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Mississippi Private Prison Closes

On November 10, 2011, Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps announced the closure of the privately-operated 1,172-bed Delta Correctional Facility in Leflore County scheduled for January 15, 2012. He said it was a mutual decision of Mississippi and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), noting that, under state law, CCA was being paid only $31.15 per prisoner per day when it had daily costs of $34.15 for each medium custody prisoner.

Epps said that the prisoners would be moved into existing capacity in state-run facilities. This will save the state money since the only additional expenses will be for the prisoners' food, clothing and health care. With over 4,000 empty bunks in the state-run system, it was impossible to justify the additional expense of the private prison.

Epps has been pushing alternatives to incarceration as a cost-cutting measure. With 21,500 prisoners, Mississippi has the second highest rate of incarceration in the country, creating a huge drain on the state budget.

Epps specified that 800 of the Delta prisoners would be transferred to regional jails. Mississippi has 15 regional jails with a combined total of about 1,000 empty bunks. The remaining prisoners would be transferred to other state facilities.

Under Governor Ronnie Musgrove, a previous attempt to downsize the Mississippi prison system resulted in the closure of Delta in 2002. In 2003, Republican Haley Barbour ran against Musgrove, pledging to reopen Delta. Less than three months after his taking office in 2004, Delta was again open for business.

CCA employed a staff of 218 to incarcerate approximately 900 medium-security prisoners at Delta. CCA has another 125 medium-security prisoners in the nearby Leflore County Jail, which it also operates. However, CCA announced that it willing be leaving the jail soon too.

Epps expressed his sympathy for the Delta employees and said that he would work to find them jobs. Ironically, one of the prime potential employers is the Leflore County jail which will require restaffing after CCA leaves.

Source: Associated Press

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