/Rep Bennie Thompson to seek federal investigation into ‘ongoing failures’ within MDOC

Rep Bennie Thompson to seek federal investigation into ‘ongoing failures’ within MDOC

Thompson, the only Democrat in the state and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee made the announcement via Twitter Monday. Thompson tweeted, “I will be asking that the U.S. attorney general launch an investigation into safety, security and health standards within the Mississippi Department of Corrections.” “This is unacceptable.” A spokesperson for Mississippi Today said Thompson hopes that such an investigation will force lawmakers to improve conditions in the state’s prisons. The Mississippi’s ailing corrections system has been under increased scrutiny since reports of violent fights between prisoners at various facilities (Parchman and South Mississippi Correctional Institution, Leakesville) surfaced in the new year. Officials announced that the Mississippi Department of Corrections had declared a state lockdown and that state troopers and other employees of the Department of Public Safety entered Mississippi State Penitentiary, Parchman, to “restore order.” Mississippi Today reached out to MDOC in order for comments. Thompson’s request is in response to a flood of requests from prisoner rights advocates for Department of Justice to investigate issues within Mississippi prisons. Thompson signed a joint letter to DOJ’s Civil Rights Division Tuesday. It argued that Mississippi prisons will continue to lose more people if they don’t intervene immediately. According to the letter, the primary reason for prisoner violence is the understaffing of facilities. The letter states that Mississippi’s indifference to harm caused by its inadequate staffing violates federal rights of those in its care and custody. “Public reporting, political pressure and private advocacy have failed in meaningful results.” The letter also states that “Mississippi’s deliberate indifference to the risk of harm caused by its grossly inadequate staffing violates the federal rights of the people in its custody and care.” Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a national group, made parallels between the conditions in Mississippi prisons and the conditions found in Alabama prisons that were deemed unconstitutional by the Department of Justice. Thompson and Rep. Michael Guest (a member of Mississippi’s congressional delegation) have publicly spoken out about the state’s prison crisis.