A federal judge ruled in an SPLC case today that the Mississippi Department of Corrections is violating the Eighth Amendment rights of prisoners at Walnut Grove Correctional Facility by failing to protect them from violence by “gangs run amok.”
A federal judge ruled in an SPLC case today that the Mississippi Department of Corrections is violating the Eighth Amendment rights of the prisoners at Walnut Grove Correctional Facility by failing to protect them from violence by “gangs run amok.”
In his decision, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves noted that gangs control Walnut Grove and that prison guards often collude with them, leaving prisoners vulnerable to attack and fostering conditions for two riots in the past year – violations of the constitutional right to reasonable protection that must be corrected.
“We are very pleased with the court’s decision today,” said Jody Owens, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Mississippi office. “This is an important ruling for all current and future prisoners held inside the privately operated facility. We look forward to the continued role the court will play to ensure that prison officials uphold their constitutional obligations to provide a safe and humane environment for inmates at Walnut Grove Correctional Facility.”
The judge ordered the department and MTC – the for-profit prison corporation the state pays to operate Walnut Grove – to implement basic safety measures to end gang control as well as violence by guards against prisoners at the facility, which is about 65 miles northeast of Jackson.
“The evidence before the Court paints a picture of a facility struggling with disorder, periodic mayhem, and staff ineptitude which leads to perpetual danger to the inmates and staff,” Reeves wrote in his decision.
The SPLC originally filed the federal lawsuit over conditions at Walnut Grove in 2010. It resulted in a groundbreaking settlement agreement reached in 2012 to ensure children and teens incarcerated in Mississippi are no longer housed in the prison or subjected to brutal solitary confinement. It also required the state department of corrections to protect adults housed at Walnut Grove from physical and sexual abuse, violence, excessive use of force and prolonged isolation.
The SPLC returned to court after the latest outbreaks of violence at the facility. The ACLU and the McDuff & Byrd law firm served as co-counsel in the case.