An inmate who killed a fellow prisoner at
the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman last week used a
makeshift spear fashioned from a mop handle to stab the victim
through the bars of his cell, Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps
Epps said Lamarcus Lee Hillard was in his cell when he stabbed
Boris Harper in the heart as Harper cleaned the floors in Unit 32,
the maximum security facility at the sprawling prison in the
Hillard had been issued a mop to clean his own cell when he made
the weapon, Epps said, by detaching the handle to form the shaft of
the spear. He said Hillard made the spear point from a metal lever
taken from his cell toilet and sharpened on the concrete floor.
"All this was about was gang related, bottom line. In prison,
we've got over 5,000 gang members, and all of them thugs," Epps
Epps would not directly name the gang affiliation involved but
said "both of them are black, and the only black gangs (in
Parchman) are Vice Lords," according to a www.clarionledger.com
Epps said the stabbing is under investigation and that there
appears to be no violation of procedure on the part of prison
Epps said he will make some changes to address the stabbing,
including replacing metal parts on cell toilets and shortening the
handles on mops and brooms to keep prisoners from reaching one
Harper was serving a life sentence for the 2001 shooting death
of Rita Funderburk, a 31-year-old shopkeeper, during a robbery of
Funderburk's family store in the Bobo community south of
Clarksdale. Hillard is serving a 25-year sentence for cocaine
possession with intent to distribute.
Epps said Hillard has been moved to a higher-security tier with
a solid metal door and total confinement. Epps said it is unlikely
Hillard ever will leave the prison.
"He admitted to stabbing the guy. I've been told he has been
charged," he said. "He'll die with us."
Unit 32 at Parchman, the maximum security area that houses about
1,000 prisoners, including death row inmates, has seen its share of
troubles in the past. In 2005, several inmates brought a federal
lawsuit against the state over conditions there. Most inmates in
Unit 32 are kept in isolation in their cells for 23 hours a day.
The state settled the lawsuit by signing a consent decree, but
the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the inmates,
says the state has violated the agreement by not making the changes
promised in the decree.
Last month, the ACLU asked a federal judge to examine all acts
of force by guards against inmates after an inmate said he was
beaten with a pair of handcuffs by a guard. While an internal
investigation was not able to determine exactly what happened, the
guard has resigned.
Margaret Winter, an attorney with the ACLU National Prison
Project, said the stabbing is an example of the unacceptable level
of violence in Unit 32.
"It's stunning that in a unit where men are locked down 23 or
24 hours a day that there is this constant violence," she said.
"Violence among the inmates is unfortunately very, very frequent.
The prison is very understaffed, and the staff is improperly
Epps dismissed Winter's criticism.
"She doesn't know anything about corrections," he said.