An Honest Look Inside the East Mississippi Correctional Facility
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If you’ve seen some of the news reports recently about the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian, Mississippi, you might be tempted to believe it’s a terrible place. But, we hope after watching this short video, you’ll come away with a more accurate and clearer picture of the prison.
And don’t just take it from us. Fred Rogers is an administrator at nearby Rush Hospital in Meridian and is on the prison’s authority board—so he’s intimately involved with the prison and knows the real story.
“MTC was appointed to take over this location—which has been a huge improvement. They are a good corporate citizen, and the people that are here now are more attuned, in my opinion, to the well-being of the inmates that are here. The programs that they offer are exceptional.”
A little background: MTC began operating the facility in June 2012. Just a few months later in 2013, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi alleging inhumane and unconstitutional conditions inside the prison.
So, first of all, these allegations pre-date MTC operating the facility. And, the lawsuit isn’t even against MTC, it’s against the state.
But most importantly, because of all the changes and improvements MTC has made over the last six years, the allegations are largely unfounded and the photos and descriptions used by the plaintiffs and media do not reflect the reality.
Here’s a photo shown in the media. We don’t know when this was taken or where, but this is what the showers look like today.
Here’s another picture inside one of the cells. Again, not sure when it was taken but it certainly doesn’t reflect what they look like today.
Another photo shows burn marks on the outside of a cell. Inmate started fires were a big problem at this prison when we first took over. Inmates used to break the light fixtures and use the electrical wiring to spark flames.
But through enhanced security measure and other changes, these types of fires are very rare. This is what the cells looks like today.
So unfortunately, by using photos from years ago, the plaintiffs in this case have been successful in convincing the media that the East Mississippi Correctional Facility is an awful place.
But in reality, this is what you’d see if you were to walk through the prison today.
Clean, orderly hallways. Housing units where offenders are learning, growing, and improving their lives.
Of the approximately 1,300 men at the prison, the majority, are enrolled in one program or another. They’re learning how to fight their addictions. They’re becoming aware of the harm they caused from their crime. They’re earning their GED. In the end, they’re going through the rehabilitation process so that when they’re released they’ll have the tools to stay out of prison.
This bowling activing in one of the units is especially touching because it was led by incarcerated men who were trying provide entertainment for other inmates who struggle with serious mental illnesses.
Then there’s the video that shows a gang-related fight in one of the housing units. Despite any prison’s best practices to prevent incidents, they will happen from time to time. It is always unacceptable. But the frequency and severity of incidents has gone down since MTC has operated the prison.
And what you don’t see in the video is all of the behind-the-scenes staging and preparation to diffuse the fight. When there’s an incident, officers don’t just race in without assessing the situation and ensuring they won’t put their own lives at risk.
Officers immediately set up an incident command system. And after sufficient backup arrived and after a plan was put in place, officers moved in to get the situation under control. And when they first enter a hostile situation, they do so carefully and slowly to ensure they don’t put themselves at risk. It’s called a controlled entry. This is protocol for the state and most corrections agencies.
So how can a prison labeled dangerous, unconstitutional, and inhumane look like this? The allegations are not supported by what you see in the prison today.
Unfortunately, because of groups who are ideologically opposed to private prisons and overstretched and sometimes biased media, what you read and even see, may not reflect the truth.
And in the case of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility…far from it.
Just listen to some of the inmates who live there and from community leaders who have seen the prison firsthand.
“You know, I feel safe here,” says Michael Williams who’s incarcerated at the prison. “I haven’t been injured. I’ve been out here nine years, and I haven’t been injured or hurt. So, my experience with that let me know it’s a safe environment.”
Brad Allen echoes those thoughts.
“I can definitely say that I can walk through this facility every day and I never worry about what’s over my shoulder. I never worry about someone’s out to get me. I feel really good about a lot of the staff here; I sure do. They treat you like a human being.”
Stephen Montalto, also incarcerated at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, speaks candidly about his experience inside the prison.
“The officers are caring in the way that they—most of them—are caring in the way that they speak to us. And they treat us like people, not inmates. They give us respect, and we give them respect.”
Fred Rogers has seen how the men are treated and recognizes that while the prison, as all prison, has inherent challenges, MTC is committed to doing the right thing.
“Well, I would like to say that right now the staffing here, the people that are here, from the warden on down, truly, in my mind, have an interest in the inmates and their well-being, as well as helping them get back into society and live a normal life after their incarceration here.”
Doctor John McEachin, who is also an Authority Board member and has been inside the facility numerous times adds,
“I have made numerous tours, announced and unannounced. I have visited anger management classes and observed leadership skills being enhanced for the benefit of the inmates and the society—upon release—in general. Warden Shaw and his entire staff are to be commended for the effort they put forth on behalf of the inmates. They work in an arena that is unfamiliar to 99+ percent of our population. They need and deserve our support for their professional and caring spirit!”
While we don’t know the outcome…we do know…without a doubt that the East Mississippi Correctional Facility is safe, secure, and well-run. The men inside are treated with respect and dignity and encouraged and motivated to change their lives.
What you just heard represents the real real East Mississippi Correctional Facility. So, while the media has cherry picked photos from years ago and stated allegations as fact, we thought it was important for you to have the other side of the story.