JACKSON, Miss. (WTVA) - Mississippi State Auditor Shad White says an audit released Thursday shows widespread misspending at the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC).
“Actions by previous agency leadership and an absence of proper spending safeguards led to significant losses for taxpayers, according to the audit,” read a release from the Auditor’s Office.
Mississippi State Auditor Shad White
According to the auditor, the current MDOC leadership requested the audit, and the audit revealed:
- Vital accounting records had been burned or destroyed by previous agency leadership, which limited evidence of many agency purchases.
- MDOC leadership made illegal “comp” time buyouts to top agency leaders. When an employee has worked more hours than a normal workweek, they sometimes earn compensatory time – “comp time.” Accumulating comp time allows those employees to take time off later and still be paid. In some situations, an employee may ask the agency to “buy back” the comp time (to be paid instead of taking time off). A “buy back” is only legal for certain employees and under certain conditions. In this case, large, illegal buyouts were given to some agency employees already making over $100,000 per year in salary. The former Commissioner of MDOC received an illegal buyout of $109,446. Another former Deputy Commissioner received over $240,000 in buyouts, including one lump sum payment of $160,000.
- Thousands in improper travel reimbursements were paid to the former Commissioner of MDOC.
- Thousands in improper travel reimbursements were paid to a member of the State Parole Board.
- Twenty massage chairs were purchased for MDOC staff, along with thousands spent on rugs, art, Himalayan salt lamps, CDs, and other items for multiple meditation rooms at MDOC facilities.
- Thousands were spent to upgrade MDOC’s executive suite.
Also, according to Thursday's news release:
"Auditors also found serious issues at the state’s restitution centers. Incarcerated people are sometimes held at restitution centers while they work to pay back money they owe as a result of judgments against them. Inmates should have been informed when they worked enough to fully repay what they owe, but the audit revealed MDOC was not verifying the amounts that inmates had paid so the inmate could cease work."
At the beginning of the year, former MDOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall resigned.
Burl Cain is the current MDOC commissioner.