2020 Mississippi Legislative Session begins, attention turns to prison reform

The group gathered outside the Mississippi state capitol Tuesday.
The group gathered outside the Mississippi state capitol Tuesday.(WLBT)
Updated: Jan. 7, 2020 at 6:52 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - The 2020 Mississippi Legislative Session kicked off Tuesday amid high tensions within the state prison system. As of Tuesday, all regional prisons officially went off lockdown, while the three state prisons are still under lockdown.

Governor-Elect Tate Reeves gaveled in the Senate Tuesday for the final time, making way for Delbert Hosemann to take over as lieutenant governor.

In the shadows of the capitol building, dozens of protesters gathered on the first day of the session to voice their concerns over prison reform. The Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign led the rally, and were joined by family members of incarcerated people, former inmates, and others.

Lawmakers are being pressured to answer questions regarding the tensions in the state prison system and if they will take immediate action to help get some answers from MDOC.

“This is MDOC for decades and decades. This is the story. This is the program they run,” said Paloma Wu, and attorney for Southern Poverty Law Center. “This is the result of all the knowledge that we know they have and we stand here today to object to the lies that they are telling. That this has to do with anybody but themselves.”

The 2020 Mississippi Legislative Session kicks off in the midst of high tensions within the state prison system.

Legislators are hearing the concerns, but are quick to point out how complicated of an issue this is.

“We need to increase the funding for corrections officers. This was an issue last year. And with what they have to deal with, we need to get their pay up,” said Senator Brice Wiggins, who serves on the Corrections Committee.

Representative Jeramey Anderson wants to be more involved in the discussions moving forward, so she’s seeking a seat on the Corrections Committee.

“We have to treat them in a humane way and that’s not being done right now,” Representative Jeramey Anderson said.

A civil rights organization is calling for an investigation into at least one of the five inmate deaths from last week. The National Action Network was contacted by the family of Terrandance M. Dobbins, who was killed at South Mississippi Correctional Institute in Leakesville last Sunday.

The 40-year-old inmate’s sister, Candice, tells the NAN her brother had been concerned for his safety at SMCI, and that their family had been trying to get him transferred to a different facility. His family also says MDOC has been unresponsive to inquiries regarding Dobbins’ death.

Copyright 2020 WLOX. All rights reserved.