MDOC reports a spike in violence assaults in state prisons

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WINSTON COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI)- The Mississippi Department of Corrections reports more than 800 assaults in state prisons.

Prison officials point to contraband and violent offenders as tipping points.

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But there is not as much violence reported at regional jails.

Non-violent offenders- more of these types of inmates are in the population at regional facilities.

But assaults can still happen. That’s why jailers are developing ways to prevent more incidents from happening.

Nearly 15,000 inmates are in the prison system in Mississippi.

Of the 21 state-run prisons, 236 inmates are housed here, in the Winston-Choctaw County Regional Facility.

“We try not to let them have a center of power here,” said Warden Neal Higgason.
Higgason says while violence behind bars steadily increases, reported incidents here are lower compared to other jails.

Inmates waiting for trial are responsible for most assaults.

” They’re still in a really big transitional period in their life. Their life was just turned upside down, and they have a lot of adjustments coming their way,” said Higgason.

Since 2021, Winston-Choctaw County Regional Correctional Facility recorded four assaults.
One in January, two in February, and one in March.

” They are more non-violent offenders. Offenders that are not prone to violence as much as a C or D offender may be. So looking at a state prison and saying their violence is higher than a state regional facility would be hard to react to them because we aren’t housing the same class of offenders,” said Sheriff Jason Pugh.

At least 16 inmates can be housed in a cell. Warden Higgason says if one inmate becomes the aggressor they will be placed in a smaller group or even transferred to another facility.

” Just a moment ago, we traded two problematic inmates with Carroll County. They brought us two of theirs that was problematic, and we gave them two of ours,” said Higgason.

Contraband is another reason.

” There’s a phone in your jail, and people want to use the phone. The guy that has the phone or group of people is charging others to use the phone. Soon, someone can’t pay their bill, and then that’s what you call retribution-that inmate becomes harmed,” said Pugh.

Continued tracking of inmates, transfers, and illegal items are all necessary.