Over the years as a newspaper publisher, I have received dozens of letters from prison inmates seeking help. Typically, they write about horrendous conditions, unfair treatment, brutality or proclaim their innocence.
I have read every one of these letters before throwing them into the trash with a tinge of guilt. What am I to do? Perhaps in the peak heyday of traditional media, the most successful newspapers had the resources to do such investigative journalism. Those days are long since gone.
My small newspapers have always struggled to pay the bills. Most people have no idea how hard it is to publish a profitable media enterprise, especially in the days of Google and Facebook.
I remember once a nice lady calling me and suggesting that I assign one of my investigative reporters to an issue she was interested in. I suppressed laughter and politely said my team was already booked with current assignments.
Despite this, I did take the time – not an easy task – to sit through hours and hours of testimony during the recent class action lawsuit against the East Mississippi Correctional Facility. I was horrified, to say the least. In retrospect, all those letters I received seemed a lot more credible.
Months later, we are still awaiting a ruling from Judge William Barbour.
So when I received two prison letters recently, I decided to publish them. I left out the names because I don’t want to endanger the letter writers. They shed light on our prison situation. In essence, two gangs are running our prisons and nobody seems to care.
I am writing to you concerning an ongoing problem at East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF) which as you know is a privately owned prison in Meridian and operated by management training corporation. I am an inmate housed here at EMCF/MTC. The staff here has set aside one pod on one unit, each unit has four pods, to house only offenders who are not problematic and that are 45 years old or older. This is an outstanding ideal on the surface. I meet the criteria to be housed on this pod as I am 49 years old and try to keep to myself as much as possible in this environment. This pod is located on Unit-1, it is charlie pod, commonly known as unit 1-C. This was a good pod until someone decided to move some gang members to this pod. There are two gangs that run every prison in Mississippi. The gangster disciples and the vice lords. This pod being for mostly older people, most of these gang members meet the age requirement only to be here, but all of them are problematic. Ever since the gang members came to this pod they have been extorting most everyone over here that is unaffiliated. The two rival gangs have made a pact, they split everything they get from extortion on this pod. You have to pay them canteen or sexual favors if you do not have canteen. If you refuse you get beaten badly and raped. The head warden here and the warden over security have both been told about this and have not lifted a finger to bring a stop to it. I am hoping that you can and will bring some public attention and hopefully assistance to our plight. We, the victimized, sodomized, and raped and extorted, know that this is prison but this is still inhumane treatment. Please help us and please do not use my name as I fear I may be killed if the gangs find out who spilled the beans on their lucrative enterprise.
I am writing to you because I followed your coverage of the lawsuit against EMCF/MTC. I have never heard if Judge Barbour ever made a ruling on the case or not. Since you cover abuse in prisons I want to tell you more horror stories from EMCF/MTC in Meridian, MS. I respectfully ask you not to use my name if you print this article and shed light on this travesty at EMCF/MTC. I do not want my name made known for fear of retribution at the hands of the inmates and the guards alike. The two gangs that run this prison are the Black Gangster Disciples and the Vicelords, both have numerous other gangs that fall under one of the others rule. A minimum of 90 percent of the guards here are affiliated gang members. That is why contraband is so prevalent here also why so much dirty stuff happens to non-gang members at the hands of gang members. I am on Unit 1, Charlie pod, this is a pod for 40 and older guys. It was a good pod until the gang members filtered in. These rival factions have formed an alliance to extort people out of canteen on this pod and to split the extorted canteen. If you refuse to pay or can not afford to pay you will be beat up and maybe even raped or both or made to perform other sexual acts to keep from getting killed. Both of the gang leaders have several gang members under them that do what they are told, when they are told without question and without fail. The warden and deputy wardens have been notified of this inhumane treatment at the hands of these demons but have done nothing, not even investigated this mistreatment of all of us who have been terrorized. We are prisoners but we are also humans and deserve to be treated as such. We are paying our dues to society for our infractions. Extortion and rape are wrong and illegal even in prison. These gangs are nothing short of domestic terrorists.
Please get us some help if you can. Once again I implore you not to use my name for fear of my life.
Mississippi has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world – 15 times higher than countries like England or France. It is a classic chicken and the egg problem. With so many prisoners, there is no money left over for education and rehabilitation. With no education and rehabilitation, the cycle of incarceration continues and the incarceration rate remains unbelievably high.
But it’s worse than that. Now two gangs have infiltrated our prison system, intimidating and bribing guards and effectively taking over our prisons. The private prison management companies choose to work with the gangs because it saves costs. The gangs maintain some semblance of order. In return, they get the contraband franchise.
A third of Mississippi’s prisoners are seriously mentally ill. We have cut funding to our already underfunded mental hospitals, so these mentally ill people are placed under the control of gang leaders, which is essentially a death sentence. No, worse than death, which explains the high number of prison suicides. It is tragic.
Christ said what we do to a prisoner, we do to him. As a society, as Christians, we should be ashamed.