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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Blog Archive - November 17, 2007 "State Sanctioned Murder"

How, as a judge or governor, do you decide who it's okay to kill?  How do you justify it?  Does personal bias come into play during trial and later appeals?  Do political agents factor in?  We are a supposed civilized society...with the highest prisoner population in the world, and still advocating state sanctioned murder.  Hell, we just decided it's wrong to execute juveniles and the mentally retarded.

Can you vote?  Then, whether or not you say you are supportive of the death penalty, if you aren't speaking out against it then you're condoning it.  Harsh?  Not within reason, I assure you.

I've been housed in C-building with Death Row prisoners for six years now.  I know these guys; some in passing, and some are friends.  I spent a year on the tier with Earl Berry who, on October 30th, was given a stay of execution minutes before lethal injection was to be administered.  Imagine for a second that your choices in life have been limited to whether or not you want to wear a "harness" when you're executed so that, as you're dying and your bowels and bladder evacuate, you'll be spared the indignity of visibly soiling yourself.  That's the position Earl was in.  Civilized?  Not in my opinion, but I'm just a prisoner.

In the case of Atkins v. Virginia, 122 S.Ct. 2242 (2002) the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded individuals.  Here it is, 2007, and after 20 years the people elected to govern Mississippi are attempting to rush Earl Berry to his execution.  Speaking from my own observations, Earl is both mentally and emotionally retarded.  Anyone who has spent any amount of time around him can see the truth of this for themselves.

One incident that stands out in my mind was related to me by Earl.  He and a friend, just kids at the time, were playing hide & seek and it was Earl's turn to hide.  He thinks it'd be fun to play a trick on his little friend, but how?  The shed was nearby and there's no way his friend would spot him up there...Wait!  Even better!  He runs for the water-hose, drops trou and, well - he gives himself an enema. With not much time left, he rushes to the shed and climbs up on the tin roof to wait.  Not long after he gets in place his friend comes in sight searching for him.  It seems to take forever for him to make it to the shed and, when he does, Earl eases to the edge of the roof and waits until he walks beneath his hiding spot.  Just as he walks beneath him, Earl strains fit to burst a blood vessel and sprays his friend with the enema he'd been holding all this time.  Of course, Earl's friend didn't find this funny in the least, and ran home crying and screaming. (I wonder how he explained that to his Momma.) In telling this story, even after all these years, Earl doesn't understand why his friend wasn't allowed to come over and play with him anymore.

I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, I don't have any degrees and I sure don't have a doctorate.  Despite this lack, I can use common sense and say with certainty that Earl is retarded.  Do I trust him?  No.  Do I even like him?  Not in particular.  That doesn't change the facts though.  As my grandma would say, bless his heart.

So, how do you decide who it's okay to execute?  Why is it okay to execute a man who murders a woman on her way home from church, and not execute the woman who drowns her babies in the bathtub?  Why is it okay to sentence a man to death who shoots a police officer that has illegally raided his home unannounced, and it's not okay to sentence-or even charge-a cop who illegally raids a home and kills the occupant who is only protecting their-self from what seems to be a burglar?  How do you judge and place the value of one life above another?

What's ironic to me is who the proponents of the death penalty are.  They are people who proclaim to be Christians.  Governor Haley Barbour, for one.  Ask them about this and more often than not they'll quote the old saw about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  However, even Rabbis don't interpret this literally.  That's neither here nor there.  The point is, these are Christians with Christian values, supposedly.  Jesus taught His disciples that the law had been misapplied and distorted into a license for revenge, and He set about correcting their thoughts on this.  He said, "Love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!" That's rather clear to me, so how did this teaching revert once again to an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?  Plainly, it didn't.  Especially not for Christians.

Public opinion is a power all it's own, so if you want the people you elect to know you're against the death penalty - tell them.  If they won't listen, then replace them with someone who will.  You are far from powerless.  That's just one of the great things about this nation.
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blog Archive - November 16, 2007 "The Beating of Kevin King "

I've noticed that when it comes to acts perpetrated by guards against prisoners, corporate media refers to these incidents as "alleged".  Conversely, if a prisoner is accused of anything, the accusation is accepted as the gospel truth and repeated as such.  So much for "Innocent until proven guilty."

An example of this is the beating of inmate Kevin King by corrections officer Takeo Clark, reported in the June 10th, 2007 issue of the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger.  According to MDOC Corrections Investigation Division : Report of Investigation 07-MSP-025, the beating of Kevin King occurred on February 13, 2007, the day following his discharge from the Mississippi State Penitentiary Psychiatric Hospital.  Kevin King was locked in one of the shower stalls in Unit 32 A-Building when officer Clark, without handcuffing or restraining King, radioed the control tower to open the shower door.  After the door was opened, Officer Clark stood in the doorway for a moment and then lunged toward King in the shower.  When they both came out of the stall, King's upper torso and head were covered with blood from lacerations to his scalp that were so deep that the crown of of his head appeared deformed.  In spite of this, the report concluded that, "Since there are no cameras in the showers, investigators were unable to determine what actually occurred inside."

Let's, as we say in the Pen, flip the script.  Had Officer Clark came out of the shower stall with his head beaten to a bloody pulp, MDOC Investigators would have had no problem determining what actually occurred inside, regardless of whether or not cameras were there to record it.  While the report made no findings as to whether excessive force was used, and in accordance with MDOC's brand of justice, King was still found guilty of a Rule Violation Report (RVR) for assaulting Officer Clark, despite Clark repeatedly lying about the incident and the photographic proof Clark had beaten King without any form of justification.  Clark resigned and will be eligible for future re-employment by MDOC.  MDOC-true to tradition.

In the June 10th, 2007 article, Commissioner Christopher Epps said "We investigated, and the Investigators reported to me.  We found the officer didn't do his job, and the officer resigned.  We policed ourself and got rid of that bad apple."  But what is Mr. Epps' definition of a bad apple?  An officer that beats a prisoner?  An officer that uses excessive force?  Or maybe, just probably, an officer that gets caught doing these things, crosses the line and becomes a bad apple.

Since MDOC is policing itself and getting rid of bad apples, maybe it's time Mr. Epps' involvement in a similar incident - the beating of inmate Larry Floyd while Mr. Epps was still a Corrections Officer - should be brought out and reexamined. This would facilitate a top-down approach to correcting the problem, as well as serving as an example that no one - not even the Commissioner - is above the law. Maybe Mr. Epps should tender his resignation, in the interest of MDOC and the public. It's a fact that one bad apple will spoil the whole barrel.

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Blog Archive - September 02, 2007 "Conditions at Unit 32"

Though most people are just learning of them, the conditions at Unit 32 of Mississippi's State Penitentiary at Parchman and the problems that are making it into the news didn't crop up recently. They aren't going to be cured quickly, either. Violations of Constitutional Rights can be considered a tradition at Parchman. A tradition that is alive and well.

In the June 10th, 2007 issue of Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger, Commissioner Christopher Epps made the comment that  "the ACLU hasn't got a clue about running a prison." Unfortunately, neither does the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The difference is that the ACLU hires experts to advise them on matters outside their experience. MDOC should follow their example.

From GATES v. COLLIER in 1971, to GATES v. COOK in 2000, to RUSSELL v. JOHNSON in 2002, to the current case of PRESLEY v. EPPS, MDOC has a longstanding history in requiring the courts to step in and direct them in how to run their prisons. Specifically, Parchman. I think it's quite clear who doesn't have a clue about running a prison.

In the GATES v. COLLIER case, the Courts held that the conditions and practices in the maintenance, operation, and administration of Parchman deprived inmates of rights secured by the First, Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments. A consultant committee engaged by the Mississippi State Planning Agency, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration and the American Correctional Association concluded that the conditions during the case were "Philosophically, Psychologically, Physically, Racially, and Morally Intolerable." This sounds to me, from seven years experience, to be an accurate description of current conditions. Same place, same problem, same mindset.

Take a moment to consider this. The prisoners in Unit 32 are labeled the worst in the system, and nearly half will be released in the next seven years. The "Watermelon Heads" , "Fruitcakes", and "Parasites" as Mr. Epps refers to us, are no laughing matter. That the Commissioner of MDOC would thus refer to his wards gives an eye-opening glimpse into the attitude of MDOC as a whole. In seven years these prisoners won't be Mr. Epps' problem anymore. They'll be yours--the public's. And since Mr. Epps said that teaching prisoners is part of his job, you'll get to see just how well he's doing that job and what it is they're learning.

Speaking before the Commission on Safety and Abuse In America's Prison's in April of 2005, Dr. Donald Cabana, Chair of the Criminal Justice Department at the University of Southern Mississippi, said that recruitment and retention of better paid, better educated, and better trained staff, with a greater emphasis on effective classification are just some of the things that need to be addressed if substantial improvements are to be made. I agree with Dr. Cabana in what he states as the most important issue in addressing these concerns: Administrative Accountability. Dr. Cabana said, "There simply must be an effective way to hold prison officials accountable for the actions of staff."

In the meantime, incidents like the stabbing deaths of Boris Harper and Donald Reed Jr. will continue to be the rule and not the exception. These are my examples of a system that has failed miserably. Seven years and counting...

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Unit 32 Consent Decree Voluntarily Dismissed

Years of litigation was effectively brought to an end with the planned termination of the Presley V. Epps Consent Decree on August 2, 2010.  Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis, who presided over the Fairness Hearing, was well pleased with the outcome and all the progress that had been made.

Judge Davis was effusive in his praise of all parties involved, but especially so of Commissioner Christopher Epps and Deputy Commissioner of Institutions E.L. Sparkman.  And rightly so, since they'd put their careers on the line in the gamble to change the conditions at Unit 32 instead of deciding on a prolonged legal battle through the courts.

Also present at the hearing: Leonard Vincent and Jim Norris, counsel for the Mississippi Department of Corrections; DCI E.L. Sparkman; Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the National Prison Project of the ACLU, and Stephen Hanlon of Holland & Knight LLP, counsel for the Plaintiffs.  Present via closed-circuit camera at the Mississippi State Penitentiary's "mock court": Jeff Davis and Richard Jordan, both death row prisoners; Roy Harper and Steven Farris, state prisoners housed at Unit 32; and Angelo Bullerd, housed at Unit 29.

There was an informal feel to the proceedings as Mr. Sparkman took the stand, was sworn in, and Ms. Winter questioned him about issues the Presley class members had raised.  The main concerns were whether or not the rights secured in the Consent Decree would continue, and whether they would follow the class members wherever they were moved as Unit 32 is closed.  The prisoner feared the Consent Decree would be dismissed and it would just start the whole process and struggle over from the beginning.  These fears were allayed and they were assured the rights secured would continue.  For more on this and the reasons for closing Unit 32, click here.

Things look promising, so far.  Only time will tell though, and I will keep you updated if at all possible.
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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Update On Chandrina Perry . . .

After receiving a comment on the last post stating that there were reports that Perry had previously been arrested in late 2009 and charged with (5) five counts of introducing contraband, my family investigated further. According to the Sunflower County Court - which is also where the Sheriff's Office is - Chandrina Perry, was NOT arrested prior to February 2010. The clerk that was spoken to said that the info about an arrest in late 2009 was false.

As an aside, I'd like to point out the irony of the situation. A prisoner helping to clear the name of a former CID Investigator and Alderman.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The News from Unit 32. . .

There has been another setback for the Mississippi State Penitentiary's tentatively scheduled closing of its maximum security unit. Out of 5 buildings in Unit 32, only B-building remains open. After moving the rest of the prisoners out of E-building in Unit 32 and closing the building on Thursday, July 1st, more prisoners were moved into the unit the following day. Approximately 13 to 17 prisoners were transferred to the Mississippi State Penitentiary from the Greenwood facility after rival gangs there fought eachother. I'll report more on this as I find out. A freeze was also placed on the reassignment and transfer of guards working at Unit 32.

Timothy Morris, head warden of the maximum security unit, has been out on "major medical" leave since June 24th following knee surgery. Deputy Warden George Davenport is the acting warden until Mr. Morris returns.

From all sources I've spoken to, I have been told that the Death Row prisoners, the prisoners on the High Risk Incentive Program and others still in Unit 32 lockdown are to be moved to J-building of Unit 29. However, J-building will have to undergo some serious modifications before it is suitable to house Death Row or the other members of the Presley class. No work has begun on J-building as of yet.

The previous unit that housed Death Row, Unit 17 (also known as MSU), has been undergoing some work. So far there is only speculation as to the reasons for the renovations. Right now there are 57 prisoners on Death Row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. The scheduled execution of Joseph D. Burns, MDOC #42963, is July 21, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. More executions are possibly forthcoming in Mississippi this year. Unit 17 holds 56 prisoners. Do the math.

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Former MDOC Officer Sentenced For Smuggling

On June 21, former investigator Chandrina Perry, began to learn firsthand what serving time is like. After cutting a deal with the prosecutors, Chandrina Perry was sentenced to 60 days in the Sunflower County jail by Judge Margaret Carey-McCray.

Perry was an investigator for the Correctional Investigation Division at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. The Bolivar Commercial had initially interviewed Sheriff James Haywood about the circumstances after Perry's arrest.

Earlier in June, Chandrina Perry had resigned her position as an alderman in Shaw. She had served on the board for less than a year. Although no reason was cited for Perry's resignation, the cause became apparent later that month with her subsequent plea and sentence.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mississippi Department of Corrections - How to Send Money To A Prisoner

Effective February 1, 2009 the Mississippi Department of Corrections will no longer accept money orders for inmate deposits. Any money orders postmarked after January 31st will be returned to sender.

In the interest of efficiency and security, the Department now offers these simple and convenient payment options from CYBERSUITE Correctional Services, a division of Keefe Commissary Network.

Previously, the only option for sending money to a loved one at the Department of Corrections was to send in a money order. In addition to the aggravation of actually getting the money orders, they could also take as long as a week to post to the residents' account. In an effort to make the process easier and improve the efficiency and security regarding resident deposits, the following payment options are now offered for family and friends:


Toll Free Phone Deposits – 866-345-1884
Bi-Lingual Call Center Staff
Accepts MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards
Fees as low as $4.95
Deposits allowed up to $300

Internet Deposits –
24/7 Availability
Accepts MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards
Fees as low as $3.95
Deposits allowed up to $300
In order to make a deposit using our secure website, you will need to create a profile on your first visit and have an active email address. Once you are registered, your deposit history and inmate recipient list will be saved for your convenience.

Walk-In Cash Payment Deposits – Western Union Quick Collect™
Over 45,000 Western Union locations
Call 800-325-6000 or visit for locations near you
Fees as low as $5.95
Cash deposits allowed up to $5,000
In order to make a Walk-In Cash Payment please follow these simple instructions:
1. Go to a participating Western Union location
2. Fill out the blue Quick Collect form and include the following:
-Quick Collect Pay To: MDOC
-Code City, State: MDOC, MS
-Account Number*: Inmate's ID# and last name
-Attention: Inmate's first and last name
-Posting Time: 1 business day
3. Turn in the completed form with your cash (including fee) to the Agent clerk.

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Mississippi State Penitentiary - Rules and Restrictions for Mail

Corresponding with someone in prison can be slightly frustrating at times, due to all the rules and restrictions placed on incoming and outgoing mail. Is there a possibility that some random guard will read your letter that you sent to your friend or loved one in prison? If the prisoner has already received it and it's in their cell, then yes it's a possibility. But between the time you mail it and when it's placed in your loved one's hands, then no- the chances are small.

MSP has their own Postal Inspection Department, headed by Postal Supervisor Linda Weeks. This department is tasked with sorting all the mail coming into the penitentiary, checking it for contraband or items that are "contrary to regulations," and then making sure it's forwarded on to the prisoners. They go through a similar process with the outgoing mail. Not an easy job, for certain.

For the most part, these inspectors do not read incoming letters in their entirety. They will scan through the letter and see if they spot anything suspicious. If they do see something that looks to be a violation, the letter is then forwarded to the Corrections Investigation Division (CID) headed by Mr. John Rogers, the former Deputy Warden of Unit 32. And if CID gets your letter it will be read and it will be copied. So, between when you mail a letter to a prisoner and when they receive it, the most likely people to read your mail are those from the Postal Inspection Department and CID.

Helpful Tip: If you're thinking about writing something to a prisoner that might get you or them in trouble -DON'T. I'm speaking from experience here.

Now to get into specifics of what can and cannot be sent and received, as well as some more tips. . .

  • Make sure that your complete return address (first and last name, street/P.O. box, city, state, zip) is legible and plainly visible on the outside of the envelope. Send a postcard and the same applies. Those writing from international locales usually write the return address on the back, and I've even seen those letters forwarded to the Dead Letter Branch because of this. 
  • Do not send multiple copies of the same photo in whatever form, or they will return them to you. If the prisoner really needs multiple copies of the same photo, there's a fix for this. Mail a copy, wait a day, mail another, etc. I've not seen a limit on how many photos a prisoner can receive at once, but there's a limit on how many they can keep, so be reasonable. Don't send 200 pictures or such all at once. 
  • Do not send any Polaroid photos or any instant photos (the kind that the camera spits out and you can watch develop). 
  • Do not send "photos that depict subjects contrary to regulation." :-P That's bureaucrat-ese for: no nudity or explicit stuff; don't send pictures of guns, dope, folks/people throwing gang signs or participating in gang activity; no pics of nubile females running around scantily clad unless they are 1) at the beach, 2) in or beside a pool. But hey, if you want to send something to your boo to let them know you're thinking of them, be creative. You might get lucky. 
  • Do not send stamps, stamped or prepaid envelopes, pens, pencils, blank paper or envelopes, those musical greeting cards or blank greeting cards. They want the prisoner to buy everything from the prison commissary. Which brings us to. . . 
  • Do not send money in any form directly to a prisoner. If you want to send funds to a prisoner, click here for instructions. Also, do not send money order receipts or copies of receipts. 
  • Do not send more than two (2) sheets of paper per envelope that contain printed information from the Internet. However, both sheets can be printed on, front and back. Also, do not include more than 5 or 6 clippings from the newspaper per envelope. 
  • Do not send books, publications or periodicals directly to a prisoner. These must be sent from a vendor or publisher. For instructions on how to send books, magazines or other periodicals to a prisoner, click here
  • Do not send a copy of a marriage license or birth certificate directly to a prisoner. Marriage licenses must be sent to Chaplain Jim Whisnant, P.O. Box 40, Parchman, MS 38738. Chaplain Whisnant can be reached at (662) 745-6611 ext. 4026 if you have any questions. Birth certificates are to be mailed to Visitors Program, P.O. Box 190, Parchman, MS 38738.
  • Do not send a correspondence course directly to a prisoner or have one sent to a prisoner without making sure the prisoner has first gotten it approved.
  • (UPDATE) Do not send photos of other inmates (As of 7/23/2010).  If the prisoner depicted in the photo is immediate family of the intended recipient, I suggest contacting the Postal Supervisor. 
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How To Send Books And Publications To A Prisoner (MSP Specific)

Having been incarcerated since I was 16 years old, my formal education ended in 9th grade. I'm glad to have made it that far, but my education was -and is- sorely lacking. During the intervening years I've used books to educate myself. Every sort of book or magazine I could get my hands on, I would read. So, if you have a friend or family member in prison, show some love and help them educate theirself and have a positive source of entertainment. Books have helped me keep what sanity I do have. Here are the guidelines. . .

  • No hardback books or spiral bound books are allowed.
  • Paperback or softcover books only. No more than three (3) books per package/order can be sent to the prisoner at one time.
  • All books, publications, and periodicals must come from a publisher, vendor, bookstore, ministry, etc. You can't just mail this stuff to a prisoner yourself, because it's considered a "security risk."
  • If you're ordering a pornographic magazine for a prisoner, make sure that the magazine title is one that doesn't show penetration. Only non-penetration mags will be allowed. Tattoo magazines are also often rejected, as are magazines about guns, knives and martial arts.
  • Use common sense. If it's anything that would instruct in criminal activity, don't send it.
  • Make sure that nothing else is included with the books or magazines. For example, sometimes CDs are included with books or mags. Prisoners can't have these, and often the whole order is sent back if one is included.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

MDOC Plans To Close Unit 32 At Mississippi's State Penitentiary

At the April 12, 2010 hearing held at Aberdeen's Federal Courthouse, the Mississippi Department Of Corrections announced its intention to close Unit 32 over the next year or so, subject approval by the State Legislature.

Before April 12th, the MDOC had shown no interest in a settlement. However, at the April 14th session presided over by Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis, MDOC consented to work on a settlement agreement with the National Prison Project of the ACLU. At that time the agreement was to be in final form by June, whereby both parties would assent that the consent decree would be dismissed without prejudice.

The Plaintiffs (NPP and prisoners) will be allowed to bring a motion in February of 2011 to restore the case to the court's active calendar if the Defendants (MDOC) haven't made certain specified improvements by that time concerning medical and mental health care at Unit 32. If the Unit is closed before then, this will be a moot point.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Apologies. . .

For all who aren't familiar with prison life -which will be most of you- one of the things inherent to it is how chaotic life in prison is. This (as well as problems in my own life) has caused a delay in getting any new posts up on the blog recently. Though I can't change what goes on, I do apologize for the delays and I am attempting to bring everyone up to speed pertaining to developments at Unit 32 in the State Penitentiary at Parchman. Thank you for bearing with me, and thank you for reading. Your feedback -questions, comments, opinions, etc.- is necessary to make this blog better for you and any feedback is welcome here.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

MDOC Internal Affairs Investigator Arrested for Alleged Smuggling

On February 22, Corrections Investigation Division Investigator, Chandrina Perry, was arrested at Mississippi's State Penitentiary at Parchman for allegedly smuggling two cellular phones onto prison grounds. The Shaw, MS woman was arrested by her fellow CID Investigators and charged with two counts of introducing contraband into a prison. Bond was set at $20,000.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

A Description of the Presley v. Epps Consent Decree

A consent decree as defined by Random House Webster's Dictionary of the Law, is "a court order entered between a federal agency and a party accused of illegal conduct in the field regulated by the agency, resolving the case and typically including a promise by the party not to engage in certain activities in the future."

In this case the MDOC knew they were in a no-win situation. They could fight the lawsuit, drag it out in court for as long as possible -maybe years- and waste a lot of the taxpayers' money as they normally do. Or they could go ahead and agree to do what they would eventually have to do anyway. Commissioner Christopher Epps and Deputy Commissioner E. L. Sparkman did the smart thing. They also agreed to some things that they would not have had to do, had they chosen to battle it out in court.

The lawsuit was filed in June of 2005 by the National Prison Project of the ACLU and Holland & Knight, LLP, on behalf of four individual prisoners seeking relief for all prisoners confined in Unit 32 of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, MS. Those four prisoners are Jeffery Presley, Dennis Brumfield, Steven Farris, and Marcus Williams.

MDOC, as the suit claimed, was subjecting those of us in Unit 32 to inhumane living conditions and excessive force, depriving us of medical and mental health treatment, and denying us procedural due process in housing us at Unit 32. We asked for an injunction guaranteeing improved conditions for all prisoners housed in Unit 32, and that the suit be recognized as a class action, so that any remedy we got would apply to all prisoners there.

The consent decree was drafted in February of 2006 and made official not long after. It requires MDOC to do the following:

(A) ensure that the cell to which a prisoner is moved is clean prior to the move and provide adequate cleaning supplies and equipment;

(B) From May through September, ensure that each cell throughout Unit 32 is equipped with a fan, and provide a 32-ounce cup of ice to each prisoner in Unit 32 three times a day;

(C) Ensure that each prisoner is allowed to take a shower every day, six days per week, year round;

(D) Implement an effective mosquito eradication and pest control program;

(E) Eradicate the problem of "ping-pong" toilets in every cell in Unit 32;

(F) Make sure that there is adequate lighting in every cell;

(G) Make sure that the medical services provider delivers adequate medical care for serious health needs;

(H) Ensure that medical service providers do not require prisoners to make unreasonable co-payments for services;

(I) Provide appropriate care for patients with chronic diseases;

(J) Provide appropriate off-site medical consultation, hospitalization, and specialty care for patients in need of those services;

(K) Provide adequate mental health care;

(L) Provide housing for prisoners with psychosis and severe mental health illnesses seperate and apart from all other prisoners that is appropriate in light of their special needs;

(M) Prevent excessive risk to prisoners of staph infection;

(N) Ensure that food trays are properly cleaned and sanitized prior to food service, that food portions are adequate, and that food is served at appropriate and safe temperatures;

(O) Allow prisoners out-of-cell exercise and complete the new exercise pens no later than July 1, 2006;

(P) Reasonably ensure that all incidents of major force by correctional staff against prisoners are thoroughly investigated and documented, and that the use of excessive force is not tolerated;

(Q) Provide all prisoners who are assigned to Unit 32, and not sentenced to death, with prior notice of the factual basis for the assignment to Unit 32, a hearing, an opportunity to appeal, and at least a semi-annual review with the same rights of notice, opportunity to be heard, and appeal;

(R) Formulate and implement a plan whereby all prisoners who are assigned to Unit 32 and not sentenced to death may, through good behavior and a step-down system, earn their way to less restrictive housing.
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MDOC To Be Released From Presley v. Epps Agreement?

After two years of being bound by agreement enforceable in court, the Mississippi Department of Corrections has petitioned to be released from the Consent Decree reached in the Presley v. Epps case. The attorneys for the MDOC are telling the court and anyone else who will listen that the MDOC has not only met, but has exceeded everything set out in the Consent Decree that was to be done. That's not true. I agree that many things have improved, for awhile. However, the only thing consistent about MDOC is its inconsistency. Parchman in particular has a long history of needing the courts to force them to do what they are supposed to.

What I'd like you to think about for a moment is just why MDOC is so anxious to be released from this agreement. If everything is so great, if all the wrongs have been righted and so much more, why the rush? Do they wish to be out from under the scrutiny of the ACLU and the court because they want things at Unit 32 to return to the pre-agreement chaos?

I spoke of these things with Mr. Stephen Hanlon on January 13th, during his visit to the Mississippi State Penitentiary's Unit 32. Mr. Hanlon is an attorney working along with the National Prison Project of the ACLU in the Presley v. Epps case. One of the things Mr. Hanlon explained to me is that, following the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, consent decrees are only good for two years.  [click for more]  The courts find it difficult to justify going beyond the two year limit because of the standards that must be met. Conditions that are "shocking to the conscience" are part of it.

It must be said that conditions have greatly improved in Unit 32. If it weren't for Ms. Margaret Winter, the Associate Director of the National Prison Project, and Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis who presided over and mediated the case, these changes would not have been possible. They have the thanks and appreciation of all the people -prisoners and guards- who had to live and work in the inhumane conditions at Unit 32.

These same people now face the possible return to those inhumane conditions. Without the ACLU and the courts keeping close watch, MDOC's inherent state of entropy will take effect and all the improvements will vanish. Once again the prisoners will have to struggle to retain their most basic rights.

You can follow the events in the Presley v. Epps case by continuing to read this blog. If a settlement isn't made between the MDOC and the ACLU, a court hearing is scheduled for April 21st.

What are your thoughts? Should the Consent Decree be extended? Should MDOC be released from the agreement?
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Parchman Needs A Superintendent

The Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman needs a new Superintendent. Lawrence Kelly, the former Superintendent, recently retired and left the job up for grabs. Deputy Commissioner E. L. Sparkman, of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, is filling the position temporarily while he interviews potential candidates. Two people who have been interviewed thusfar are James Brewer and Timothy Morris, both longtime employees of the MDOC. Mr. Morris is currently Warden of Unit 32.

It would seem that Mr. Sparkman has yet to find anyone he feels is acceptable to hold the position of Superintendent at MSP. If his actions in recent years are any gauge, Mr. Sparkman will go outside the MDOC and the state to fill this position. The Deputy Commissioner has intimated that he could be at Parchman for awhile; maybe months.

One of the things Mr. Sparkman has done since his return is to make sure the situation with the kitchen improved. Prisoners in Unit 32 were being served their meals on dirty trays, the food was not prepared or handled correctly and was sometimes spoiled, and the food served was not meeting the minimum daily caloric intake required. Mr. Sparkman told Roy Harper, a prisoner at Unit 32, that the food company the MDOC had a contract with would soon change.

Should Deputy Commissioner Sparkman go outside the MDOC and this state in order to find someone to fill the position of Superintendent? Are there no qualified people in Mississippi to hold the position?
What are your thoughts on feeding prisoners?

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Friday, February 12, 2010


Growing up in one of the nation's worst prisons hasn't been easy. See Profile People have asked how it is that I've kept from going crazy all these years. My answer? I have my family to thank for that. See, I was crazy before I got here. That's how I managed not to go turd-eating, wrist-cutting, screaming-into-the-commode (I only did that once), fighting-little-alligators crazier.

Blogging is something entirely new to me, and it's something I can't do without the help of my family and friends. They'll be taking my written words and entering them here and if it weren't for them, none of this would be possible for me. My thanks to them all.

The version of prison you've been force-fed by Hollywood? Regurgitate it out of your mind and get rid of it. Every prison is different, but none of them are cozy or comfy. We don't have big-screen plasma TVs, steak dinners, tennis courts or swimming pools. Where I'm at we're lucky to get fed on a clean tray and get 2,000 calories a day. We had to take the MDOC to court to get them to allow paperback books in through the mail from a publisher or vendor. In short, prison ain't nice.

I have a lot of ideas for this blog and things I want to talk about. You know who it's being written primarily for though? You. That's right. This land of the free is incarcerating more and more people every year. That means it's more likely than not that the prison industrial complex will touch your life in some way. You might've found this blog by accident, but I'll bet you have a family member or friend that's in jail, in prison, etc.

Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. Are there any topics you'd like to see discussed? Do you have any questions you'd like to ask me? Opinions you'll share? Suggestions? Even if you don't care about any of this, it affects you. That mechanic that works on your vehicle? The lady who takes your order at your favorite fast food place? The guy who picks up your garbage? All of them could be ex-cons. Former prisoners are everywhere. Many come out angrier and worse for the experience.

Where's the rehabilitation in any of this? IT ISN'T WORKING!
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About Steven

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Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

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