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Lawsuit Filed Over Horrendous Conditions in Mississippi Prisons

Jun 10, 2013

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in federal court last month on behalf of inmates at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF), where, the legal complaint says, “prisoners live in barbaric and horrific conditions and their human rights are violated daily.”

The conditions shock the conscience, The New York Times editorial board writes. The complaint alleges that “grossly inhumane conditions have cost many prisoners their health, and their limbs, their eyesight, and even their lives.”

The legal complaint describes EMCF as the facility “intended to provide treatment for Mississippi’s seriously mentally ill prisoners in a safe, humane and therapeutic environment.” Instead, seriously mentally ill prisoners are locked down in “filthy cells for days, weeks, or even years at a time,” the suit alleges. “Rapes, stabbings, beatings, and other acts of violence are rampant,” and inmates have set fires as “the only way to get medical attention in emergencies.” Staff members have denied prisoners medical treatment for conditions including open wounds, gangrenous wounds, and glaucoma, and last year the prison reduced access to psychiatric care.

The suit also alleges that staff members forced prisoners to exchange sex for food or privileges; officers responded to minor infractions by slamming prisoners headfirst into the ground; and rape is widespread among young prisoners. A Justice Department report called the sexual misconduct by the prison staff “among the worst that we have seen in any facility anywhere in the nation.”

The Times reports that this suit is the latest challenge to horrendous conditions in Mississippi prisons. Last year, the state and the Justice Department entered an agreement to reform conditions at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. According to the Times, experts found conditions at EMCF were even worse than at Walnut Grove. The Justice Department said the state of Mississippi is “deliberately indifferent to the constitutional rights” of the inmates.

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