View Full Version : Prisoners' advocate files legal complaint: overcrowding

05-17-2003, 10:39 AM
May 16, 2003

Prisoners' advocate files legal complaint

By Clay Harden

A prisoners' rights attorney is asking that the state be held in contempt of court and fined $10,000 a day for what he says is crowding at two prisons.

Attorney Ron Welch charges the Mississippi Department of Corrections is housing more than 1,000 inmates at the State Penitentiary at Parchman and Central Mississippi Correctional Facility over capacities set in the Gates v. Collier federal court order on prison conditions. His complaint is outlined in a motion filed Wednesday in federal court.

MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps was out of state Thursday and not available for comment. MDOC issued a statement saying, "We are confident that we have not violated any of the court orders issued in Gates v. Collier."

Welch, however, blames the Legislature, not the MDOC, for prison crowding.

"The Legislature is a lot like a deadbeat dad because its tough-on-crime laws have produced prisoner children that it does not want or is unable to support and yet will not give up for adoption," Welch said. "If the money is not there, then the prison population must be reduced."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis has set a hearing on Welch's motion for May 27 in Aberdeen.

In an order Tuesday, Davis said "the court is concerned about over-crowding at several facilities."

Welch claims MDOC is also violating ACA guidelines by not providing enough working showers, toilets and sinks for inmates.

Welch blames lawmakers for underfunding the agency by $64 million and for failing to pass a bill that would reduce prison population.

The bill authored by House Penitentiary chairman Bennett Malone, D-Carthage, would allow certain inmates to earn 30 days off their sentences for each day they work or spend in an education or rehab program.

Malone said that with only 1,000 empty beds and 85 more inmates a month entering the system than leaving, things look bleak.

"I will not vote for a tax increase to house prisoners," he said Thursday.

Based on May 1 figures, the most available data from the state, there were 5,663 prisoners at Parchman, 88 short of capacity, and 3,125 inmates at the Central Mississippi, 108 short of capacity.

Welch said Parchman was 643 prisoners over capacity and Central Mississippi was 376 over capacity on May 12. He said he based his figures on daily prisoner count sheets and personal inspection.

Malone blames Senate Corrections Committee Chairman Rob Smith, D-Richland, for the bill dying.

Smith said the bill needed revising and "got caught in the final five-day deadline " of the 2003 session.

05-17-2003, 11:04 AM
Parchman has always been over crowded, even when Tracy was there. That is one of the most God awful places I have ever seen.