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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

Introduction

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
WCCC
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

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