In a scathing consent decree last year, a federal judge described a Mississippi juvenile detention facility run by private prison company GEO Group as “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.” A year later, a report by court monitors concluded that Walnut Grove Corrections Facility is still rife with safety concerns, in spite of some progress:
WGJCF continues to be plagued with clear signs of instability as evidenced by, among other things, high rates of inmate assaults, lockdowns, contraband control issues, and management of special populations. The assault rate at WGJCF for 2012 was the highest of all the MDOC facilities. Through the first two months of 2013, assaults involving weapons continue to occur at alarming levels. During the reporting period, there have been at least two facility lockdowns related to serious group assaults at the facility. Inmates continue to routinely be found in possession of serious contraband such as cell phones, weapons, and drugs. For example, in December 2012, a cache of contraband was detected that included, among other things, eight hack-saw blades, 12 cell phones, 22 cell phone chargers, five bags of tobacco, and one knife.
Since last year’s consent decree and the ensuing negative press, Mississippi announced that it would end its contract with GEO, and it removed all children to a state-run detention center. But rather than end private management of that and 2 other GEO-run facilities, the state contracted with another private prison operator, Management and Training Corporation (MTC).
Like all private prison firms, MTC has an incentive to profit from imprisonment rather than rehabilitate. The monitor’s report contains data showing that most of the state’s private prisons have assault rates that are two to three times that of publicly run facilities. At Walnut Grove, there are 27 assaults per 100 inmates, as compared to 7 inmates per 100 – the highest rate in any publicly run facility. Many public facilities have had one or zero assaults per hundred inmates. Mississippi has six private prison facilities, and the nation’s second-highest incarceration rate. Walnut Grove is one of a number of private facilities that have seen alarmingly high levels of abuse, violations and abysmal living conditions.