View Full Version : MDOC report on death row due today

07-21-2003, 10:47 AM
Yet more excuses from Chris Epps!
And actually he is completely wrong on prisoners not reporting anything positive about Death Row .. they do ..WHEN they are given anything positive to report. Which is not often in Parchman.

Come on give me a break we aren't talking about diamonds and watches here.


July 21


MDOC report on death row due today---ACLU says inmates' rights still

Status report

U.S. Magistrate Jerry Davis said his order in a lawsuit filed on behalf
the 68 male death-row inmates is not permanent. He said he will
responses from both the Mississippi Department of Correction's
recommendations and the American Civil Liberties Union Prison Project
before issuing a final order. A final order is needed before the 5th
Circuit Court of Appeals can consider MDOC's appeal.

Among his recommendations:

Provide shade in exercise yards and tennis shoes for use in recreation

Provide daily showers for all 1,000 inmates in Unit 32 when the cell
temperatures reach 90 degrees or above or provide ice water as an

Provide better mental-health care.

Ensure cells are clean when prisoners are transferred between cells.

Ensure inmates receive cleaning supplies and that the prison laundry is

Provide better insect control.

Protect inmates from those with serious mental problems.

Improve lighting.


A box fan whirring in a mid-90-degree cell caught Corrections
Chris Epps' attention as he talked to a death-row inmate.

"It is still too hot in here," said the inmate, standing shirtless in
stifling cell.

The heat, nearly as inescapable as the State Penitentiary at Parchman
itself, has attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union charging
the state's not doing enough to follow court orders and improve

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis ruled in May that MDOC had violated
death-row inmates' right against cruel and unusual punishment by
subjecting them to excessive heat, insects, human excrement, rantings
psychotic inmates and poor mental-health care.

Davis denied the state a stay in reporting on compliance with his order
while the state appeals to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. MDOC
must give a progress report by today. Davis last week also rejected
attempt to prevent American Civil Liberties Union representatives from
touring death row on Wednesday.

Epps led The Clarion-Ledger on a tour of death row last week to present
MDOC's case.

Some inmates lay in their beds with the fans blowing on them. Others
watched television or the visitors from behind their cell bars.

Epps called some inmates by name.

"You only clean this place up when someone is coming," one inmate
complained to Epps during the tour.

The Clarion-Ledger was not allowed to talk with inmates.

Margaret Winter, an ACLU Prison Project attorney from Washington, D.C.,
and two associates plan to interview inmates.

"It would be funny, if not so sad, that at the same time (MDOC) was
I couldn't go into death row with a camera and tape recorder because it
would create a security risk, that The Clarion-Ledger had a reporter
photographer there," Winter said.

Epps responded he doubts if any prisoner would tell the media or anyone
else anything "positive" about death row.

Epps says MDOC objects to three of 10 recommendations in the federal
order, chiefly because of security concerns.

The judges' order that all 1,000 inmates in Unit 32 receive daily
when the cell temperatures reach 90 degrees or above is not possible,

"You would have 7,000 movements of inmates a week," Epps said. "When
miss that one step, that is when you will have an incident where
will get hurt. The case is about death-row inmates, but the judge went
outside of the 68 and applied it to all 1,000 inmates in the maximum
security Unit 32, which is outside the scope of the case."

Death-row inmates shower three times a week.

The order also suggests frequent ice water as an alternative, something
Epps says is too expensive for an agency with a $68 million deficit.

"The ice machines we would have to buy cost $14,000," Epps said. He
water from a sink in an empty death-row cell. "Here's your water."

All death-row inmates, unlike other prisoners at Parchman, have
outlets with fans, televisions and radios.

Ceiling fans pull some heat out of Unit 32-C. But large fans near the
entrance to the rows of cells provide little air circulation in front
the cells and none inside them.

"We took the plug-ins out of the rest of the cells on Unit 32 because
inmates were hurting themselves and others by sticking stuff in them,"
said Epps, who said death-row inmates don't abuse the privilege as much
other prisoners. "If we gave fans and plug-ins to everyone on Unit 32,
prisoners in other units would want them.

"All of this is above national requirements from the American

Epps also said the judge's order to provide shade and tennis shoes for
death-row inmates in recreation pens is dangerous.

"If you cover the cages with a tarp or build a cover over it, you would
obstructing the view from the guard towers," said Epps.

Epps said inmates have used tennis shoes to kick guards and each other
well as to destroy equipment.

"We started out with an open exercise yard, but had to go to pens
they were stabbing and killing each other," Epps said. "That is why we
doing what many state and private prisons are doing and going with

Winter says Epps is offering excuses.

Epps said MDOC will comply with the judge's order to increase lighting
each of 1,000 cells on Unit 32.

"This is a requirement from ACA," said Epps, of the group that
Parchman in 2002. "We are choosing among 3 lights."

ACA will return for a reaccreditation inspection in 3 years.

Lights and other objects, such as fence wire and plastic fan blades,
frequently used by prisoners to make or hide homemade knives called
shanks, Epps said.

"We want to make the right choice," said Epps.

The MDOC has made some other right choices, Epps said.

A new medical contract with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,
replace an agreement with the University of Mississippi Medical Center,
will fulfill the judges' order for better mental-health care, he said.

"We have 2 full-time psychologists at Parchman," Epps said. "I am not
prison staff handing out medications. They have other things to do."

Winter said several death-row inmates were found to have severe
psychological problems and should be separated from other inmates.

But Epps said after all inmates were interviewed by psychiatrists, none
needed to be segregated.

Epps claims the problem with ping-pong toilets, which transfer wastes
one cell to another when flushed, has been solved.

A prototype wooden screen outside a cell on Unit 32-C will lead to
protection from mosquitoes for inmates, officials say.

Metal will be ordered so the screens can be fabricated by inmates in
prison metal shop to save money.

Parchman will continue its mosquito eradication program, Epps said, per
the judge's order.

Epps also said MDOC is complying with rules that cells be clean when
prisoners are transferred between cells, that inmates receive adequate
cleaning supplies and that the prison laundry is clean.

Winter said she hopes the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will deny
MDOC's appeal based on what inmates have been telling her.

"I hope MDOC will become part of the solution and work with (the ACLU)
Judge Davis to find effective solutions to help the inmates on death

(source: Clarion-Ledger)