Recent news of a portion of Parchman Prison literally being set ablaze amid reports of out of control gang violence, along with a revisit to last year’s legislative session it is painfully obvious this State’s elected officials are among the most useless creatures to grace this planet with the lone exception of lining their own campaign coffers (and pockets) with special interest money, which they are expert.
Prison brass warned of dangerous conditions a year ago, but lawmakers did not act ~ Kayleigh Skinner and Adam Ganucheau
In the same January 2019 hearing, Manisa Ragsdale, a lieutenant with the corrections department, told the committee that employees’ working conditions were outright dangerous.
“One of the main concerns that I see happening every day is low staffing,” Ragsdale said. “If we were to have a major incident to happen, there is no one there to respond to the incidents.”
Ragsdale continued: “People are having to come in early just so they can have adequate staff to run the shift for one day. It’s kind of dangerous. If you have something to happen you don’t have anyone to respond. If I’m in a major crisis, who is going to come and see about me?”
We’re damn lucky in South Mississippi because we have the best run regional facility in the entire state, thanks to a seasoned Prison Warden and local Sheriff. That facility is the exception in Mississippi not the rule.
Corrections officials last year failed to fill hundreds of positions available for guards. In a Sept. 6 email obtained by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting, a correctional officer, Terrence Shaw, told state lawmakers how dangerous it had become working in Unit 29, Parchman’s maximum-security unit.
A building at Unit 29 that should have at least five officers had only two, and some buildings had only one, he wrote. “The National Guard army should have been called in several years ago.”
“Staff morale is down, staff quitting left and right,” Shaw wrote. “All staff working deserve a pay increase that is fit to live.”
Inmates and experts alike say the current violence in no small part arises from the prison’s sheer state of disrepair. Building facilities — water, lights, sewage — are crumbling. The prison’s drinking water has violated the Safe Drinking Water Act dozens of times, and the Environmental Protection Agency has cited the prison’s sewage system for three years for violating the Clean Water Act, documents show. Parchman’s accreditation by the American Correctional Association, which sets standards for prisons across the country, lapsed in 2017.
Alger Retherford spent more than four decades behind bars at Parchman for murder and robbery. A member of the prison’s repair crew, he was released in May.
“We have come full circle, right back to 1975, the same conditions,” Retherford, 62, said.
You do not have to look very hard to see the signs of a hollowed out state government everywhere, where the youngest, most vulnerable of our citizens have been roundly failed by child protective services, which has been under federal court supervision for years with little to no improvement. Its a story that repeats across state government.
The causes of these problems can be easily traced to the people calling the shots up in Jackson for the past 16 years. Mississippi voters reward their politicians for failing as a general rule and that was true last year as our new Gov is the architect of stripping state agencies of resources. Is it any wonder people are leaving Mississippi in droves, especially younger folks, who do not have to go far to escape the third world armpit of the US.