More change to come to help decrease violent crimes in Mississippi prisons, Commissioner says

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 8:35 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - According to the head of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Mississippi prisons could soon see a decrease in violent acts.

”I don’t think they should get beaten up and cut up,” Sarah Pittman said.

For most family members with relatives in a Mississippi prison, many fear their loved ones won’t make it out alive due to prison violence.

Sarah Pittman is the great-grandmother of East Mississippi Inmate D’Mario Bennett. She said in almost 7 years, he has been beaten three times. And this last time, he was stabbed and left hanging for dead before someone saved him.

“His mother found out through an inmate that was in there with him, that was one of his friends. He was in the hospital and everything and we didn’t know nothing about it,” Pittman said.

Over the last year and a half, Mississippi Department of Correction Commissioner Burl Cain said he has been working on cutting down violent acts in the state prisons through new programs, new facilities, and rehabilitation programs.

However, because East Mississippi is a private prison, those improvements haven’t arrived.

“We’re trying to work with out private partners in every way we can but they are going to have to measure up. I feel great compassion because we fail miserably whenever we have a grandmother, a mother, or family member that comes here and losses their life. It’s horrible and that’s not what we’re about,” Cain said.

Cain said now that Walnut Grove is open again, he will be using methods used at the Louisiana State Penitentiary to punish those who are violent in both state and private prisons.

“When we find an inmate with a killing weapon in the future, gang member or whoever you are, you’re going to wind up yourself at Walnut Grove in confinement and you’re not going to be living with the population that’s trying to do well, trying to rehabilitate themselves that’s not in a gang,” Cain said.

According to Cain, he has received dozens of letters from inmates in state prisons expressing gratitude for the improvements so far.

He hopes to have similar responses from private prisons in the future.

“We owe it to the inmates trying to improve and do well to keep the predators away from them. When you become a predator, you need to be where a predator goes - in a cage,” Cain said.

Cain added that he is always open to suggestions from the public and specifically from inmates’ family members on how to improve the prisons.

Pittman suggested more programs that improve mental health and medical issues could help keep inmates safe.

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