Private Prison Firm Leaves Mississippi After Its Prison Is Called ‘Cesspool’
This prison is much worse than most prisons imagined in Hollywood B movie women in prison thrillers.Its past includes a shady mayor who became warden and who took an underage girl to an offsite hotel for sex, who installed his own soda machines, who is now serving time himself. The age of prisoners in the juvenile prison got adjusted upwards to fill the prison, and the facility mixes 13 year olds with a teen and adult population of up to 22 years old. The guards are gang members. Read on, it gets worse.
Among the conditions described in the report released last month:
Prison staff had sex with incarcerated youth, which investigators called “among the worst that we’ve seen in any facility anywhere in the nation.”
Poorly trained guards brutally beat youth and used excessive pepper spray as a first response.
The prison showed “deliberate indifference” to prisoners possessing homemade knives, which were used in gang fights and inmate rapes.
Some guards had gang affiliations — a finding confirmed to NPR last year by former inmate Justin Bowling.
“A lot of times, the guards are in the same gang,” Bowling said. “If an inmate wanted something done, they got it. If they wanted a cell popped open to handle some business about some fighting or something like that, it just pretty much happened.”
A GEO spokesman said via email that the abuses documented by the government occurred before GEO took over Walnut Grove in late 2010. Another private prison company, Cornell Companies, ran the Walnut Grove facility until Cornell was purchased by GEO.
At the Justice Department, Jonathan Smith does not accept that statement. He said troubles at the prison continued after GEO stepped in.
In an interview last Thursday, Mississippi state Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps had nothing but praise for GEO.
“Since GEO took over August 2010, have there been incidents? The answer is yes,” he said. “Will there be more? The answer is yes. But they’re doing better, and I’m pleased with it.”
On Friday, the news broke that GEO was pulling out of all three prisons in Mississippi that it manages by July.
Later that day, Epps had changed his tune. He told The Associated Press that a new operator at all three state prisons may “do a better job in the operation of the facilities” than GEO did.