MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A former deputy warden at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman has been sentenced to prison for assaulting an inmate.

Melvin Hilson, 50, has been sentenced to two years in prison and three years of supervised release for violating an inmate’s civil rights, the Department of Justice says.

Hilson reportedly attacked an inmate in August of 2016. Hilson was working as a member of Parchman’s K-9 Unit at the time of the assault.

According to court records, an inmate was sitting in a “caged area” of the medical unit waiting for a medical provider when Hilson approached him. Hilson struck the inmate several times, knocking him to the ground.

The Department of Justice says Hilson then picked the inmate up, struck him and knocked him to the ground again.

Prosecutors say the inmate did not try to fight back or defend himself during the assault.

The Department of Justice says there was no reason for Hilson to use force and that the inmate “did not pose any threat to himself or others.”

“This defendant abused his position as a corrections officer by unlawfully assaulting an inmate in his custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This defendant violently assaulted the victim, and violated the trust that we place in corrections officials to lawfully carry out their duties. The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously enforce our civil rights laws and hold jail and prison officials who break the law accountable.” 

According to the Department of Justice, after the assault, Hilson falsified a report and lied to investigators with the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Hilson pleaded guilty to the assault in May of 2022.

“This prosecution and sentence demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that every person’s civil rights are protected under the Constitution, and corrections officials who abuse their position are not above the law that they have sworn to uphold,” U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner said.