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Monday, February 22, 2010

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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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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