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30 May, 2013 23:40

Mississippi sued over for-profit prison where inmates sell leashed rats

Mississippi sued over for-profit prison where inmates sell leashed rats

Officials at a corporate Mississippi prison will have to answer for alleged human rights abuses that took place in one of the state’s for-profit correction centers now that two major-league civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit addressing the issue.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) announced Thursday they have filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of Mississippi because of how inmates at East Mississippi Correctional Facility are constantly at “grave risk of death and loss of limbs.” 

The suit alleges that inmates in the prison, which is the state’s primary special needs facility for convicts with mental health issues, are subjected to long isolation periods in “barbaric” conditions, often in rat-infested cells with broken toilets. 

Prisoner-on-prisoner stabbings and beatings are frequent because the locking mechanism on the cell doors can be readily defeated, and some officers are complicit in unlocking doors to allow violence to occur,” the lawsuit claims. 

The detention center is run by Management and Training Corp., based in Centerville, Utah, which is not named in the lawsuit. The ACLU and SPLC assert Mississippi lawmakers have long known about the conditions but have failed to act. 

East Mississippi Correctional Facility (Screenshot from youtube.com @lifgosonshema)

Dr. Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist who studied East Mississippi Correctional Facility, wrote in 2011 that an overburdened prison psychologist, inefficient mental health programs, and staffing problems were issues that could have serious implications. 

All inmates report significant weight loss since arriving at EMCF, from ten to 60 pounds, and from my direct observation it is clear that all the men are much thinner, almost emaciated, in comparison to old snapshots I viewed in their charts or on their identity cards showing them much heavier,” Kupers wrote, as quoted by the Jackson Clarion Ledger. 

Medical conditions are so bleak, the suit claims, that one inmate went blind from glaucoma and another had a finger amputated after failing to receive treatment for gangrene.

Many cells lack light and working toilets, forcing prisoners to use trays or plastic bags that are tossed through slots in their cell doors,” wrote the SPLC. “Rats often climb over prisoners’ beds. Some prisoners even capture the rats, put them on makeshift leashes and sell them as pets to other prisoners.”

The Management and Training Corp. operates 22 for-profit prisons in eight states, and named is in a slew of controversies. Allegations range from a prison warden ignoring an alarm, thereby allowing prisoners to escape, to “rampant” sexual abuse. 

In 2007, two guards at one of the firm's Texas prisons were charged with orchestrating a smuggling ring after they were pulled over, while in uniform, driving a van with 28 undocumented immigrants in the back.