View Full Version : Ex-warden: Jails not for abuse

07-26-2005, 09:25 AM


HANCOCK COUNTY - Jail time should not be confused with a relaxing vacation, but inmates are not there for abuse sessions, according to one of the state's top corrections experts.

Don Cabana, who spent six years as warden at the state penitentiary at Parchman, and 35 years in the field of corrections, said jails are high-stress environments, where a tiny disruption can be deadly.

"Prison is a tough environment to work in, the staff is under a lot of stress and often forced to make split-second decisions," he said. "But, inmates are not there to be abused."

Recent accusations made in a federal lawsuit, and others from a former corrections officer, claim inmates were ruthlessly beaten and sexually abused by guards at the Hancock jail.

Attorneys who filed the suit say other former employees have expressed a whistle-blowing interest after a former corrections officer told reporters about beatings she witnessed during the seven months she worked at the maximum-security jail.

Cabana said there is an understood "code of silence" among guards, which once broken can trigger a snowball effect.

"Once one officer cracks, then others will usually start to follow," Cabana said. "But in situations where the abuse goes on for a long period of time, everyone at the prison eventually knows about it."

Cabana, now chairman of the criminal justice department at the University of Southern Mississippi, said tactics used by guards to control a situation can sometimes be mistaken for excessive force, but "the staff is still expected to uphold the law."

"Prisons are not supposed to be pleasant experiences, but there's certain constitutional standards that jail officials have to abide by," he said. "Leadership sets the tone, and if an officer looks up the ranks and sees that the administration thinks abusing inmates is OK, then this sort of thing can happen."

While he said allegations like the ones against Hancock are not everyday occurrences, Cabana said most jail officials do "everything they can to prevent abusive situations."