Can MTC Fix Woodville Prison?

A Utah-based private-prison firm hopes that it can turn things around at the Wilkinson County Correctional Center in Woodville.

A Utah-based private-prison firm hopes that it can turn things around at the Wilkinson County Correctional Center in Woodville. Photo by Courtesy Flickr/DonkeyHotey

Last year, a woman—who asked that her name not be printed—drove 125 miles through a thunderstorm from her home in the Jackson metro to visit her son at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in Woodville.

Even though she'd called the previous day to make sure the prison was allowing visits, when she arrived, prison staff informed her that visits had been cancelled.

"I sat at that desk and cried like a baby. I hadn't seen my son in three months. I drove 125 miles just to talk to him for an hour through the phone," she said.

The woman's son complained that the understaffed prison was often locked down, served poor quality food and offered little to no educational programs even though many prisoners are under court orders to work toward high-school equivalency diplomas.

"He would say, 'Mom, these people treat you like you ain't nothing,'" the woman said.

A Utah-based private-prison firm hopes that it can turn things around at the Wilkinson County facility.

Starting July 1, when the state's fiscal year begins, Management & Training Corporation will assume operations at the 1,000-bed facility under a five-year contract. Previously, Corrections Corporation of America held the contract to run the prison with the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Issa Arnita, an MTC spokesman, said the company puts safety and security first but prides itself on its educational programming. He added that MTC, which is also the nation's largest contractor for the Job Corps program, has not yet made any specific plans for when it takes over at Wilkinson County.

In recent months, the Woodville prison has seen its share of problems. In April, a Jackson man, Demond Flowers, 21,was stabbed to death during a weekend disturbance. In 2011, Flowers was convicted of vehicle burglary and robbery in Hinds County and sentenced to serve 18 years.

Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private corrections firm, operates the Wilkinson County prison, as well as the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler and the federal Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez.

MTC runs East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian, Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Leake County and Marshall County Correction Facility in Holly Springs.

Over the years, Mississippi has had a number of high-profile lawsuits resulting from the state contracting with private corrections firms.

In March 2012, lawyers representing a group of boys and young men who alleged abuse at Walnut Grove, then owned by Florida-based GEO Group, reached a settlement in the case. The suit charged prison managers with creating a violent and corrupt culture where staff sold drugs in the prison and engaged in sex with the youths they were charged with supervising.

In late 2011, MDOC allowed CCA to break its contract to operate the 1,172-bed Delta Correctional Facility in Greenwood. MTC recently won a contract from the federal Bureau of Prisons to run that facility in LeFlore County, but federal budget cuts have stalled plans to fill the prison with inmates.

Patrick Perry, a former correctional officer at a CCA-run prison in the Mississippi Delta who is now an anti-privatization advocate, started an online petition after Flowers' death at Wilkinson County, calling on Mississippi officials to halt further expansion of private facilities to protect prisoners and staff.

Despite MDOC switching management firms, Perry remains doubtful that conditions will improve.

"It's still a private prison company. It's still the same thing," he said. "CCA is the biggest one, and if they don't staff (the prison) like it's supposed to be staffed, and GEO didn't do it when they had Walnut Grove—and they were No. 2—I know MTC won't do it."

Comments

Pancho 11 months ago

MTC will not fix the problems left by CCA just like it didn't fix the problems left by Cornell, then GEO Group and finally MTC, in Walnut Grove.

Walnut Grove remains a mess. East Mississippi remains a mess.

It's like trading in your Ford for a Mercury and expecting a radically different automobile.

To get some idea of how bad MTC is, check out the homicidal escape from their Kingman, AZ, prison, almost three years ago. They didn't fix broken alarms for years. The place was full of smuggled cell phones. They weren't sure which prisoners were gone. They didn't let outside law enforcement know they had had killers escape. They didn't notice the huge hole in the fence despite regular rounds made by a perimeter guard. According to the warden, after six years of operation, "80% of her staff was new, or newly promoted."

The prodigious incompetence, the delays in notification, cost the lives of two retirees from Oklahoma in New Mexico five days later.

Despite this, MTC founder the late Bob Marquardt told the press, it was MTC's "first major glitch. He neglected to mention the dozen or more previous escapes. He neglected to mention all the riots in Arizona prisons. He didn't consider the two murders during the second major riot at MTC's Eagle Mountain prison to be a "major glitch," or the loss of contracts for incompetence or the contracts they dumped when they couldn't make enough money, leaving municipalities in numerous states holding the bag.

MTC took over the GEO contracts in Mississippi and hired the same staff that couldn't properly manage them when they worked for GEO. Some employees previously fired for cause were even hired back by MTC.

"New boss, same as the old boss."

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Pancho 11 months ago

When MTC took over GEO's contracts in Mississippi, all it did was issue new uniforms to the current employees who were unwilling and unable to run professional, secure, correctional facilities.

Not only did it retain all those incompetents, but it hired some who were Cornell or GEO Group rejects, terminated for legitimate cause.

Anyone who thinks that MTC is any more competent than CCA should review the homicidal riot at MTC's Eagle Mountain prison in California, where incompetence was the order of the day, or the dozen escapes including by murderers, most notably the one from its Kingman, Arizona prison on 7/30/10, in which one killer got into a shootout with deputies and police in Rifle, Colorado the next day, and others wound up killing vacationers in New Mexico in order to steal their travel trailer.

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hohohossa 11 months ago

MTC runs Marshall County CF and according to the inmates since they took over the food has gone straight down hill. One inmate described the food as tasting like a dirty dish drain. Also the warden there canceled visitation at the last minute . I come down from Chicago to visit an inmate there so I had to cancel Amtrak, cancel hotel and lost my money on prepaid rental car due to canceled visitation. I heard that people showed up bc they didn't know. I called ahead 3 or 4 times and each time they didn't know yet whether it was on or off. I finally decided not to take the risk minutes before i had to leave and canceled my reservations. So, no MTC can't fix Woodville. MTC probably can't fix anything.

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wataworld 11 months ago

whoa is me, sorry to be late commenting, it probably wouldn't matter anyway, I heard this was in the works MTC in CCA out. WHY ARE WE LETTING the private prisons run the show. oh yes, they give money away to POLITICIANs. HOW can we expect our youth to be better citizens when these places just teach them more violence,hate and yes NOW DEATH. HOW can it be any better if the same peopel are hired over and over again. I also hear we have a new deputy commisioner, is he being groomed for EPPS JOB??? another wrong in my book, COMMISSIONER of MDOC and president of ACA or whatever that place is that acredits facilities. SCUSE the typos please, TIME is short. OH YES, i could attest to the fact of knowing someone that also drove to WCCF after talking to a case manger and approved to visit, but then turned away while the case manager lied. AND WOW, yes there is a visit person that should be contacted but getting her on the phone? almost impossible, although they just promoted one , maybe just maybe the next one will be more available. TIME will tell since the special visit comes up next Month, will MOTHERS AND FAMILIES be allowed IN???? sure would be nice to have a YES OR NO in writing before heading down there. PLEASE HELP!!!

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wataworld 11 months ago

PS, SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO many inmates still can not call home or write if out of stamps, because many are not being allowed to order from Commissary since Mr. Flowers death, even some that were not out of cells when this terrible deed was done. my heart grieves for them all.

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662Chillin 9 months, 3 weeks ago

One word: No.

As long as Epps, Bryant and Reeves receive kickbacks from these private prisons, nothing will change until an outside independent entity comes in and holds these officials accountable.

Throw Bennie Thompson and the state representatives in the accountability bucket for allowing these private prisons to operate in their districts and do NOTHING

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RavenManiac1963 4 days, 3 hours ago

As a family member of an inmate currently incarcerated I can personally attest to even deposits made to provide inmates access to family members via prepaid cell minuets. My family member was prepaid $60.00 paid thru their corporate billing systems. The funds were deposited and confirmed only to have the entire amount "used" While the prisoner was "In the Hole" with no phone access. This has happened more than once and the inmates are denied phone and also mail. The "Education" reform is a joke. The inmate is ordered to complete his GED but denied classes needed to obtain a GED bc the inmate has a life sentence so isn't eligible to complete ANY classes

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