by Kevin W. Bliss
On November 14, 2022, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White submitted a civil demand for payment of $1.9 million to Utah-based private prison operator Management and Training Corporation (MTC) for violating its contractual agreement to fully staff the Marshall County Correctional Facility (MCCF) from 2017 to 2020.
MTC lost its contract with the state Department of Corrections (DOC) to run the Marshall County Correctional Facility in September 2021, after it failed to maintain adequate staffing levels there. However, DOC Commissioner Burl Cain had nothing to voice but sympathy for the firm, saying it’s “difficult” to hire staff at the wages MTC was offering “that close to Memphis.”
Following an investigation by The Marshall Project into “ghost workers” for which the state paid at its two remaining private prisons in the state, both also run by MTC, White began an inquiry in late 2020. That found MCCF had been understaffed for nearly 12,000 mandatory shifts during the previous three years. Moreover, MTC had failed either to notify DOC or provide it a credit, though it was contractually required to do so.
As a result, the company earned an unauthorized $1.4 million at MCCF, while the vacant posts created a dangerous work and living environment within the prison. Guard Darrell Adams was attacked in 2019 by a prisoner while he was performing the work of eight positions in four different buildings. [See: PLN, Sep. 2021, p.50.]
Problems also surfaced at MTC’s other lockups in the Magnolia State, including the September 2021 escape of prisoner Garnett Hughes from East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF) while on furlough to attend his mother’s funeral — something that should not have been allowed during the pandemic and certainly not for a prisoner like Hughes, who had twice attempted escape before. [See: PLN, Aug. 2022, p.16.]
For the short-staffing at MCCF, White is demanding the $1.4 million with $500,000 in interest as compensation, which is “one of the larger demands we’ve issued in my time in office,” he said. MTC had 30 days to remit payment before the action was forwarded for litigation to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office. But as of December 30, 2022, that office had not announced any legal action.
MTC spokesperson David Martinson said the company has paid vacancy penalties as per the contract agreement. Moreover, he added, DOC’s on-site contract monitor was aware of all low staffing levels and continued to sign off on the firm’s invoices regardless. He called the auditor’s demands inconsistent with the contract.
The Marshall Project also examined monthly invoices at MCCF and MTC’s other Mississippi prison, the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, finding the company owed another $7 million for charged positions that were left unfilled. When asked if the state auditor planned to demand payment on these violations, a spokesperson responded that the investigation was not yet finished.
Additional sources: Clarion-Ledger, The Marshall Project, WLOX
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