Rep. Williams-Barnes wants to see changes in MDOC staffing, funding

State representatives are working to improve correctional facilities after five Mississippi inmates died in one week.
Updated: Jan. 11, 2020 at 9:10 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - State representatives are working to improve correctional facilities after five inmates died in one week as state, private, and regional facilities were placed on lockdown.

State Representative for House District 119 Sonya Williams-Barnes takes safety very seriously, and her heart goes out to the victims.

“I first want to give my sincere condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones,” she said.

Of the five inmates who died during the week of deadly violence, three were housed at the state penitentiary in Parchman, which is currently understaffed by around 75%. Barnes believes increasing the number of correctional officers would help manage the prison population, and that starts with increasing their pay.

“For people to be able to support their families, you have to have comparable salaries to accommodate their needs. You know you’re going to have gang violence in prisons, but when you are properly staffed you are able to curtail those events," she said.

Barnes said we must put money into our prisons because facilities like Parchman are not up to par.

“We have to do something about it and it’s not something that just happened because of the incident. You can tell it’s just years of not being cared for, not having the funding to give it the proper care and maintenance," she said.

Next week, $2.5 million is being spent moving inmates to Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility for 90 days to help with overcrowding at Parchman. Barnes believes there is a more financially sound way to handle the overcrowding.

“One way of decreasing the population is to look at those who are eligible for parole," she said.

There are currently around 19,000 inmates in the state and 6,000 are eligible for parole.

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