12 News Investigates: Mississippi’s Prison Crisis

12 News Investigates

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – December 29, 2019 is the date the prison crisis began.

Terrandance Dobbins was the first inmate killed, but many more deaths would follow.

Gangs were at war in the prisons– the Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords.

From December 29, 2019 through April 12, 2020, 12 News documented more than 30 inmates who died from violence, suicide or sickness.

The former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall stepped down mid-January.

MDOC Commissioner Burl Cain took over in June and said the prison system had evolved to the point gangs were running it.

“One thing we’re doing here is we are really pushing back on the gangs. because we’re not going to share our authority with the gangs,” said Cain.

With the year ending, Commissioner Cain said violence is now down immensely. He’s pushing for single cells.

“We have to utilize the cells we have better and so we have to get to the point where we can have them as single cells not double cells because if you have gang leader you want him in a cell by himself so he doesn’t communicate with someone else.”

Across prisons in the state, Commissioner Cain said 900 cameras are going up and scanners will check for contraband.

“We are going to stop this contraband from coming in. We are actually fencing outside the fence to keep people from coming to our fences.  That’s terrible when you can drive up to the fence and throw something over. That’s not right,” said Cain.

This comes as chicken wings and footballs with marijuana inside were thrown over the fence at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution earlier this month. Arrests were made.

More plans are also in the works, including church at the prisons.

“We will open our first church on Easter Sunday, and we’re going to have churches in all of our prisons. and that’s going to be God’s house, not a statehouse. So they’ll migrate to the church because there’s an island of freedom in the prison,” said Cain.

He said more church, more God, means less crime.

Cain is also focusing on a re-entry program where an inmate learns a skill and trade before they leave the system, changing lives so when they’re released they don’t return.

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