JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The man temporarily in charge of Mississippi’s prison system has been on the job for four days. Tommy Taylor said he hears the public’s concerns and is starting to make changes.
With less than a week on the job, the interim MDOC commissioner has been busy visiting facilities to gauge what needs to be done.
“My job is to improve the conditions of the housing units and the work conditions of the people that are employed and make it safe for the public, make it safe for the inmates, take less stress off the families of the inmates and for us to learn the word compassion,” explained Taylor.
Compassion is something Taylor brought to his visit to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman on Thursday, when he toured the facility with Governor Tate Reeves.
“I talked to several inmates just to let them know that we were concerned with them, and there to try to help them and make conditions better for them,” said Taylor. “And during this process, I just felt a relief to the fact that they felt relief by just being able to talk to somebody from upper staff with MDOC.”
Taylor also visited the old Walnut Grove Correctional Facility on Wednesday. The facility could reopen to move inmates in.
“It’s a 1,500 bed unit. The closed security conditions can only house 900 which is a large amount. It would take some refurbishing and it would take some money to get it back in shape, nothing like it would take at the other facilities.”
Taylor said it’s not just improving facilities, but also adding programs for inmates to give them things to do.
When it comes to staffing, MDOC is short about 500 correctional officers for the three state prisons. The officers are some of the lowest paid employees in the state, with an average starting salary between $25,000 to $27,000 a year.
“We are not an organization or department that’s just gonna forget about the people that’s in prison or forget about the families of other ones in prison or forget about the staff members, our job is to try to make it better.”