Something big happened in Mississippi today.
The state closed a notoriously dangerous prison that’s been operated for profit by a string of private companies since 2003.
The Walnut Grove Correctional Facility was labeled “one of the 10 worst prisons in America.”
Now, six years after we sued to stop the barbaric treatment of children and teens held there, it’s closing its doors.
Youthful offenders at Walnut Grove endured rampant violence and sexual assaults, often by the guards who were paid to protect them. One young man suffered severe brain damage after he was stabbed and beaten during a fight that was facilitated by a guard.
U.S. Justice Department investigators reported that sexual abuse at Walnut Grove – including “brazen” sexual misconduct by prison staffers – was “among the worst that we have seen in any facility anywhere in the nation.”
At the time, the facility held boys as young as 13.
Our suit forced the state to remove children and teens from Walnut Grove in 2012, but we had to go back to court after riots occurred two years later. A federal judge then wrote that led to “perpetual danger” to prisoners.
The judge ordered reforms to stop the violence. But now, the state has decided to close the privatized facility and move its prisoners into state-operated prisons.
It’s a wise decision. The closing comes on the heels of the Justice Department’s announcement that it’s phasing out privatized prisons because they’re less effective, more dangerous and don’t save money.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t pay to put criminal justice in the hands of profiteers. We hope that all states and the Department of Homeland Security will shut down private prisons for good.
Thank you for standing with us as we work to reform America’s broken criminal justice system.
Your friends at the SPLC