Analysis: Watchdog gives bleak report on Mississippi prisons

Bloody clashes that brought Mississippi's prison system under federal scrutiny last year were part of a dramatic increase in reported cases of violence behind bars.

Posted: Apr 26, 2021 9:51 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Bloody clashes that brought Mississippi's prison system under federal scrutiny last year were part of a dramatic increase in reported cases of violence behind bars.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections logged 853 incidents of inmate-on-inmate assaults during the 2020 state budget year, which ended June 30. That was a 29% increase from the previous year.

The statistics are in a new report published Friday by PEER, the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review.

The report was released the day after Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill that will become law July 1 and make more inmates eligible for parole in a state with one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation.

Mississippi prisons have struggled for years with tight budgets, low pay and large numbers of unfilled jobs for frontline guards. PEER says that during the 2020 budget year, the vacancy rate for correctional officers was 54% at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, 45% at South Mississippi Correctional Institution and 40% at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.

The U.S. Justice Department announced its investigation of Mississippi's prison system after some inmates were killed and others were injured during outbursts of violence in December 2019 and January 2020.

The PEER report includes Mississippi Department of Corrections statistics for assaults inside prisons from state budget years 2016-2020.

The inmate-on-inmate assaults for those years: 610, 697, 705, 663 and 853.

The inmate-on-staff assaults that resulted in serious injuries: 181, 161, 83, 63 and 65.

The Department of Corrections transferred some inmates out of Parchman in early 2020 after the violence and amid evidence of shoddy living conditions, including broken toilets and mildew-infested showers.

The inmates were taken to the privately run Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility. PEER showed that Mississippi spent $44 million on private prisons during the budget year that ended June 30, 2019. That increased to $53 million the following year because of the emergency transfer from Parchman to Tallahatchie. The report noted that no state inmates were in the Tallahatchie prison as of this February.

PEER said the Mississippi Department of Corrections measures recidivism based on the percentage of former inmates who return to prison within three years after their release. The department said Mississippi's recidivism rate exceeded 30% from the 2016 to 2020 budget years. The peak during that period was 37.4% in 2020.

During 2019 and 2020, less than 2% of the Department of Corrections' total spending was for intervention programs that are intended to reduce the chances that people will leave prison and eventually be sent back. PEER said the prison system has an opportunity to curb recidivism “by more strategically investing the limited resources currently expended on adult prison-based intervention programs.”

Mississippi has 21 correctional facilities. That includes the three big state-run prisons — Parchman, Central Mississippi and South Mississippi. Three prisons are run by private companies, and 15 regional facilities are run by counties.

Twenty of the 21 facilities responded to PEER's request for information about intervention programs. The report said 19 facilities had treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, 17 had basic skills education, 16 had religious programs and services and 12 had vocational education.

PEER said the Winston-Choctaw County/Regional Correctional Facility did not respond to the request for information, and the regional facilities in Bolivar and Wilkinson counties provided lists of programs but did not provide spending information or participant data for all of them.

More than 50% of the money spent on prison-based intervention in Mississippi was for programs “with no known high-quality research supporting their effectiveness in reducing recidivism,” PEER said. The watchdog group recommended moving money into programs backed by research.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 514171

Reported Deaths: 10285
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34920557
DeSoto33270432
Hinds32652642
Jackson24876391
Rankin22516404
Lee16366245
Madison14932283
Jones14129247
Forrest13785260
Lauderdale12279324
Lowndes11314193
Lamar10663140
Pearl River9720244
Lafayette8855143
Hancock7839132
Washington7553169
Oktibbeha7216138
Monroe7036179
Pontotoc7003109
Warren6872178
Panola6768135
Neshoba6732210
Marshall6686142
Bolivar6451151
Union640898
Pike5933156
Alcorn5887107
Lincoln5533136
George510380
Prentiss505385
Tippah492783
Itawamba4857107
Scott478199
Adams4771125
Tate4765117
Leflore4736144
Copiah457095
Yazoo456692
Simpson4554117
Wayne443172
Covington434695
Sunflower4315106
Marion4279112
Coahoma4238109
Leake414090
Newton395782
Tishomingo384894
Grenada3777109
Stone365766
Jasper340866
Attala338790
Winston317892
Chickasaw316167
Clay312578
Clarke301295
Calhoun285949
Holmes271889
Smith269452
Yalobusha244247
Tallahatchie232053
Greene224749
Walthall221866
Lawrence219141
Perry213456
Amite209857
Webster206248
Noxubee188743
Montgomery181857
Carroll174941
Jefferson Davis173843
Tunica163339
Benton153139
Kemper145041
Choctaw136727
Claiborne134439
Humphreys132139
Franklin126029
Quitman107628
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845761

Reported Deaths: 16119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161862004
Mobile742411381
Madison53315732
Shelby38351369
Baldwin38104589
Tuscaloosa36052641
Montgomery34492781
Lee25590263
Calhoun22598518
Morgan22459406
Etowah20026518
Marshall18790316
Houston17741425
St. Clair16904358
Limestone16153219
Cullman16067303
Elmore15912294
Lauderdale14991306
Talladega14209299
DeKalb12985269
Walker12067380
Blount10729192
Autauga10526157
Jackson10170194
Coffee9425192
Colbert9341208
Dale9024192
Tallapoosa7273201
Russell708865
Chilton7042170
Escambia6956143
Covington6943195
Franklin6338108
Chambers5785142
Marion5413130
Dallas5295209
Pike5123109
Clarke484886
Lawrence4831129
Winston4780110
Geneva4643136
Bibb434594
Barbour369980
Butler3439100
Marengo342393
Monroe337466
Randolph334867
Pickens333988
Fayette330085
Henry320766
Hale318489
Cherokee318363
Crenshaw260777
Washington256952
Cleburne254560
Lamar251953
Clay251169
Macon245064
Conecuh193162
Coosa185547
Lowndes178268
Wilcox177638
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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