Is there a disturbing link between these 2 stories?


July 30, 2016

The Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, ranked one of the 10 worst prisons in America by Mother Jones, is finally closing its doors.

 Following state budget cuts and a drop in inmate population, the Mississippi Department of Corrections has announced that that it will shut the privately run prison in September and transfer its 900 inmate to state-run prisons.

The Walnut Grove facility, which has 1,492 beds and costs the state $14.6 million each year, has a checkered history. A 2010 US Justice Department investigation into the prison, then operated by the Geo Group as a juvenile detention facility, found “systematic, egregious, and dangerous practices exacerbated by a lack of accountability and controls.”

 The report said that the prison authorities were “deliberately indifferent” to gang affiliations of prison staff, sexual abuse of prisoners by staff and fellow detainees, and the serious medical and mental health needs of the inmates. It also detailed the staff’s use of extreme force on prisoners as a first response, citing the excessive use of pepper spray, for instance.

In 2010, a former inmate spoke out about the alleged mistreatment of prisoners at the facility. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

A 2010 class-action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) challenged the allegedly brutal and unconstitutional conditions at the prison, and ended with a federal court demanding sweeping changes at the prison.

The lawsuit detailed instances of the staff peddling drugs to prisoners and subjecting them to beatings and sexual abuse, and using solitary confinement as a form of punishment. In a scathing court order in 2012, federal judge Carleton Reeves said that prison authorities had “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate,” and that unless the state intervened, youth at the prison would continue to suffer unconstitutional harm. The testimony and investigation “paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world,” he said.

Soon after, Geo Group was replaced by the Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based company that operates 26 prisons across the US, including three others in Mississippi. But the Walnut Grove prison’s troubles were far from over. In 2014, riots left dozens of prisoners injured, prompting another lawsuit by the ACLU, SPLC, and other plaintiffs. And in June 2015, Reeves found that the horrifying conditions at the prison had persisted.

Officials in the town of Walnut Grove, Mississippi, worry about the impact the prison closure will have on the local economy. When it opened in 2001, the facility served as a much-needed source of employment, after a clothing company and a glove maker shut shop and moved their operations outside the country. The prison is the largest employer in the town, which is home to about 500 people—not counting prison inmates.

Mayor Brian Gomillion says the closure will be crippling for Walnut Grove, which stands to lose 200 jobs and $180,000 a year in revenue. “People in town who work there have talked with me, in tears,” he told The Clarion-Ledger, the local newspaper. Bernie Warner, the senior vice president of corrections at the company that operates the prison, tells Quartz that the company is disappointed in the decision but that the state must do what is in the “best interest of the taxpayers.”


Groundbreaking Decree in Mississippi Bans Solitary Confinement of Kids Convicted as Adults

On March 22, 2012, a federal court in Jackson, Mississippi, will enter a groundbreaking consent decree, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, banning the horrendous practice of subjecting kids convicted as adults to solitary confinement. What’s more, the decree will require the state to move such kids out of the brutally violent privately run prison where they are currently housed and transfer them to a stand-alone facility operated in accordance with juvenile justice standards rather than the far harsher adult correctional standards currently applied to them.

Currently, youth as young as 13 who have been tried and convicted as adults in Mississippi are sent to the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (WGYCF), which is operated by GEO Group, Inc., the nation’s second largest for-profit prison corporation. The pending consent decree is the result of a class action lawsuit filed in November 2010 by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center that challenged the brutal and hyper-violent conditions at WGYCF. The lawsuit describes GEO staff peddling drugs to the teenagers in their custody, subjecting them to brutal beatings and sexual exploitation and failing to protect them from violence at the hands of older, predatory prisoners — one teenager suffered permanent brain damage as a result of an attack in which GEO staffers were complicit.

The suit also challenged the barbaric practice of housing kids in solitary confinement as a form of punishment. While in solitary, the youth are held in almost complete isolation and sensory deprivation with virtually no human contact, without books, paper or pens, radios, pictures, access to television or any kind of recreational activity, and are denied all visits, telephone calls and even mail from their families. If prison staff tags a kid as suicidal — which they often do with punitive motives — that kid is stripped naked except for a paper gown and denied a mattress.

It’s been known for a long time that prolonged solitary confinement inflicts intense suffering, worsens pre-existing mental illness and causes psychiatric breakdown even in mature healthy adults — let alone in emotionally vulnerable kids. International law recognizes that solitary confinement can rise to torture and, furthermore, that kids under the age of 18 are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of solitary. These effects are so well understood that international law now prohibits solitary confinement of any person under the age of 18, strongly condemning it as a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Tragically, the United States has been moving in the opposite direction: since the 1990s, 47 states have actually made it easier to try kids as adults and to incarcerate them in the same harsh and dangerous conditions to which adults are subjected. Mississippi is not the only state where kids have been subjected to solitary confinement, but now, thanks to the pending decree, it is about to become the first state in the nation where solitary confinement of youth is categorically forbidden. Others should follow suit.

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Republished 2 Articles – In full – source http://qz.com/744679/one-of-americas-worst-prisons-is-finally-closing/  and https://www.aclu.org/blog/groundbreaking-decree-mississippi-bans-solitary-confinement-kids-convicted-adults?redirect=blog/prisoners-rights/groundbreaking-decree-mississippi-bans-solitary-confinement-kids-convicted    Emphasis // Images added // Fair use education

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