On Friday Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps reeled off a long list of problems the state has been monitoring at East Mississippi Correctional Facility in recent weeks and months.
Those issues include a murder and multiple suicides. Epps says the final straw with GEO Group, the current manager of EMCF, came when the company asked the state for $5 million more to operate the facility.
GEO Group is painting a different picture of the split, saying they initiated the move because the facility is financially under-performing.
Longtime Meridian lawyer Bill Ready served as the first president of the EMCF Authority, which initially hired GEO (then known as Wackenhut) to run the prison, and Ready says the original mission of the facility was to help inmates from across the state with curable mental conditions.
Ready says problems arose several years ago when the state opened EMCF's doors to inmates from the state penitentiary who were declared mentally ill.
The move was in reaction to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU that cited deplorable conditions in parts of the facility in Parchman.
"GEO has had to send in correctional officers instead of mental health/correctional officers," says Ready, "and you've had more cuttings and killings out there and nobody ever asks why, because you ain't got the same inmates out there."
GEO will stop running EMCF on July 19th. Epps says that he is looking at some other private corporations to take over, and says the state will take over the facility if a replacement for GEO cannot be found.