JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The state of Mississippi has “abandoned its responsibility to provide basic needs” to inmates at a privately run prison that is excessively violent and fails to provide proper medical care, an attorney for the prisoners said Monday.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center sued the state over conditions at East Mississippi Correctional Facility, which is home to 1,200 inmates, the majority of whom have been diagnosed with a mental health problem.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections “receives report after report and does nothing. That is the definition of deliberate indifference,” plaintiffs’ attorney Erin Monju said in closing arguments.
Warden Frank Shaw testified during the five-week trial that the prison follows protocol and the facility is no worse than any other. Attorneys for the government defended the facility, including its use of solitary confinement.
“Coloring books and timeout isn’t going to work for criminals,” defense attorney William Siler said.
The prison is operated under a contract with the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation. Attorneys for the government said the groups suing Mississippi had an agenda and wanted to litigate private prisons out of business.
“We need to get out of their (MTC’s) way and let them run their prison,” Siler said.
Privately run prisons can be a political hot potato. Lawmakers often tout their lowered costs and better performance than state-run facilities but opponents point to understaffing, health care cuts and a lack of transparency.