Gov. Tate Reeves addresses prison crisis, lays out improvements

Gov. Tate Reeves acknowledged there are problems within the state’s prison system.

Posted: Jan 23, 2020 11:14 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (WTVA) - Gov. Tate Reeves addressed the growing crises at Mississippi’s prisons.

Since the end of December, 10 inmates have died across the state, many by violent means.

“There is a leadership crisis in our prison system,” he said. “For too long, there has not been accountability. There has not been a steady hand on the wheel. I am grateful that Commissioner Taylor is beginning to make progress. These problems did not spring up overnight, and they will not be solved overnight, but the necessary work has begun. The lives and dignity of all within this system must be protected.”

He and Tommy Taylor, the interim leader of the Department of Corrections, visited the State Penitentiary at Parchman and the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility on Thursday.

Last week, the governor announced Taylor’s appointment to serve as interim commissioner. Taylor fills the position formerly held by Pelicia Hall who stepped down earlier this month.

MDOC closed Walnut Grove in 2016 due to violence and gang activity. The state is still paying for the facility, but no inmates are housed there.

Reeves believes a solution to the current crisis could be to reopen Walnut Grove. The building is not perfect, he said, but better than some buildings at Parchman. The governor also believes moving inmates to Walnut Grove would limit inmates passing contraband or hiding it.

Discussions about the status of inmates at Parchman are ongoing and no final determination for a long-term solution has been made yet. Work to improve the conditions at Parchman is underway.

Reeves instructed the Department of Public Safety to assign an officer from the state Bureau of Investigation to serve at Parchman. The officer will be stationed at Parchman to investigate any criminal activity, done by inmates of correctional staff, and provide a full, independent investigation. That officer has been selected and is being deployed, Reeves announced Thursday.

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