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Monday, May 27, 2013

Prison Glossary- Mississippi Department of Corrections Hierarchy

The Department of Corrections (DOC) hierarchy can seem a bit confusing, but here are the basic positions, from top down:

Commissioner of MDOC- a politically appointed position, the Commissioner has the final say in the running of the Department and is its prime mouthpiece.
Deputy Commissioner- there are three of these positions: Institutions (DCI), Community Corrections (DCC) and Administration and Finance (DAF). They are a step down from the Commissioner and more involved in running the DOC, especially the DCI.
Superintendent- there are three State facilities (MSP, CMCF, SMCI) with one Superintendent each. They are responsible for the operation of their respective facility and answer to the DCI and the Commissioner.
Warden- appointed by the Superintendent, the Warden is responsible for their Area or Unit. They approve any in-house rules and such, but it is still basically a political position. Prisoners rarely speak or interact with a Warden.
Deputy Warden- usually one or two per Area or Unit, they are picked by the Warden and approved by the Superintendent. They are responsible for security plans and things like programs, and you see them more often than the Warden.
Assistant Warden- usually one or two per Area or Unit, they are picked by the Warden and approved by the Superintendent. More of the grunt work is delegated to them and they are seemingly on the same level as Majors and Captains.

The correctional officers are the ones that prisoners are in contact with every day and are the ones who truly have to implement any decisions that filter down from the top, and suffer any consequences that come from it. Their ranks from highest to lowest are:
  • Major- almost on the level of an administrative position, you don't see them often.
  • Captain- more visible than Majors, but seen only when they make their rounds.
  • Lieutenant- part of the staff you see daily, they are more hands-on.
  • Sargeant- usually work right along with your C.O.s, they are visible on a daily basis.
  • C.O.- technically every guard is a C.O., but the lowest ranks are referred to as C.O.s and are your grunt workers who get their hands dirty dealing with the prisoners.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Prison Glossary - RVR

RVR is an abbreviation that stands for Rule Violation Report. A RVR is a form that is filled out by a prison employee who has witnessed or has become aware that a prisoner has violated one of the MDOC rules. The employee, once aware that a violation has occured, must author the report and it must be issued to the prisoner within 24 hours. The RVR is to state the prisoner's name/DOC #/housing unit, date/time, rule alleged to have been violated, the circumstances and details, any witnesses the prisoner intends to call, who authored the report and who delivered it, and if the accused waves their right to a hearing. 

Categories of violations (with respective punishments):
Category A (Minor Violations) - for such as possession of any item or quantities not on the allowable items list, faking illness or injury, failure to abide by any institutional schedule or documented rules, or not following dress codes or grooming standards. Punishment ranges from a warning or reprimand, to loss of all privileges up to one month, excluding exercise periods.
Category B (Serious Violations) - for things such as improper or unauthorized use of state equipment or materials, refusing or failing to obey an order by staff, tattooing/piercing yourself or others, vulgar language, horseplay, gambling, stealing, possession of serious contraband (money, gang material, drug paraphernalia), giving or receiving anything of value to or from another. Punishment ranges from loss of all privileges for up to two months, disciplinary segregation up to 20 days for each offence, loss of up to 30 days earned time for each offence.
Category C (Major Violations) - has a shorter list of violations, but for a reason. Violations in this category are such as destroying state property valued at $100 or more, destroying or tampering with locking or security equipment, using mail to obtain things by fraud, escape, possession of major contraband (firearms, knife or sharpened instrument, tools, explosives/ammunition, illegal drugs, electronic devices or parts, stolen property valued at more than $100), assaultive action resulting in serious injury, murder, hostage taking, or inciting a riot. Punishment ranges from requirement of restitution, to custody review, disciplinary segregation, loss of all privileges up to two months, loss of all earned time and referral to the District Attorney if warranted.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Prison Glossary - Custody Status

Custody status is a status applied to a prisoner which determines how and where the prisoner is to be housed, what is to be made available and what restrictions will be placed on them.

Initial classification (Mississippi) 
When a prisoner is sentenced in Mississippi, they are transported to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) in Rankin County and turned over to MDOC, or picked up by bus from the county jail by MDOC. CMCF is where they are processed into the prison system and where they are initially classified.  There are custody statuses that the prisoner is classified into depending on how many points they score, determined by the Inmate Classification Score Sheet. 

List of custody statuses (from least restricted to most restricted):
A - minimum and medium out (0-4 points)
B - minimum and medium out (5-10 points)
C - open (11-18 points)
C - closed ((long term status) 18+ points)
Security Threat Group (special status)
High Risk Status (special status)
Classification Criteria:  
Classification criteria determine how many points a prisoner scores.
1) History of institutional violence (jail or prison, score most serious RVR within last 10 years)
2) Severity of current offence (score most serious offence if there are multiple convictions)
3) Severity of prior felony convictions (score most serious prior felony conviction within last 10 years)
4) Escape history (last 10 years)
5) Current age
6) Institutional disciplinary report (last 12 months)
7) Severity of most serious report
8) Performance in recommended work/treatment programs (during last 6 months)

The prisoner's custody status is visibly identified by the pants they are issued to wear. 
A-custody wears pants with green and white horizontal stripes; 
B-custody wears pants with black and white horizontal stripes; 
open C-custody wears pants with red and white horizontal stripes; 
closed C-custody wears a yellow jumpsuit or yellow pants and shirt.

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Demond Flowers - A Senseless and Preventable Death

At least three times prior to this I have started writing about how conditions at WCCF are improving, about how things are changing for the better and so on. As soon as I write it out though, something happens and we go back on lockdown. I don't know how to look at things positively right now, though. A young man lost his life on Saturday 4/20/2013 and these guys were happy about it. Completely pointless and senseless.

So here is the situation, unvarnished and without positive spin. I feel that those in administration knew something was going to happen and allowed it to take place. I will explain this in more detail in a later post. As it is, CCA's contract ends in June or July and they haven't expressed interest in making a bid to run WCCF again. The physical plant at WCCF is in serious disrepair. The roof leaks all over the facility, the HVAC and plumbing is in need of an overhaul, mildew has taken over but is ignored. CCA has no interest in investing any more money into this place and is just waiting for their contract to run out.

I have been incarcerated since 1998, and nowhere else in all the time I have been in prison have I seen a facility stay locked down as much or more than WCCF. Nowhere near as much. The only consistent thing is its inconsistency. Today we might be locked down. Tomorrow? We might be out for four hours in the morning. The next day? Maybe a couple hours after 1 P.M., and we might come back out if they can get the count right. Every day it is different.

Common sense tells you that in a situation such as prison it is important to set up some kind of schedule and maintain it. To do otherwise is to invite chaos. That is what it seems like they are trying to foster here- chaos. They have an education department and staff they cannot even utilize. They have a gymnasium they only use to stick us in during shakedowns. We haven't been out in the sunshine since May of last year. The majority are being punished for the actions of a minority. Why not lock down and punish those that are causing the problems? Hell, they locked me down for 10 years. I guess that was different though.

The days ahead are uncertain ones. They cannot let us back out together because they aren't even certain who all was involved. If they do let us out together, there will be more violence immediately. But where are they going to move those whom they are certain were involved and responsible for the previous violence? It's past that point and would amount to closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. People need to be asking how it got to this point and why it was allowed to do so.

As for what happened during the fighting on 4/20... I have to write about it. There will be a separate post, but I am still trying to sort it out in my mind. It will be here for you to read in the near future, blood and gore and all. I'm not all about doom and gloom however, and hope to be able to give you some good news.

My thanks to all of you who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers. My condolences go out to the family of Demond Flowers.
You are all in our prayers.


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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