The future of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility is now in the hands of a federal judge. A group of inmates there filed a class-action lawsuit against the state, claiming inhumane living conditions at the privately-run state prison. MPB's Mark Rigsby was in the courtroom for closing arguments.
Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Elissa Johnson told U.S. Southern District Judge William Barbour that inmates at the prison, near Meridian, are at risk of serious harm, due to unconstitutional living conditions.
"We presented the evidence we feel supports our seven claims in this case. At this point, the court has all of that evidence. We will wait to hear the court's decision."
Utah-based Management and Training Corporation is the private company that runs the facility. During the 5-week bench trial, the court heard testimony about inadequate staff levels, inmate violence, gangs controlling the prison, widespread contraband, and poor medical and mental health care. Reverend CJ Rhodes is with the grassroots group Clergy for Prison Reform.
"A lot of the conditions we've been hearing about, in terms of rats on chains, the rapes, all the kinds of things going on, we're thankful that attention is being brought to those matters. Hopefully, this judge will rule in favor of a more humane society, and a more humane prison system."
But the attorney representing the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Tommy Siler, says many improvements have been made at the facility. He says the plaintiffs haven't met the burden of proof.
"I would like the judge to hold that no one's constitutional rights have been violated, because I truly believe that have not."
Judge Barbour will make a ruling in the coming days.