|Sheriff Tyrone Lewis addresses media|
The Sheriff said that MDOC classified Mack and the two other violent criminals, Matthew Winters (homicides) and Fred Mack (aggravated assault) as trustees. He said that MDOC is responsible for classifying prisoners and that state law mandates that all trustees are given the same rights and privileges. He said that the Sheriff's office has no control over the placement of the inmates and that MDOC placed these violent criminals in the county work center. Thus a convicted killer who is classified as a trustee is to be treated the same as a convicted embezzler or drunk driver at the community work center.
Commissioner Fisher scheduled the removal of all MDOC prisoners from the work center to take place on August 1 but instead removed them last week. His office stated that the unsafe conditions cited in the Justice Department report on the jail was the reason for the early withdrawal.
However, Sheriff Lewis accused him of retaliating against the Sheriff's office after Sheriff Lewis and other Mississippi Sheriffs challenged the Commissioner's decision to remove all inmates from county work centers. He said that the report did not review the county work center and that Commissioner Fisher was "not telling the truth" and playing politics. He said that all 41 inmates were housed at the work center and not the detention centers in Raymond and Jackson. He cited this section of the report in support of his response:
The Sheriff's Department also operates a Work Release Center next to the Raymond Facility. We did not specifically review conditions at the Work Release Center, because it is a distinct and separate minimum-security, state-county operation. However, as we will detail later in this letter, the manner in which the Work Release Center fits into the County detention system has an indirect impact on conditions in the other two facilities. To that extent, we address the relationship and its implications for remedying unconstitutional Jail conditions.
Sheriff Lewis provided copies of the report to all members of the media present and said he welcomed any investigation and would cooperate. Sheriff Lewis then said the placement of Mack, Winters, and others in the work center violated state law. The Mississippi Code states:
§ 47-5-451. Joint state-county work programs; eligibility; limitations
(2) An inmate shall not be eligible to participate in a work program established in accordance with the provisions of Sections 47-5-401 through 47-5-421, if he has been convicted of any crime of violence, including, but not limited to, murder, aggravated assault, rape, robbery or armed robbery.
The code also requires the counties to adopt all MDOC regulations for the work centers:
§ 47-5-453. Adoption of regulations and policies
Each county board of supervisors electing to establish a work program under Sections 47-5-451 through 47-5-469 shall adopt regulations and policies as authorized by the Department of Corrections for joint state-county work programs, including extending the limits of the place of confinement of an eligible inmate as to whom there is reasonable cause to believe he will know his trust. Extending the limits of the place of confinement may include confinement at the residence of the subject inmate wherein the primary maintenance and care of the inmate shall take place, subject to approval by the department and county.
Violations by inmates participating in such programs of any such rules, regulations or policies shall result in the ineligibility of the inmates to participate in such programs, and shall result in the inmate's immediate incarceration.
The Commissioner is also given the authority to approve 72-hour passes:
§ 47-5-463. Passes and leaves*MDOC's website states that violent criminals are not supposed to be housed in community work centers:
The Commissioner of Corrections may institute a procedure for granting passes and leaves to inmates participating under Sections 47-5-451 through 47-5-469, and may grant such passes or leaves in deserving cases, not to exceed three (3) days or seventy-two (72) hours.
What kinds of inmates are housed at Community Work Centers and work in the community? Inmates housed at Community Work Centers are incarcerated for non-violent crimes.
Another page on the website states:
|Click on photo to enlarge|
Kingfish note: If interested, here is more information about The Winters case. Actually, Winters is an interesting story that starts back in the early 60's. There is more information written about his multiple homicides in Google books. Start on page 90. The first question that came to mind when reading the MDOC press release Thursday was "why was a convicted killer placed at the county work center instead of the penitentiary?"
*JJ will also obtain and post a copy of the regulations and procedures regarding passes..