Walnut Grove Correctional Facility
Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, formerly the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, is a private prison operated by the Management and Training Corporation (MTC) on behalf of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, located in Walnut Grove, Mississippi. It has been accredited twice by the American Correctional Association, most recently in 2012, and has a capacity of 1,461 prisoners. Until April 2012, the prison was operated by GEO Group and housed juvenile prisoners who had been convicted of felonies and sentenced as adults. The Walnut Grove Development Authority, an entity administered by the town of Walnut Grove, owns the facility.
The prison opened in March 2001. Originally the prison was in unincorporated Leake County, and was an all-male youth correctional facility for all levels of custody with a capacity of 1,500 prisoners. The City of Walnut Grove had annexed the facility between 2000 and 2006, causing the city population to increase from 488 to 1,424.
In 2001 321 prisoners were at the facility; all of them were of 18 years of age and younger.
Cornell Companies received the contract to operate the prison in September, 2003. Between the prison's opening and 2006 the City of Walnut Grove annexed the prison, causing the city's population estimate to increase. As of 2006 the prison housed 950 prisoners ages 12 to 21. By 2009 the prison had 1,225 prisoners. Its prisoner base had aged. Cornell Companies operated the prison until August 12, 2010, when Cornell and GEO merged.
In November 2010 plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit against the agencies that operate and own the facility, saying that the prison authorities allowed abuses and negligence to occur at the facility. The lawsuit states that prison guards engaged in sexual intercourse with the prisoners and smuggled illegal drugs into the facilities, and that prison authorities denied education and medical care. As of that month the prison has about 1,200 prisoners ages 13–22; the lawsuit says that half of the prisoners are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. Weeks prior to the filing of the lawsuit, United States Department of Justice officials informed Governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour that the department had started an investigation concerning the prison.
GEO settled the lawsuit in February 2012 and it was agreed to move the remaining youths from the prison to more suitable locations that conform to juvenile standards. Former Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility warden and eight-term mayor, William Grady Sims, resigned and pleaded guilty to removing a female inmate to a motel for sex and pressuring her to lie about it. Sims also owned 18 vending machines inside the prison. He faced up to 20 years in Federal prison, and was eventually sentenced to seven months in prison, six months of home confinement, and two years of supervised release for federal witness tampering.
On April 20, 2012, the State of Mississippi announced that it would end its contracts with the GEO Group. GEO cited the "financially underperforming" character of the facility as its reason for discontinuing management. However it became subsequently clear that GEO Group had come under multiple criticisms during its management of the facility. Shortly before the end of GEO's contract, the United States Department of Justice had accused the facility of "systematic, egregious, and dangerous practices exacerbated by a lack of accountability and controls", and stated that sexual misconduct there was "among the worst that we have seen in any facility anywhere in the nation". A Mississippi judge also described the prison to the ACLU as "a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world", citing the fact that GEO had "been derelict in their duties and remain[ed] deliberately indifferent to the serious medical and mental health needs of the offenders." The State of Mississippi transferred the youngest Walnut Grove prisoners to a state-operated juvenile facility.
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- Mitchell, Jerry. "YOUTH CENTER POPULATION AGING." The Clarion Ledger. August 2, 2009. Main A1. Retrieved on November 22, 2010. "Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility held 321 offenders in 2001 none of them older than 18 It has since swelled to 1225 holding offenders until theyre"
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- Gates, Jimmy E. "Former Walnut Grove Mayor Pleads Guilty In Inmate Sex Case." The Clarion Ledger. Tuesday February 14, 2012. Retrieved on February 28, 2012.
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- "Five Private Prisons." Mississippi Department of Corrections
- Town of Walnut Grove, Mississippi
- Mississippi Department of Corrections
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