When Burl Cain was hired as Mississippi’s corrections commissioner earlier this year, the former Louisiana prison warden pledged to turn around the state penitentiary at Parchman.
The historically notorious prison in Sunflower County, though, isn’t the only correctional facility in Mississippi with problems. Most of them, both public and private, have been plagued by violence, gang infiltration, understaffing, substandard living conditions and corruption.
Cain has a big job in trying to clean them up.
On Friday, he revealed one such crackdown at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl. The head of the K-9 unit there has been arrested and charged with embezzlement, accused of taking copper and stainless steel from the facility and selling the materials to a private business. Four other employees at the prison have been terminated or suspended. In addition, five other individuals, including one employee who apparently resigned under pressure, have been banned from the Rankin County facility.
It must be emphasized that the arrested employee, Carl Arnold, has not been convicted of anything. It would be wrong to presume that he is guilty of what he has been accused.
Nevertheless, it’s no secret that guards on the take and other forms of corruption have been widespread within the state’s prison system. One of Burl’s predecessors, Chris Epps, turned out to be a major crook and is now serving a prison sentence for hitting up contractors for what prosecutors said totaled more than $1.4 million in bribes and kickbacks.
If Cain can eliminate some of this corruption, while also trying to keep the state’s prison system from again being taken over by the federal courts, it will be a major achievement.