‘We don’t have enough’: Lack of prison case managers leaves many without parole potential

Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 7:19 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Families who have loved ones jailed in a state prison say the system is broken, and any hope to get out on parole is often crushed.

Case managers are supposed to work with inmates as they enter into the prisons to create a case plan, or in other words, a rehabilitation plan that can help them improve themselves and, in the future, be up for parole and benefit society as a changed person.

However, that isn’t the case in your state prisons.

On the Mississippi Department of Corrections Website, you’ll find a list of things the state’s parole board is to consider when granting or denying one parole. Among those factors — “participation in rehabilitative programs.”

But what if prison employees aren’t keeping track of those changes?

“A lot of parole denials have been largely due to no case plan fulfilled. What case plan? People are not being given case plans, so not at all,” Janice Curtis with Mississippi Dreams Prisoner Family Support said.

Inside a case plan, a Case Manager would lay out courses and steps that an inmate would take to become a productive member of society.

“If they’re in there for drugs, they may give them a case plan of Drug and Alcohol, Celebrate Recovery, the things that are patterned for, for what their crime was. That’s vital for their rehabilitation to learn about it and to better themselves,” Mitzi Magleby, Head of the MS Chapter of Ignite Justice, explained.

However, advocates and those whose loved ones remain behind bars say there’s a bottleneck in the system — while many complete the program, inmates aren’t getting their achievements recorded for a parole board.

“We have 119 positions for case managers, and we have 57 vacant. So we just have half the number,” MDOC Commissioner Burl Cain said.

So how does MDOC plan to fix the problem? Commissioner Cain says changes start Wednesday.

“We put them under the supervision of the superintendent so that they can hold them accountable because they’re on the spot with them. That will get it done. As the inmates come in intake, we’re going to fill these vacant slots. So if we don’t have the caseworker have somebody in the position, one of the new ones coming in will go.”

Former inmates like Marvin Esco say he’s an example of the system working properly and hopes the changes the Commissioner makes can make a difference.

“If the system does what it’s supposed to do, you have more peoples that are here living lives. I took an anger management class, took drug and alcohol classes, and I’m here today. I’m clean today from a second chance, 12 years,” Esco said.

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