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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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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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