/No water, no lights and broken toilets Parchman health inspection uncovers hundreds of problems, many repeat violations

No water, no lights and broken toilets Parchman health inspection uncovers hundreds of problems, many repeat violations

Each year, the state Department of Health inspects more than 400 cells for problems like flooding, leaks, lack of power, light, water and lights. Also, there are broken toilets and sinks. According to Mississippi Today’s documents, Rayford Horton prepared the annual inspection. A spokesperson for state health said that an official report would be available in the next week. She declined to comment further. There are hundreds of other sanitation issues in the prison. These include black mold, mildew and exposed wiring. Raw sewage, raw sewage, and showers that weren’t working. Unit 29, with more than 1,500 beds has the highest number of violations. However, the inspector also found deficiencies in all open Parchman units. A Mississippi Today review revealed that many of these issues have been repeated in state health inspection reports from 2016. Grace Fisher, spokesperson for the agency, stated that work orders have been issued by Mississippi Department of Corrections to address these issues. Most of them are due for completion in July. Cliff Johnson, the director of the MacArthur Justice Center, Mississippi, said that “the implications of long-term exposed to unhealthy and dangerous circumstances are not a mystery.” He has also litigated prison conditions in Mississippi before. People are getting sick. Our prisons are a place where people are dying. People are dying in prisons. These reports are sent each year by the governor’s office to the health department, which has no enforcement power over MDOC. Gov. Phil Bryant’s office didn’t respond to our requests for comment. MDOC provides a corrective reply to every report containing a deficiency. It also explains how and when it will be corrected. In some cases, the same deficiencies that were cited in a specific cell are also cited in another cell the next year. Craig stated that in some cases, this was due to prisoners causing damage or destroying the fixtures. Parchman’s structural needs have been acknowledged by state officials, but lawmakers have not yet approved funding for such renovations. Corrections commissioner Pelicia hall asked for $22.3 million from state legislators to fix Unit 29 at Parchman in fiscal 2020. Bryant’s most recent budget recommendation called for $6 million to fund the first phase. Parchman received a budget totaling $36 million from the legislature this spring. This is 2.6 percent less than it received in the previous year and $22.8 million less than Hall requested. Fisher stated that the department still requires $22.3 million to renovate Unit 29, but Fisher did not provide a figure. Fisher did not know the total cost of prison renovation. Parchman’s housing and services facilities are subject to “annual structural and environment inspections”, as required by state law. However, other correctional facilities are not subject to such inspections. The health department can inspect other Mississippi prisons for accreditation by a major national prison trade organization. According to Ron Welch (an attorney representing state prisoners in Mississippi’s 1970s-era case), courts had ordered the state to inspect state institutions regularly and fix any deficiencies. This was before the 2011 federal class-action lawsuit Gates against Collier. Welch stated that regular inspections help the state save money and prolong buildings’ lives, but maintaining Parchman prison, which is the oldest in the state, was a difficult task. He pointed out legislative budget cuts in the past few years as a reason for the problem. “If they don’t maintain these buildings it will cut the building’s life in half.” This means that taxpayers pay twice the amount for these buildings than they would if they maintained them. Photographs and videos taken during Parchman inspections over the past three years mirror images of the conditions that have surfaced on social media recently. These include men sleeping on floors and mold in showers, food trays with very little and dirty water. Family members of Mississippians currently imprisoned decried the conditions at a protest against mass incarceration held outside the Rankin County Courthouse last week. Malaika Canada, one member of that family, read aloud a statement by Unit 29 prisoners: “Imagine waking to rats eating your snacks; possums and raccoons on your bunks,” Canada said. “Snakes falling off the roof, spiders hanging above your head…having water heated in the microwave as the shower water is too cold. “Being dehydrated for days and afraid to drink water that’s brown, smells like sewage, within pipes filled with mold and rust.” Fisher said that MDOC provides bottled water to inmates and has a contract to control pests. A federal lawsuit is pending against the state over conditions at East Mississippi Correctional Facility, Meridian.