Evidence of violence and inmate neglect abounds in a case involving the private East Mississippi Correctional Facility. The state requires private lockups to operate at 10 percent lower than the cost of state facilities.
A federal civil rights trial involving the private East Mississippi Correctional Facility provides a rare glimpse into the world of privately operated prisons at a time when the number of state inmates in private facilities is increasing and the Trump administration has indicated that it will expand their use, the New York Times reports. There has been evidence of a mentally ill man on suicide watch who hanged himself, gang members who were allowed to beat other prisoners, and those whose cries for medical attention were ignored resorted to setting fires in their cells. So many shackled men have recounted instances of extraordinary violence and neglect in the prison that the judge has complained of exhaustion. Management & Training Corporation, the company that runs the East Mississippi facility near Meridian, already operates two federal prisons and more than 20 facilities around the nation.
A 2016 Justice Department report found that private prisons were more violent than government-run institutions for inmates and guards alike, and the Obama administration sought to phase out their use on the federal level. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed the ban. Several states, including Michigan and Utah, have stopped using private prisons in recent years because of security problems. More than two dozen other states, including Mississippi, contract with privately managed prison companies as a way to reduce costs. Prisons are usually among the most expensive budget items for states. Since 2000, the number of people housed in privately operated prisons in the nation has increased by 45 percent, while the total number of prisoners has risen by only about 10 percent, says the Sentencing Project. The genesis of the problems at East Mississippi, say prisoner advocates, is that the state requires private prisons to operate at 10 percent lower cost than state-run facilities.