Ex-Louisiana warden chosen to lead Mississippi prisons

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he is nominating Burl Cain to take charge of the Mississippi prison system.

Posted: May 20, 2020 3:55 PM
Updated: May 20, 2020 5:08 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he is nominating a former warden of Louisiana's Angola prison to take charge of the Mississippi prison system that is under federal investigation and has struggled for years with tight budgets, short staffing and shoddy living conditions.

Burl Cain must be confirmed as corrections commissioner by the Mississippi Senate. He would replace former state Rep. Tommy Taylor, who has been acting commissioner since shortly after Reeves became governor in January.

Burl Cain

Reeves said Cain was chosen after a nationwide search, and he was a success story at Angola.

“They went from beatings to Bible study,” Reeves said as Cain appeared with him at a news conference.

Speaking of the job in Mississippi, Cain said: “I look forward to the challenge.”

Mississippi has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. The U.S. Justice Department announced in February that it is investigating the state prison system after several inmates were killed or injured in outbursts of violence in late December and early January. At least 42 inmates have died since then, many after illness.

Mississippi prisons also faces multiple federal lawsuits filed on behalf of inmates.

Two lawsuits say that the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman is dangerous, vermin-infested and unfit for human habitation. Attorneys in both of those lawsuits are being paid by entertainment mogul Jay-Z, rapper Yo Gotti and Team Roc, the philanthropic arm of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.

Mississippi Center for Justice, the ACLU of Mississippi and some private attorneys filed a lawsuit last week seeking broader testing for the new coronavirus and additional protections for inmates at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and South Mississippi Correctional Institution.

“Even in these crowded 100-person double-bunked zones, prison officials have not adequately implemented rudimentary pandemic response protocols, such as frequently cleaning and disinfection of living units and provisions of sufficient cleaning supplies,” the lawsuit says. “Residents regularly run out of soap and cannot wash their hands. Some use unlaundered personal towels to try and clean common areas.”

Mississippi has about 18,000 prisoners in custody. Reeves coronavirus testing had been done on 56 inmates, and 20 of them tested positive. He also said 58 prison employees had been tested, and nine of those were positive.

The number of coronavirus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

As the coronavirus started to spread in the U.S., Mississippi banned visitors to prisons and it limited the transfer of inmates between prisons.

The Department of Corrections said in late April that gloves and additional soap were being provided in prisons. A news release said hand sanitizer is available in “strategic locations,” including dining areas. In court papers filed in mid-April, the Department of Corrections said hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol is a security concern, and distributing it to all inmates is not feasible.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and Mississippi Prison Industries Corporation have provided many of the masks being used by inmates and prison employees. The Department of Corrections said Parchman inmates are using 5,000 masks donated by REFORM Alliance, affiliated with Jay-Z.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844594

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1160612006
Mobile741651379
Madison53255732
Shelby38313368
Baldwin38061589
Tuscaloosa35996641
Montgomery34473781
Lee25541263
Calhoun22582518
Morgan22441406
Etowah20009517
Marshall18771316
Houston17723425
St. Clair16863358
Limestone16123218
Cullman16032303
Elmore15902294
Lauderdale14945306
Talladega14186299
DeKalb12957269
Walker12011380
Blount10700192
Autauga10512157
Jackson10151194
Coffee9412192
Colbert9325208
Dale9013191
Tallapoosa7248201
Russell707465
Chilton7015170
Escambia6951143
Covington6926195
Franklin6337108
Chambers5778142
Marion5400130
Dallas5283209
Pike5114109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4777110
Geneva4640136
Bibb434094
Barbour369180
Butler3433100
Marengo342393
Monroe336666
Randolph334067
Pickens333188
Fayette329885
Henry320566
Hale317989
Cherokee316963
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254360
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184647
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139041
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
30° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 30°
Columbus
Clear
26° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 26°
Oxford
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 28°
Starkville
Clear
27° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 27°
High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast for our Saturday. This will keep us filled with plenty of sunshine in our weather forecast for our Saturday.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather