Case: DOJ CRIPA Investigation of Four Mississippi Prisons

No Court

Filed Date: 2020

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On February 5, 2020, the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division announced an investigation pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) into conditions in four Mississippi prisons: the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman), Southern Mississippi Correctional Institute, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. The Justice Department stated that it will investigate whether "the Mississippi Department of Correctio…

On February 5, 2020, the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division announced an investigation pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) into conditions in four Mississippi prisons: the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman), Southern Mississippi Correctional Institute, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. The Justice Department stated that it will investigate whether "the Mississippi Department of Corrections adequately protects prisoners from physical harm at the hands of other prisoners at the four prisons, as well as whether there is adequate suicide prevention, including adequate mental health care and appropriate use of isolation, at Parchman."

On April 20, 2022, DOJ announced the findings of the Parchman part of the investigation, issuing a 59-page report.  DOJ found:

  • The State failed to protect incarcerated persons from violence at the hands of  other incarcerated persons, subjecting Parchman prisoners to an unreasonable risk of violence due to inadequate staffing, cursory investigative practices, and deficient contraband controls, all of which led to an "environment rife with weapons, drugs, gang activity, extortion, and violence, including 10 homicides since 2019."
  • The State failed to meet the serious  mental health needs of  persons incarcerated  at Parchman, combining flawed intake screening and poor mental health assessments that failed to identify  mental health care needs with too few qualified mental health staff.
  • The State failed to  take  adequate suicide prevention measures. More specifically, it failed to identify  individuals at risk of suicide, and it housed them in dangerous areas that were not suicide resistant. It did not train officers to identify signs and symptoms of suicidal behavior, and staff failed to respond to self-harm emergencies in a timely or reasonable manner. The report highlighted 12 suicides in the prior three years.
  • The State's use of prolonged restrictive housing (solitary confinement) placed Parchman's prisoners at risk of serious harm. According to the statement of Assistant Attorney General Kristin Clarke, this was the first time DOJ found solitary confinement conditions to violate the Constitution. (Prior investigations were pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, rather than the Constitution.)

The report also criticized the state's response to a prisoner riot on Dec. 31, 2019. Parchman's staff, it said "was caught off guard, utterly overwhelmed, and ultimately unable to adequately and quickly respond to fighting and significant injuries in multiple buildings."

The DOJ report stated, that by statute "49 days after issuance of this letter, the Attorney General may initiate a lawsuit pursuant to CRIPA to correct deficiencies identified in this Findings Report if State officials have not satisfactorily addressed our concerns," and that "the Attorney General may also move to intervene in related private suits 15 days after issuance of this Report."

The matter is ongoing, and so is the DOJ's investigation of conditions at Southern Mississippi Correctional Institution, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility.

Summary Authors

Samuel Poortenga (4/8/2021)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Investigation Findings

Investigation of the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman)

April 20, 2022 Findings Letter/Report

Resources

Title Description External URL

The Caged Canary

Elizabeth Alexander

The United States has experienced an explosion in the number of people in prison, an explosion that cannot be attributed to changes in the crime rate, but rather reflects changes in public policy, pa… Dec. 1, 2008 http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/...

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Mississippi

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: 2020

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

US Department of Justice, on behalf of prisoners in Mississippi Department of Corrections facilities.

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Mississippi Department of Corrections (Jackson, Hinds), State

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.

Special Case Type(s):

Out-of-court

Availably Documents:

None of the above

Outcome

Prevailing Party: None Yet / None

Nature of Relief:

None yet

Source of Relief:

None yet

Issues

General:

Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students

Classification / placement

Rehabilitation

Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)

Suicide prevention

Disability:

Mental impairment

Medical/Mental Health:

Mental health care, general

Suicide prevention

Type of Facility:

Government-run