GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - This has been a bad summer for the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
In July 2018, two-time murder Michael Floyd Wilson escaped from the South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville. In August, 16 inmates died while in MDOC custody.
The top two elected officials in the state are expressing their concerns that something must be done to solve the problems.
Gov. Phil Bryant has dropped a clue regarding the investigation into inmate deaths. “We think there maybe one or two in which a correctional officer didn’t do the right thing,” he said. “Unfortunately, that happens from time to time in life and every profession.”
Bryant, who was on the Coast this week along with other top lawmakers to sign the bill authorizing BP settlement money, agreed with MDOC commissioner Pelicia Hall’s initial assessment.
“I believe that most of these are deaths that occurred in hospitals, they occurred because of cancer,” he said. “Many inmates are not healthy individuals. This is almost on the par with other states in the deaths that occur within their prison population.”
He said it’s still a concern. “We’re going to find out if there’s anything wrong that took place,” Bryant said. “We’re going to find it out and hold people accountable for it.”
Earlier this month, Hall announced she has requested the FBI and state Department of Public Safety to examine recent inmate deaths. Still, explanations are limited as the investigation continues. MDOC officials have been equally silent as to how murderer Michael Floyd Wilson escaped, saying only that there is an investigation continuing.
The case is apparently on the radar of state leaders, including Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who said lawmakers are looking to see what could be done legislatively. “I’m very concerned about the escape that occurred recently in this part of the state,” Reeves said. “It’s something that the leadership at the Department of Corrections has to get fixed, and I hope they continue to work on that.”
Bryant said he isn’t as familiar with the Wilson escape, but he did offer this: “We have every resource available about making sure we track those individuals down when they leave and usually, it’s just a matter of hours or days before they are back in custody.”
WLOX has also sought information concerning the reported stabbing of convicted murder Joshua Peterman while in MDOC custody as well as the burning of inmate Tony Howard Junior of Moss Point.
We have not been given any details on that case either.