding problem in Mississippi prisons, where many guard jobs go unfilled. State Department of Corrections officials have said for years that it has been difficult to find people to work as guards because of low pay, long hours and unsafe conditions. Salary has increased over the past two years.


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