Mississippi Prison on Lockdown After Riot

Illegal immigration is a very controversial subject in our country today.  One aspect of illegal immigration that is also controversial, is the incarceration of those who are here illegally.  Proponents of these illegal aliens say these people should not be incarcerated as they are in the country to find a better life, while opponents disagree and say the illegal aliens are criminals as they are in the country illegally and should be incarcerated until deportation.  The incarceration of illegals costs taxpayers in not only  money, but at times, in lives as well.

A prison for illegal immigrants in Mississippi was on lockdown after a riot that began on Sunday left one guard dead dead and at least 19 people injured.  Nearly 12 hours after the riot began, all inmates were secured in their housing. 

According to WDSU-TV, Mike Machak, a prison spokesman, said in a statement, the riot took place at the Adams County Correctional Center in southwest Mississippi.  Officials have not released the name of the guard that was slain in the riot.  Mechak said 16 other employees were treated and released from a hospital for various injuries and three inmates were injured.

The Adams County Correctional Center near Natchez, houses adult male illegal immigrants, most of whom re-entered the U.S. after being deported.  Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) owns the facility.   CCA houses more than 75,000 offenders and detainees in more than 60 facilities nationwide.

Chris Burke, the Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman, said the facility holds low-security inmates.

Sunday’s riot is not the first time CCA prisons have had disturbances.

Inmates at another CCA prison in Mississippi, the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, in 2004 , set fire to mattresses, clothing and a portable toilet.  No injuries were reported at this disturbance.

In Idaho, the high level of violence at another CCA-run prison, prompted federal lawsuits, public scrutiny and increased state oversight.  Vermont inmates that were being held in Tennessee in 2010, were subdued with chemical grenades after refusing to return to their cells. 

One of the most daunting challenges confronting our criminal justice system today is the overcrowding of our nation’s prisons.   No nation on the planet holds more of its people behind bars than the U.S.: 2.3 million prisoners.  Securing and humanely housing such a large population has placed an enormous burden on prison administrators as well as the federal, state, and local jurisdictions that must finance the institutional confinement of so many inmates.  The nation’s prisons employ nearly 800,000 workers.

Private prison companies are picking up the slack in housing prisoners.  The more inmates or detainees they house, the more money they make.

Private prisons are the future of the American penal system, according to Richard Harbison, an executive vice president at LCS Corrections.  He stated that private operators can design, build and operate a prison cheaper than the government as they operate more efficiently from a lack of bureaucracy, if you will.   LCS is one of the smaller private prison companies.  According to Harbison, growth of privately managed prisons comes down to dollars and cents and if the public can get the same services for less money, those are less taxes that you and I have to pay.

Like much of the industry, the numbers are fraught with controversy, and estimates as to how much money privatization saves – if any – varies widely.

Two of the biggest private prison companies, CCA and GEO Group, bring in more than $3 billion a year between them. 

Private prisons have attracted legions of critics.  Some of these critics are from organized labor, since most private prisons are non-union.  Alex Friedman, a writer and editor of Prison Legal News, wrote that literally, you can put a dollar figure on each inmate that is held at a private prison as they are treated as commodities.  He finds this to be  very dangerous and troubling when a company sees the people it incarcerates as nothing more than a money stream.

 Friedman, who actually spent 10 years in prison with half of his sentence served at a private prison, said that in the private prison, you would have fewer guards, who are less experienced, paid less with fewer benefits.  He added that we constantly had new trainees coming through because their staff turnover rate was very high, which leads to more dangerous situations.

Martin Horn, a lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and who also ran correctional departments in Pennsylvania and New York City, said that he feels there are good public prisons and there are awful public prisons, by the same token, there are good private prisons and there are awful private prisons that I wouldn’t want to be associated with.  With more than 5,000 jails and prisons in the United States, public and private, Horn says that big number points to a much bigger issue.  He said the solution to the problem would be to have fewer people in prison as we are a country that is addicted to imprisonment.