Scorched and dented cell doors at a prison

Despicable, deplorable–you name it, it applies to this prison

A friend of mine brought this article from the Southern Poverty Law Center to my attention recently. Much like the Elliot Williams’ story, what happens in this Mississippi prison for the mentally ill sounds like it should be happening in a far-off impoverished nation. Not the United States.

First, here’s an aptly named video:

Now, there’s this smattering of prisoner experiences from those who weren’t too scared to talk:

  • A 28-year-old prisoner lost vision in his right eye when he didn’t receive his glaucoma medication. He was already blind in his left eye.
  • A doctor failed to respond to a prisoner’s repeated requests to discuss an ultrasound showing a testicular mass. The 25-year-old prisoner has metastatic testicular cancer.
  • A 64-year-old prisoner with schizophrenia and tuberculosis infection was found to have diabetes in 2012, but the doctor did not review the prisoner’s lab reports or see the patient. The prisoner’s diabetes was untreated as of April 2014, and his vision has deteriorated.
  • A 55-year-old prisoner wasn’t sent to the hospital for days after correctional officers used force on him. It wasn’t until he started having seizures that he was sent to the hospital and diagnosed with subdural hematoma from head trauma.

Sounds about right for a place where prisoners need to set fire to their cells in order to receive attention, good or bad, from the prison staff.

Eldon Vail, former secretary of the Washington State Department of Corrections, had this to say after hearing that a guard had to place a prisoner in three different cells before he found one with a lock that wasn’t broken:

“This sequence would almost be comical were it not for the serious risk of harm unsecure cell doors present to the prisoners.”

I wish the existence of for-profit prisons–like the East Mississippi Correctional Facility operated by the Management and Training Corporation (seriously, that’s the company’s name)–was from a sketch comedy show. It’s not. According to the ACLU:

Today, for-profit companies are responsible for approximately 6 percent of state prisoners, 16 percent of federal prisoners, and inmates in local jails in Texas, Louisiana, and a handful of other states.

While supporters of private prisons tout the idea that governments can save money through privatization, the evidence is mixed at best—in fact, private prisons may in some instances cost more than governmental ones. These private prisons have also been linked to numerous cases of violence and atrocious conditions.

These prisons make a lot of money, which means they can lobby our senators, representatives, and presidential hopefuls, which they’ve done to the tune of $25 million since 1989. Not too surprising they’re proliferating.

Private prisons got you outraged? Here are a few places you can do some e-activism:

1.) This petition from MoveOn

2.) A petition on Bernie Sanders’ website

3.) Joining

Read the whole Southern Poverty Law Center article here.



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