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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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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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