Sunday, December 7, 2014

Last Call For The System Is Working As Intended

Your Sunday long read is Albert Samaha's piece on Christopher Epps, Mississippi's state corrections commissioner, and prison reform advocate.  Long hailed as a miracle worker and "savior" he was as close to a rock star as a prison administrator could get, lauded by both parties in a deeply red Southern state, who improved Mississippi's prisons dramatically.  He was an African-American who had achieved immense national professional respect.

And then he was caught.

By the time he turned 53, Epps was America’s longest-serving prison commissioner, the first in Mississippi’s history to be appointed by both Democratic and Republican governors. His peers thought so highly of him that he was elected president of two prison administrator professional associations: the American Corrections Association and the Association of State Correctional Administrators.

In short, Chris Epps knew prisons. He’d spent four decades working in the system. Starting as a guard in Mississippi’s oldest prison in 1982, he worked his way to the top of Mississippi’s Department of Corrections in just two decades. Over the next 12 years he became a star.

Prisoner’s rights advocates liked him. Correctional officers liked him. Defense lawyers liked him. Prosecutors liked him. Reporters liked him. Politicians liked him. There might not have been a more universally respected and admired public official in all of Mississippi than Chris Epps.

Then on Nov. 5, he quit his job abruptly, without saying why.

The next day the news broke: allegations of kickbacks for nearly $1 billion worth of private prison contracts. More than $1 million in bribes. A federal investigation, a federal indictment, “a major blow to the systemic and evasive corruption in our state government,” U.S. Attorney Harold Britain said on the steps of the federal courthouse.

Chris Epps knew prisons. Now he faces up to 368 years in one

Read his story, and never forget that you can't have corrupt cops without corrupt prisons.

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