/‘We must do better’ Gov Reeves rolls out plan for troubled Mississippi prisons

‘We must do better’ Gov Reeves rolls out plan for troubled Mississippi prisons

Reeves’ second day as governor was spent laying out his prison plan. Reeves appointed a seven-member committee to search for the next chief of the department. This will be responsible for stabilizing the agency, which has more than 2,000 employees and roughly 20,000 prisoners. Reeves stated that we have all witnessed the disasters the current state our prison system has allowed. There will always be people who want to cause pain on others… While we will never completely eradicate evil, we can do better than that. Reeves stated that the search for a new Commissioner will begin immediately and be led by Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs. Flaggs is a former chairman of the House Corrections Committee. The committee also includes Jody Owens, Hinds County District attorney Jody Owens and Joel Smith, former members of Parole Board, Kathy Henry, Steve Rushing, and Sean Tindell, Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge. Owens, the Hinds County D.A. was formerly the Southern Poverty Law Center of Mississippi which represented prisoners in numerous lawsuits against state. Waggoner was instrumental in initiating a federal investigation that resulted in the indictment and conviction of Christopher Epps, former corrections commissioner, and Cecil McCrory, a businessman, for orchestrating a scheme to bribe and kickback. Reeves announced that Tommy Taylor (another chairman of the corrections committee and current mayor) will be acting as interim commissioner. Taylor and three members of the search committee were absent from Thursday’s announcement. The department will be in chaos as the interim and permanent commissioners arrive. Many violent outbreaks within the state’s prisons have been the result of years of state underfunding, overcrowding, and several other incidents in recent months. One of these was the January 1st massacre that claimed the lives of at least five prisoners. Advocacy groups summoned the U.S. Department of Justice, and this week a high-profile lawsuit was filed to highlight the crisis. As low salaries and high stress work environments discourage potential employees, hundreds of vacant positions in the correctional department are still open. Physical conditions in prisons are not adequate for basic needs. Inmates can sometimes roam around units, increasing the risk of violent outbreaks. Family members and advocates of Mississippians incarcerated blame the Legislature. Reeves has been a leading leader for the past eight years. Many times, these pleas were made by Department of Corrections staff. Some have expressed concern that the state might privatize its prisons systems due to mounting problems. Reeves refused to answer a question about long-term privatization when he was asked Thursday. Reeves said that he was less interested in the past than he is in what the future holds. “There is nothing that can be done about the past… I know that many people would rather blame others and point fingers but it doesn’t really matter. Reeves pointed out other instances in Thursday’s 32-minute press conference. Reeves stated that the “ex-administration,” which was led by former Gov. Phil Bryant was distrusted by the Legislature. He said that “the former administration,” led by former Gov. Reeves could not answer many questions due to his limited time in the job. He was unable, for example, to explain why there were no other buildings available to house the Unit 29 inmates and how they got to Parchman. Reeves stated that he has not set a specific timeline for the search for a permanent commission, but added, “we’d rather get it right than get it done quickly.” It will be a long journey, but it begins today.