/Locked Down Inside the prison where inmates set each other on fire and gangs have more power than guards

Locked Down Inside the prison where inmates set each other on fire and gangs have more power than guards

Hours before, inmates had beat the 54-year old and told him he had to “follow the rules” his gang had established for prison life. He later wrote this in a handwritten pleading that he filed with Itawamba County Circuit Court. They took him to a gang leader, who told him that gang members were all around and that he could not run away or hide. In an interview with Mississippi Center for Investigative reporting, Wilemon said that he knew that the gang was evil and controlled prison life. A few nights prior, another inmate was beaten and burnt by gang members and left for dead. Donald Trump thanked Mississippi for its 2014 reforms to decrease prison population and provide job training and rehabilitation. The reality is quite different. According to ProPublica and the Mississippi Center for Investigative reporting, inmates are increasing. According to interviews, data and documents reviewed by news organizations, violence and gangs have never been worse. This is more evident than at South Mississippi Correctional Institution. With rising violence and a lockdown that bars visitors entering its seventh month, the prison is struggling to fulfill its fundamental duties as a correctional facility. An internal prison memo states that some guards are allegedly falsifying counts rather than counting inmates as required. Over the past few years, the state has drastically reduced its prison spending. The number of guards in the three state-run prisons have dropped from 905 in July 2017 down to 627 two year later. However, the number and number of inmates remains the same. Because the pay is so low, there are many vacant positions. South Mississippi Correctional Institution, known as SMCI, now has an inmate-to-correctional officer ratio of 23 to 1, far higher than that of other states or the federal prison system. David Fathi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project, said that “this is not a sustainable condition.” According to his sister Keneshia Lee’s, the inmate-to guard ratio was “among the most extreme I’ve ever seen”. Elijah Anderson, 35, was imprisoned for meth possession. He was struck his head against concrete in his bunk, and knocked unconscious. She said that he wasn’t found by correctional officers for several hours. She said, “It’s almost like he’s in a vegetative condition.” “He can hear us but he cannot talk to us. They said he had bleeding in the brain.” Cliff Johnson, the director of the MacArthur Justice Center, at the University of Mississippi, stated that clients often beg to be kept from SMCI due to the violence. They are afraid for their lives.” Officials from the Mississippi Department of Corrections say they cannot discuss Wilemon and Anderson’s incidents as they are criminally investigated. No charges have been filed so far. Although the details of the incidents are redacted in official reports, they confirm that there were indeed two incidents. Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hale acknowledged that her agency is struggling to manage the state’s prisons because of a lack of staff. She stated that she tried to convince the Legislature to approve guard raises and has done what she could with what she had. Fathi stated that Wilemon’s “horrific”, and Wilemon’s, attacks just days apart, left “no doubt” that SMCI was unsafe. And if a prison doesn’t provide safety for inmates, then it won’t provide safety for staff. ‘A Ticking Time Bomb” The pages of Greene County Herald, a weekly newspaper in this area, show the transformation of SMCI into a valuable partner and an unstable tempest. The 516-bed minimum-security SMCI, which has a maximum of five16 beds, was a blessing for Leakesville (a small town with less than 1,000 people) when it opened in 1990. Russell Turner, Herald editor, said that many of the inmates back then were teens who had been involved in trouble and needed a second chance. He said that it was common for people to feed the work crew when inmates were working together on a community project. After corrections officials closed down a Parchman unit that was rife with violence in 2010, this mindset changed and they began sending the worst criminals in the state to SMCI. According to Greene County Circuit Court records, 26 prisoners were charged in 2009 with crimes at the prison. Two of them were accused of assaulting correctional officers. In 2018, this number had increased to 55. Nine of the charges were for assaulting correctional officers, 16 for aggravated attack. Last year, one inmate was charged for murder and three others with escape. Michael F. Wilson was a convicted murderer who had previously beaten two victims to death. Turner was touched by the incident. Turner stopped by Turner’s house on July 5, 2018. He found Wilson, 47, covered with sweat, wearing camouflage, and sitting on his front steps. Wilson stated that he needed to be taken to the hospital as his wife was still in labor. Turner offered him a ride, but he had a gun at his fingertips. “I didn’t know he was an escapee inmate,” he said. Turner told Turner that he found out about Wilson’s escape from prison shortly after he dropped him off at the hospital. Turner stated that he was shocked to hear of the escape. It took two hours before the public was notified. According to an investigation report from the attorney general’s, prison officials didn’t know that he had escaped. According to the report by the attorney general, even after SMCI officials had discovered the escape, they did not “effectively communicate” with outside agencies, including the county sheriff’s. Wilson was captured on the Mississippi Gulf Coast two days later. Turner was upset by the delay. Turner was upset by the delay. According to an incident report by the Mississippi Center for Investigative reporting, Eddie Shorty, a 57-year old inmate, was found bleeding in his cell by a nurse. Turner now calls SMCI “a ticking bomb.” Inmates claim they heard Shorty, who was being held in a different part of the prison to ensure his safety, beg an officer to move him. His cellmate Jace Hicks had been abusing and extorting Shorty. One inmate said that they listened to Eddie screaming for help while he was being beat to death on May 29. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation. “We beat on the cell doors trying to summon help for hours…all the officer in the tower did was shout over the P.A. He said that no one came to help and that they should shut the hell up. “Nobody did a single security check or count that night.” According to MDOC policy officers must count inmates at least once an hour. However, a memo from the SMCI superintendent addressed the issue of officers not counting. “Any staff falsifying count will result in a reprimand. Grace Fisher, MDOC spokesperson, declined to comment on the memo that was posted in an inmate room. She stated that she does not discuss matters of internal security. According to the State Medical Examiner’s Office Shorty died from blunt force injuries and strangulation. Hicks, who pleaded not guilty in an interview with the Mississippi Center for Investigative reporting, said that Shorty started sexually assaulting him. Hicks claimed that authorities removed his blood-stained boxes, which he claimed were evidence of sexual assault. Hicks admitted that “nobody came for an additional four or five hours after the two men had literally been fighting to the death.” Two months later, an inmate broke into Tony Howard Jr.’s maximum security cell and set it ablaze with gasoline. According to an incident report from the Mississippi Center for Investigative reporting, an officer was able to hear prisoners screaming that an inmate was set on fire at 5:25 p.m. Aug. 3. He also saw a “big black cloud of smoke” according to an incident log. Albert Wilson, who claimed Howard had previously thrown feces on him has been indicted. Wilson did not reply to a request for comment. Howard’s parents stated that they could not visit him until he was transferred at Jackson hospital to the burn unit. He was released from the hospital and sent to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. Howard did not reply to a request for comment. Linda Howard, Howard’s mother, claimed that her son attacked because of a lack of supervision by officers. “If I go see my son,” she said, “I’m patted down underneath my arms and between mine legs.” Wallace Carpenter of Richton was a correctional officer at SMCI over a dozen years. He was hospitalized after he suffered a black eye from an attack by inmates in the dining area. He said, “The response time by fellow officers was excellent.” Carpenter went back to work. Carpenter said that he and other veterans officers had quit in 2015 as the prison’s staff shrank and became more violent. He said, “I didn’t feel like pressing my luck.” According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Mississippi has the lowest starting salary for correctional officers and jail guards in the country. The starting salary of a correctional officer at SMCI starts at $12.33 an hour. A kitchen manager at a Hardee’s nearby starts at $36,000 per annum, which is more than $10,000 more than the $25,000.650 that a new guard would make. The average annual salary of a U.S. correctional officer is $49,300. Hall requested that lawmakers raise the starting salary for officers to at minimum $28,000. This is slightly less than the Alabama starting pay. Instead, the Mississippi Legislature approved a 3% increase. Even though the current starting salary is low enough to allow a prison guard to raise a family of three, it does not qualify them for food stamps. The number of officers who are still around is increasing. Parchman prison, Mississippi’s most notorious prison was manned by one officer per 11 inmates as of July 1. Central Mississippi Correctional Facility had one officer per 17 inmates, while SMCI had one officer per 23 inmates. According to the federal Bureau of Prisons, an average federal prison officer is responsible for monitoring 9.3 inmates. The ratio in Arkansas is 6.6 per officer, while it is 5.2 to 1, in Louisiana and Alabama. MDOC declined comment to address the high inmate-to guard ratios in the state’s prisons. However, it noted in a fiscal 2018 report that the ratio was lower at one guard for every 11 inmates. Officers are forced to work overtime because of a shortage of staff. This problem was highlighted when Jeffrey Epstein, an accused sex-trafficker, committed suicide in a New York City federal jail. Media organizations reported that two of the officers who were on duty that night were doing overtime shifts. Prison officials will often ask an officer to work a second 12 hour shift after the end of a shift at SMCI. Some officers are asked to work a second 12-hour shift after the end of their first shift. Eldon Vail, former Washington state prisons director, said, “Oh, my! That’s dangerous.” He said that officers could fall asleep while watching inmates if they don’t get enough rest. Kevin Schaal (63), a prisoner serving time for possession of a weapon, sale of controlled substances, and drug possession, is ‘They’re scared for their Lives’. Schaal has spent most of his life behind bars. He claimed that SMCI is run by gangs, which he called “mobs”. The new prisoner won’t be allowed to sleep in the official-assigned bed when he arrives. He is told where to sleep by the gangs. Schaal stated that he will likely see a wire frame without a mattress when he arrives at the bed. This is because they already took it for themselves. Schaal stated, “I slept on steel for approximately two weeks.” Gangs also take a picture of a new inmate at SMCI with their cellphones. Although they are not allowed in prison, these phones are used widely. Even if an inmate is moved to another part of the prison his photo will still be there. Jay Hughes, a state representative, visited SMCI on April 8. Turner, who is part of the prison’s citizen advisory committee, was there to join him. Hughes, a Democrat hailing from Oxford, stated that he was told by a counselor that she didn’t feel secure while he was campaigning for lieutenant governor. Turner and Hughes said that Turner had corrected Hughes by saying that a top-ranking prison official told her she didn’t feel safe. Fisher, the MDOC spokeswoman replied that the department “denies alleged claims that gangs are running SMCI or any other prison.” This assertion is contrary to the agency’s public safety mission.” ‘It just tore me up’ According to an incident report by the Mississippi Center for Investigative reporting, Henry Armstead was found lying on his back between two benches in a dayroom. According to the report, he had suffered severe injuries and was severely beaten. Demetrius Armstead was his mother. She said that she didn’t find out her son had been injured until six days after he was released from prison. Her son was placed on life support. She said that her son’s swelling head was a result of a brutal beating. She became angry at first. She broke down after that. She said, “Everything in my body just went down to my stomach.” His mother stated that he was transferred to Mississippi State Penitentiary after he suffered severe injuries. Fisher stated that MDOC could not comment on the Wilemon, Armstead and Howard cases, but they remain open. Demetrius Armstead demanded a federal investigation into violence against her son and other victims. Lockdowns are a permanent way of living at SMCI. With decreasing staff and increased violence lockdowns have become a permanent part of daily life. Inmates claim that even though courts have ruled that all inmates are entitled for an hour of exercise every weekday, this is rare at SMCI. The prison’s Area II has been closed to visitors since January. MDOC described the situation at SMCI as a “partial locking down.” While courts generally allow corrections officers to lock down prisons or cancel yard calls when there is threat of violence, those same courts have made a distinction for other reasons, Fathi stated. The 1st U.S. decided a lockdown case. Circuit Court of Appeals, 1974. Judges noted that such emergencies “cease being emergencies when they continue indefinitely.” Hall stated that lockdowns are necessary when there isn’t enough staff. She stated in April that she does so for the safety and well-being of staff. “We do it for the safety and well-being of those incarcerated.” We do it for the general public.” She also acknowledged that prolonged lockdowns can be dangerous for staff members. “Gangland,” Wilemon claimed that he was held hostage by the gang for over 12 hours. He finally alerted an officer who allowed him to go outside and walk to the medical clinic at the prison. He fell asleep on the grass and never made it. He was airlifted from Forrest Gener.
He said that doctors at al Hospital in More than 50 Miles removed his gallbladder and ruptured spleen. He added, “They also repaired me small intestines.” Although an incident report states that Wilemon was airlifted from Forrest General to receive treatment, the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting is unable to confirm the extent and severity of his injuries. SMCI released Wilemon from the hospital and returned him to “Gangland”. Jerry Mitchell is an investigative journalist for the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. This non-profit news organization seeks to hold government officials accountable and empower citizens. Email him at Jerry.Mitchell.MCIR@gmail.com and follow him on Facebook at @JerryMitchellReporter and on Twitter at @jmitchellnews.