Wednesday, April 29, 2020 10:20 AM
Judy Owens DA discusses Mississippi’s Walnut Grove privately-run prison and why it was forced to close.
WALNUT GROVE, MS / APRIL 29, 2020 / The privately-owned Walnut Grove prison was forced to close, and Jody Owens DA recently discussed why the decision was made and what it meant for everyone involved. Jody Owens DA described that, many times, these decisions come down to tighter budgets, but this closure was due to much more than that.
"Of course, a tighter than expected budget had to do with the closure, but as the public knows, it was mostly influenced by the deplorable conditions for prisoners and the unlawful acts forced upon them," Jody Owens DA said.
Jody Owens DA, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), explained that the private prison was created in 2001, as a location for inmates convicted of serious crimes when they were minors or children. In 2010, the prison faced difficulty, as it was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center for conditions. Jody Owens DA described that this federal settlement resulted in an eventual change of hands from the GEO Group private correctional operator to Management and Training Corp. The Management and Training Corp., took over prison management in 2012. However, a change in management appeared to do little in terms of prison condition improvement.
In 2015, Jody Owens DA successfully sued the prison again, because it had become clear minimal progress had been made toward improving the safety of the facility. Jody Owens DA described that this prison was one of the country’s worst in terms of safety and conditions.
It was this final suit that made it obvious the prison needed to close. Jody Owens DA described it as a joyous day for all of the prisoners who faced horrible conditions and treatment day in and day out at the facility. Jody Owens DA reiterated that Commissioner Fisher marked "budget constraints" as the reason for the prison’s closing, but she, the prisoners, the citizens Walnut Grove, and so many others know the truth behind the closer.
The Walnut Grove Correctional Facility closed in 2016, with a capacity of 1461 prisoners, according to Jody Owens DA. This same prison was described by the New York Times as a "scene of horror," in an article published Sept. 15, 2016.
"We are just so happy the functionality of this prison is behind us," Jody Owens DA said. "We saved a lot people from a lot of agony, and at the end of the day, our lawsuit was a job well done."