CCA was being paid $31.15 per prisoner per day to manage the Delta facility when it reportedly had daily costs of $34.15 for each medium-security prisoner. State law requires private prisons to operate for 10 percent less than state facilities.
Epps said about 800 of the prisoners housed at Delta would be transferred to existing beds in state prisons, and the rest moved to regional jails. This will result in an estimated $10.2 million in annual savings, as the only additional expenses will be for the prisoners’ food, clothing and health care. With over 4,000 empty beds in the state’s prison system, it was impossible to justify the additional expense of maintaining the CCA-run facility.
“Since [CCA] came and wanted out of the contract, I said we really don’t need the prison,” said Epps. “I have to look at what is best for Mississippi.”
Commissioner Epps has also been pushing alternatives to incarceration as a cost-cutting measure. With 21,500 state prisoners, Mississippi has the second-highest rate of incarceration in the U.S., which creates a huge drain on the state’s budget.
Under former Governor Ronnie Musgrove, a previous attempt to downsize Mississippi’s prison system resulted in the closure of Delta in 2002. The following year, Republican Haley Barbour ran against Musgrove and pledged to reopen the facility. Less than three months after Barbour took office in 2004, Delta was again open for business.
The Delta facility had a history of serious security-related incidents, including a July 2011 fight involving six prisoners that resulted in one death and two prisoners being hospitalized. Also, in June 2009, Delta prisoner Joseph Jackson, Jr. escaped from CCA guards while at an off-site doctor’s appointment with the help of his cousin, Courtney Logan. They fled to Tennessee, where they shot Nashville police Sgt. Mark Chesnut five times after Chesnut stopped their vehicle because Logan wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
Sgt. Chesnut filed a lawsuit against CCA, and the company settled the case for an undisclosed amount in August 2011. [See: PLN, Nov. 2011, p.34]. Jackson was subsequently sentenced to 25 years in Mississippi and 45 years in Tennessee as a result of the escape and shooting, while Logan was sentenced to 31 years.
CCA employed a staff of 218 to operate the Delta facility, and all lost their jobs when the prison closed on January 15, 2012. CCA also decided to cease operations at the nearby 125-bed Leflore County Jail, which has since been run by the county.
In August 2012, Leflore County officials announced that private prison company MTC was bidding on a proposal to reopen the Delta facility and use it to house federal prisoners.
CCA currently operates three other prisons in Mississippi, including the Adams County Correctional Center, which holds federal prisoners; the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, which houses California prisoners; and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, housing Mississippi state prisoners.
Sources: Associated Press, www.heraldextra.com, www.certops.com, www.knoxnews.com, www.clarionledger.com, www.mdoc.state.ms.us
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