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Extensive Contraband Found During Shakedowns at Mississippi Prisons

A surprise predawn shakedown on March 3, 2017 yielded an “excessive amount of contraband” at one of Mississippi’s three privately-operated prisons, according to Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) Interim Commissioner Pelicia Hall. The search at the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility was the start of “Operation Zero Tolerance,” which includes surprise searches at prisons statewide.

Shakedowns were performed at the state’s two other private prisons – the East Mississippi Correctional Facility and Marshall County Correctional Facility – in March 2017, resulting in less contraband than that found at Wilkinson but still an “unacceptable” amount, Hall said in a press release.

The MDOC released photos of tables covered with shanks, drugs and cell phones that had been discovered. All three private prisons in the state are run by Management and Training Corp. (MTC).

On June 6, 2017, Operation Zero Tolerance netted 54 packages of tobacco, 47 cell phones, 83 cell phone chargers, pills, marijuana and shanks, among other contraband, at the MDOC’s Bolivar County Regional Correctional Facility in Cleveland during a surprise search. Hall said the contraband was “disturbing,” especially after the prison had recently conducted its own shakedown.

“I expect all facilities in the MDOC system to have zero tolerance for contraband,” she stated. “Therefore, the MDOC must continue to use a variety of means, including shakedowns and lockdowns, to address the flow of contraband.”

However, Hall acknowledged in a statement that “inmates alone are not responsible for the illegal items, that staff, visitors, and vendors bring in contraband.” She noted a cell phone could cost as much as $3,000.

Prison employees and contractors who smuggle contraband face at least three years in prison plus a $25,000 fine under state law, if convicted. 



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