‘Back Gate’ once used for contraband at Parchman will be reopened
By Justin Dixon | October 14, 2020 at 10:33 AM CDT - Updated October 14 at 10:50 AM
CLEVELAND, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) Commissioner Burl Cain announced the “Back Gate” of the State Penitentiary in Parchman will be reopened as an effort to tighten security.
The gate is set to reopen for the first time since 2017. Commissioner Cain says it was closed some years ago as it became a passageway for contraband.
“The Back Gate was unmanned years ago mainly because of budget and staffing cuts,” said Commissioner Cain. “Then it became a hole in the perimeter through which contraband flowed into the prison, allowing in drugs, alcohol, tobacco, cellphones, you name it. Contraband makes all prisons unsafe and puts inmates and guards at risk by giving gang leaders power to control cellblocks and commit violence. Governor Reeves told MDOC in January to ‘restore order and safety’ and bring justice to those who commit violence, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
In addition to tightened security, State Sen. Sarita Simmons and Rep. Abe Hudson say they want the Back Gate reopened as a recruiting incentive to hire more correctional officers from west of the prison.
“Some individuals have to drive an additional 30 miles around to the Front Gate to go to work. There is a limited workforce in the area and issues such as this should not make the job more complicated,” said Senator Simmons. “For security purposes, the Back Gate guard house should have never been closed. Commissioner Cain and I agreed that these issues must be addressed. In addition, we hope to see an increase in personnel as a result of correcting this issue.”
Representative Hudson added, “I have been vocal about my displeasure for the back gate being closed that would allow my constituents in House District 29 who work there to have a higher quality of life. Opening the back gate will facilitate much shorter commutes for my constituents who are employees of MDOC plus it will allow them quicker access to respond to any emergencies. We need to do whatever we can to make Parchman a model prison and a good employer in our community. This does not fix everything, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Commissioner Cain stated that innovative training programs are underway to better train middle-level managers, in which he attributes the prison’s leadership problems to understaffing.
“Leadership at the prison level is key. We are launching innovative training programs particularly geared at middle-level managers, teaching them how to lead people without driving them off. That’s a big reason why MDOC became severely understaffed so we’re changing the culture on how we treat both inmates and officers. Everybody wants to be treated respectfully and MDOC is going to become a model of that.”
MDOC is currently in a recruiting drive offering $40,000+ pay packages for correctional officers.
Commissioner Cain said the only requirement to be a correctional officer is to have a high school diploma/GED and no felonies.
“All that’s required is a High school diploma or GED and no felonies. That’s it. And even if a person doesn’t qualify to become a correctional officer, I’m working to open up maintenance jobs for just about anyone.”
For more information, click on the “Job Search” tab at mdoc.ms.gov or call MDOC Job line toll-free at 1-866-783-9359.
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