JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi private prison with a history of inmate abuse is preparing to shut down, three months after state officials announced their intention to close it because of a tight state budget.
Thursday is the final day of operations at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Grace Simmons Fisher said.
About 900 inmates have been moved to state-run prisons in the past several weeks, and only a few remained in the Walnut Grove prison late Wednesday. Fisher said they would be moved by Thursday.
The prison originally housed juveniles and has been under federal court oversight since 2012, after a judge found abusive conditions. Juveniles were removed, but high assault rates and problems with supervision of inmates persisted until the state removed maximum-security prisoners.
Utah-based Management and Training Corp. took over management of the prison in 2012 from Florida-based GEO Group
Mississippi has been paying MTC $14.6 million a year to run the Walnut Grove prison, which has been one of the largest employers in a town of about 500 residents. The prison had 215 employees in June and was down to 175 about two weeks ago, MTC spokesman Issa Arnita said Wednesday.
Some of the employees have interviewed for jobs in the state Department of Corrections and some have interviewed for jobs at the three other prisons MTC runs in Mississippi, Arnita said. He said about 40 employees have been hired at the other MTC prisons. Most of those 40 are taking jobs at East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian, about an hour’s drive east of Walnut Grove.
He said that since MTC took over the Walnut Grove prison, “there have been tremendous improvements at that facility.”
“It’s painful for us to see the facility close,” Arnita said. “We understand the state has some room in their facilities. That, coupled with the budget situation — we understand their positions…. We feel for our staff and having to let them go.”
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