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.

Confirmed Cases: 98190

Reported Deaths: 2969
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7189161
DeSoto569464
Harrison394175
Jackson358570
Rankin337280
Madison334190
Lee293572
Forrest254275
Jones252780
Washington227879
Lafayette221240
Lauderdale2078126
Bolivar187370
Oktibbeha181952
Lamar176237
Lowndes160858
Neshoba1599104
Panola151631
Sunflower149146
Leflore143882
Warren141850
Pontotoc130116
Monroe125369
Pike124954
Copiah119933
Scott118027
Coahoma117530
Lincoln112353
Marshall111821
Grenada110136
Holmes110060
Yazoo106733
Simpson105847
Tate101938
Union101224
Leake96538
Adams94937
Wayne91521
Pearl River91453
Prentiss88418
Marion87537
Itawamba85921
Alcorn83411
Covington83223
George78513
Tallahatchie78324
Newton78124
Winston74619
Tishomingo71039
Tippah70518
Chickasaw69524
Attala67225
Clarke61149
Walthall60426
Clay59919
Hancock59822
Jasper58415
Noxubee55816
Smith55115
Calhoun52912
Tunica50015
Montgomery47020
Claiborne46516
Yalobusha44414
Lawrence43914
Perry43221
Quitman3905
Greene38917
Stone38013
Humphreys37715
Jefferson Davis34711
Amite34210
Webster33913
Carroll33112
Wilkinson30818
Kemper29115
Sharkey26714
Jefferson2439
Benton2333
Franklin1993
Choctaw1876
Issaquena1063
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 138162

Reported Deaths: 2405
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson20221352
Mobile13558295
Tuscaloosa9029118
Montgomery8894187
Madison800580
Shelby616450
Lee601761
Baldwin564052
Marshall398345
Etowah357545
Calhoun356944
Morgan334929
Houston295421
Elmore273948
DeKalb246121
St. Clair237937
Walker236987
Talladega219030
Limestone215720
Cullman192220
Dallas179926
Franklin179430
Autauga179127
Russell17903
Lauderdale175934
Colbert168426
Blount162915
Escambia162024
Jackson161112
Chilton160930
Dale141844
Covington141628
Coffee13936
Pike122011
Chambers117942
Tallapoosa117385
Clarke110916
Marion97629
Butler91740
Barbour8967
Winston75112
Marengo72820
Pickens67215
Randolph67213
Bibb66411
Lowndes65927
Hale65328
Geneva6505
Lawrence63625
Cherokee62013
Bullock61015
Clay5929
Monroe5928
Washington56012
Crenshaw54532
Perry5436
Conecuh53811
Wilcox53211
Henry5145
Macon48318
Fayette47311
Sumter43419
Cleburne4085
Lamar3822
Choctaw35212
Greene30615
Coosa1743
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