Housing needs pending for remaining Parchman Unit 29 inmates

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Mississippi Department of Corrections is working to find housing for 625 maximum security inmates at Unit 29 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. This comes after MDOC finished moving 375 inmates to a nearby private prison.

“It is important to continue to address housing and infrastructure needs for the most violent offenders,” said Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall. “Moving the 375 inmates to the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler provided some relief to an overstressed system. However, there are additional close custody inmates at Unit 29.”

Up to 1,000 inmates usually are assigned to the unit, which can house up to 1,500 inmates.

The MDOC’s FY 2021 budget request of $419,110,853 includes $22,522,280 for significant improvements to Unit 29.

“This facility, originally constructed in 1980 and renovated in 1996, has become unsafe for staff and inmates due to age and general deterioration,” Commissioner Hall said in her budget letter dated Aug. 30, 2019.

MDOC said it cannot move the remaining inmates to the vacant Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in Leake County because the department lacks the staff and resources to operate the former private prison.

The 23 percent increase in the department’s FY 2021 budget request also includes $8,349,913 for a realignment and $35,554,893 to fill 800 vacant positions at the three prisons. The realignment request is to move the current starting salary for correctional officers from $25,650.41 to $30,369.82, based on the average hiring salary in the four neighboring states.

“While we thank the Legislature for a three percent increase effective July 1, 2019, Mississippi’s salaries are still the lowest in the country,” Commissioner Hall said. “Though I am no longer going to be corrections commissioner, I will still advocate for adequate funding for the Mississippi Department of Corrections.”

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