/Incarcerated women at state prison object to planned move

Incarcerated women at state prison object to planned move

Burl Cain delivered some news after Kenneth Copeland had finished his sermon. MDOC had made a decision to move the women from CMCF to a section of the prison that houses men. The men would then be moved to the unit that many women call home. Some men cheered. The boos came from the back of gym, where women sat on raised bleachers and folded chairs. CMCF is the state’s only prison for juveniles and women. However, MDOC has had more men in the facility since the 2000s than it has women. MDOC will move the women from 1A Yard, their current home, to 720, which is a men’s area near the prison’s back. MDOC claims the move will make CMCF more secure by limiting inter-relationships between incarcerated women and men. Some of the 870 women who live at CMCF worry that MDOC will take away their programs. The women claim that 720 is a “roach infested, filthy and uninhabitable lockdown facility with sewage problems” which is indicative of a pattern at CMCF of unequal treatment. Some of the women protested the decision earlier this month by writing letters that they circulated in prison and then delivered via their families to state senators. Mississippi Today obtained one of the letters. It reads, “Dear Women from CMCF.” This is the right time. Either we stand together, or we fall. This goes beyond housing. Our situation must be assessed carefully by women. The current administration has certainly done so. “If we allow them to move me to 720, that will be the end of us,” Cain said in an interview with Mississippi Today. He described the move as a positive for the women at CMCF. Cain stated that MDOC intends to expand the women’s rehabilitation programs, not limit them. Cain stated that the women should not have been kept in the same compound with the men. You won’t find that anywhere else in the country. We have the opportunity to seperate them and allow them to have their own prison, campus, or both — it’s the right thing. It doesn’t matter if they don’t like it. They’ll love it because they’re going to see it’s great and they’re going to make it really good. Cain said that the women appeared “happy” when Cain announced the move at the revival. He said, “I don’t know why they booed at me.” “I couldn’t hear. Everyone was shouting at each other and having a great time. Two women from each 1A Yard zone were asked by a warden to provide feedback on the move on April 5. MDOC called CMCF “atypical prison” and “the most dynamic” because of its size, varying types and number of housing units. Former Gov. William Winter built the prison to house women, who were previously held at Parchman State Prison. Today, CMCF houses the largest prison population of any state-run jail. CMCF houses approximately 1,800 men. It also acts as the state’s reception and diagnostic center. The letters from CMCF women state that despite the poor conditions at 1A Yard they do not want to lose their lives and the memories they have made at the unit. Some buildings at 1A Yard have mold growing on the walls, sewage backing up in the bathrooms, and drinking water is brown. The women still feel that 1A Yard is central to their daily activities. They can participate in many programming and activities, including fine art painting, crochet classes and apparel and upholstery, choir, seminary, cosmetology, and gardening. One woman said, “We have a life there, as miserable as it is.” The women fear that if they are relocated to 720, they will lose their access to their programs and their quality of life. They claim that 720 is in the same poor housing situation as 1A Yard, but has more physical space for services. 720 is farther from CMCF’s medical center, which could impact access to care for elderly and frail women. Open shower bays and urinals are used in the unit’s architecture. One letter states that there is no reason to remove our quality of living and give it to men. Rogers speaks to prisoners almost every day as part of her work. She describes the move as “a move that will cause death” for some women. However, she is concerned about the possibility of riots if MDOC doesn’t address women’s concerns. Rogers stated that the women know they are convicted and have been sentenced. Rogers said that MDOC keeps adding more punishment to the already severe punishment. The prison system’s foundation is not rehabilitation, but punishment. They will continue to punish anyone they can. … Once in a while, you get people boiling point and they explode.” Some women claim that the move to 720 is part a larger pattern of discrimination at CMCF. The women point out a series of changes that took place last year when MDOC replaced the long-serving superintendent who supervised the facility. One letter states that women lost their jobs at the central kitchen. After an escape of an inmate, the older women were moved from their elderly-friendly homes. CMCF began holding activities and programs sporadically. One letter states that “the real problem is one involving unequal treatment.” 2020 saw the Department of Justice announce that it was looking into conditions at CMCF. Cain was appointed commissioner by Tate Reeves five months later. Mississippi Today was told by Cain that the move was part of his plan for Washington County Regional Correctional Facility to have a GED program. He also plans to relocate the women to CMCF. Cain declined comment on the letters which state that the move will also be made to accommodate a men’s boxing programme. Cain stated that MDOC would rename 720 and it would be called the “Mississippi Women’s Prison” or another suitable name. “Prison” is not something I want to use. MDOC plans to build a church of 6,000 feet and a recreation facility at 720, which will allow the prison expand its programs for women. Cain stated that MDOC will build a church at 720 and a recreation center at 720 to allow prisoners to feel happy. Rogers stated that it is ironic that MDOC men make these decisions for women incarcerated at CMCF. She described the move as a way to marginalize women in prison by “moving out of more than they are into” and suggested that MDOC “start releasing elderly women and women with health problems” if it must happen. Make the move if you are going to make any type of move. Move them if they have a support network and somewhere to go.