12 News Investigates: Disability rights in Mississippi prisons

12 News Investigates

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – In February, Disability Rights in Mississippi released a report after visiting and investigating the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) for two years. Their conclusion: the human rights of those with disabilities are being violated through the lack of mental care and health care.

“We notified our state legislature, our governor. We notified our facilities again, and at every turn, we’ve been met with silence or indifference or failure to address the issues going on in these facilities,” said Jane Walton, Communications Director of Disability Rights Mississippi.

The agency has monitored several MDOC facilities with a focus on the most populated ones: The Mississippi State Penetiary, South Mississippi Correctional Institution and Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.

“We are not asking for these facilities to be a Ritz Carlton, but when the state incarcerates someone, they are taking on the responsibility just for the basic care of these human beings and just to deny these individuals with the basic medical care is unconstitutional and why we want to take action,” said Walton.

The letter issued last week is to let Governor Tate Reeves, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and MDOC Commissioner Burl Cain that action is on the way.

“When we put out our public report at the beginning of the year, the response we got from the commissioner was that everything was going to be fixed by July. And we view that as maybe a lack of acceptance of the scope of the problem to say that it would be fixed by July, and it is now halfway through July,” said Walton.

In the letter, Disability Rights Mississippi said many inmates have died from not being treated for medical conditions such as cancer. Others have required emergency surgery or lost the use of arms or legs for long periods of time. Those who have mental illnesses are either denied medication or given medication with little to no follow-up.

MDOC Commissioner Cain released the following statement.

We welcome support from any organization that wants to help us improve conditions for both inmates and corrections officer. Our door is always open to ideas and suggestions from any group that will partner with us in finding real-life solutions and legislative and private funding to improve the lives of everyone in Mississippi prisons.

Burl Cain, MDOC Commissioner

A spokesperson for Lt. Governor Hosemann said they have not received the letter from Disability Rights Mississippi. 12 News also reached out to Gov. Reeves, and we are waiting to hear back.

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