Walnut Grove Community fears return of correctional facility will bring back scandals

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WALNUT GROVE, Miss. (WJTV) – In the wake of Unit 29 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman closing, the question now comes what MDOC should do with its inmates?

One option has been to open back up the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, which is receiving mixed reactions from the community.

In a meeting brought forth by the Leake County NAACP invited key government figures at the state, county, and city-level to answer questions and speak to Walnut Grove locals on why the prison should or should not re-open.

“I just want to say to Tate Reeves, we don’t want that mess,” one speaker said. “We want better than that here in walnut grove.”

Dozens gathered next to the Truelight Church and didn’t hold back speaking against the Walnut Grove correctional facility opening back up.

“We need jobs, but we want something that’s going to be positive,” Leake County homeowner Johnathon Barton told us. “We want something other than prisons, and if we ultimately have to have a prison the community should have a voice in it.”

“It’s a management problem, it’s a state problem, and it’s an MDOC problem,” Walnut Grove local Gwen Barton Reed argued. “Moving it to the town of Walnut Grove doesn’t solve the problem. It only brings it to our front door.”

To get these opposition statements and questions on how the prison would be run the Leake County NAACP put on this meeting wanting to show the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the state the community deserves answers.

“The people feel like they were not being contacted, and had no input,” Leake County NAACP President Bulus LeFlore said. “And one of the best things to do if you want something in a community is to meet with the people. Right now the people don’t feel like they’re part of the process.”

Others like Kayla Fortenberry who can see the Walnut Grove prison right from her backyard doesn’t see any other option to calm the unrest at Parchman then to transfer inmates to the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility.

“The prison at Parchman is not a good place anymore and it’s rundown,” Fortenberry said. “It’s empty right there, so why can’t you use it. I think it will get more jobs and that’s always good and it brings in more money.”

Before closing in Sep. of 2016 the Walnut Grove prison was scarred with many scandals according to the New York Times, like uncivil facility conditions while younger inmates were raped. Certain guards also were discovered smuggling in weapons and drugs affiliated with gangs.

One of the biggest scandals people don’t want to see a repeat of was the former mayor of Walnut Grove William Grady Sims, who also served as the warden, found guilty of taking a female inmate out to a motel where they slept together.

Sen. Juan Barnett also attended the meeting assuring the public this time the state would own and operate the prison. But gave no final date to when a final decision would be made.

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