HINDS COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - A scathing and disturbing report on the Hinds County Detention Center has been released by a court appointed monitor.
Understaffed, inmates in charge, assaults, injuries, escapes, and even deaths are included in the report. Hinds County Sheriff Victor Mason responded Tuesday night.
The report from the court monitor is over 100 pages. The first 30 pages detail troubling findings, including a staff shortage that prevents the supervision of inmates. According to the report, inmates rather than officers are in charge of the facility.
Sheriff Mason said, “Inmates are not on my payroll. They don’t run anything here but their mouths. Number two, we do have staff, not fully staffed like I would love to have, but at the same time we do maintain order at that jail.”
The report covers a period from January through May of this year. Two of the most disturbing issues include a major riot that happened on April 19 during a storm when all power was lost.
An emergency generator kicked on, but when the fuel level was not checked, it ran out of gas -- and inmates broke out of cells.
In Housing Unit 4, inmates refused to come out, possibly because an inmate in their unit had been stabbed eight times earlier in the day.
According to the report, over 100 inmates did their best to break into the control room by pulling open the door and by going up into the ceiling. It didn’t work, but the officers in the control room had to physically hold the sliding door.
When help arrived, they were not able to open the main entrance to the facility with keys because the locks require electricity.
“Nobody was stabbed that night. I want to make that clear. Number two, the doors did malfunction, number three, the generator kicked in and it went off because there was no fuel in the generator. Now the generator is not my responsibility, it’s the Hinds County Maintenance Division," said the Sheriff. “We corrected the problem. We got with the County Administrator and we now have new locks. So these locks not only operate electronically, they operate manually also, so inmates can’t get out now.”
An inmate was murdered December 6, 2018. The victim was arrested for murder, and placed in Housing Unit B3, where he was killed in retaliation for that murder. According to the report, several inmates have been charged and are being held for trial.
Mason said, “That particular case is still in litigation and I wish I could talk about it but I cannot because it’s still in court.”
The safety of the nursing staff also a concern. Nurses have reported being harassed, grabbed and in one incident urine was thrown on a nurse.
“I had one nurse who just said that she just didn’t feel right going in by herself, and I do understand that," said Sheriff Mason. “But nobody has reported any of those incidents to me.”
The monitor’s report does mention improvements and credits Sheriff Mason with some of the changes. It also finds the county is non-compliant in its agreement with the Justice Department in 43 different areas, an improvement from 85 in 2017.
A part of the report also says the county must notify the monitor and the Justice Department of any prisoner death, riot, escape, injury or the failure to release a prisoner who is entitled, within 3 days.