A local group is working to ensure that Mississippi’s incarcerated inmates are safe from harm while behind bars.
The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system, recently acquired video of an inmate being assaulted while serving time at the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in 2018.
According to an article by The Marshall Project, Brad Fitch was beaten by two fellow inmates on January 31, 2018 and died four days later due to his injuries.
“The video we obtained shows when Brad Fitch was attacked, it took two full minutes for anyone to even enter the area and it took another minute and a half for anyone to notice he was dying in a shower stall,” says Alysia Santo, one of the reporters who reported on Fitch’s death and acquired the video.
WJTV 12 investigated and learned an audit was conducted in November 2018, which found that there were 50 staff vacancies.
In a statement to WJTV 12, Management and Training Corporation (MTC), the contractor that owns the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, says:
“Vacancies are a serious challenge at all correctional facilities including those in Mississippi. But we have worked with our partner, the Mississippi Department of Corrections, to increase officer salary and improve our recruitment and retention efforts. It’s made a difference.”
But Santo says it’s those vacancies that leaves inmates vulnerable and feeling unsafe while serving their sentences.
“They are, to an extent, short-staffed and this is part of the reason they are potentially short-staffed,” Santo says. “You are asking people to come into really, really high risks situations for very low pay.”
Santo also says that while the staffing issues are glaring, the bigger problem comes from prison gangs running the inmates and not management.
“There’s a very strong sense of fear amongst people incarcerated there and their family members that they too could potentially killed while they’re in there,” Santo says.
In regards to the allegations of prison gangs “running” the prison, MTC says:
“About 900 men are incarcerated at the prison, 700 are maximum security, high-risk individuals. And more than 80% are affiliated with a gang. It’s a challenging facility that requires frequent open dialogue with inmates including gang leaders. This allows us to gather intelligence that is used to minimize the risk of gang violence. The same is done at all prisons around the country.“