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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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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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