Over the past 18 months we’ve had two major Mississippi state agencies go up in flames folks with the second crash and burn at MDOC looking like it will be spectacular. Here is a Clarion Ledger three pack on the widening scandal that now strongly appears to include murder conspiracy (H/T RFP in comments) :
Inmate’s killer: Officer opened victim’s cell door ~ Jerry Mitchell
Epps probe: ‘Mississippi Hustle’ started with sex scandal ~ Emily Le Coz
Lawyers: Epps said prison companies ‘spread’ money ~ Jerry Mitchell
And of course with these major state agency scandals breaking loose in Mississippi (on Phil Bryant’s watch) it is only natural Ignatius chimed in on Louisiana politicos being altar boys.
@SLABBEDblog Epps probe. You guys in Mississippi make the elected officials in LA look like alterboys 😉
— Ignatius Reilly (@Ignatiusjeff) November 24, 2014
I think the difference involves law enforcement because the prison-industrial complex corruption problems are also well cataloged in Louisiana, even if under investigated by the authorities:
LOUISIANA INCARCERATED: How we built the world’s prison capital ~ The Times Picayune
In Mississippi it appears just a few, albeit very well connected politicos were benefiting from the money train while in Louisiana every Sheriff in the state is financially incentivized in the system. Therein lies the main difference.
The problem in Mississippi goes back way farther as I remember an excellent Wall Street journal series on Mississippi paying private prisons for empty beds during the Ronnie Musgrove administration a decade or so back. I could not find the old WSJ articles but I did find a few links of interest including one that mentions some of the same players including State Representative Bennett Malone of Carthage, who was mentioned in Jerry Mitchell’s “spread the money” article above. Here is the salient snippet from Mitchell’s piece:
In 2002 or so, then-Corrections Commissioner Robert L. Johnson negotiated with Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, a private prison, for a per-inmate cost.
House Corrections Committee Chairman Bennett Malone of Carthage “was right up in the middle of the negotiations, which was highly improper, to increase the rate for Walnut Grove,” he said.
Malone could not be reached for comment.
State can’t pay prison contracts ~ Emily Wagster AP 7/2/2002
Mississippi Pays $6 Million for Empty Prison Bunks ~ Matthew Clarke 7/15/2003
In July, 2002, the legislature met to consider a bill which would reduce the private prison funding from $54.7 million to $48.7 million. The bill, which passed 34-14 in the Senate, was defeated 64-51 in the House by the combined lobbying efforts of private prison operators and their friends in the House, according to Musgrove. This amounted to a de facto refusal to validate Musgrove’s renegotiated private prison contracts. House speaker Tim Ford, D-Baldwyn, openly worried that the vote could result in legal action against the state. Moore agreed.
Chair of the House Penitentiary Committee Bennett Malone, D-Carthage, said the House was sending a strong message of disapproval to Musgrove. “We think it sets a dangerous precedent in dealing with corporations when we make agreements and then the governor cancels them without legislative input,” said Malone.
So when the talk turns to a widening scandal I think it is players like Malone that will be scrutinized heavily but the rumor mill holds the scandal will be far wider in both numbers and geography than one politician from Carthage, Mississippi. Sure enough Jackson Jambalaya just rolled out the following:
All indications are there is much more to come. Stay tuned.