Last week, long-time MDOC Commissioner, Christopher Epps, abruptly resigned from his post, offering no comment on his reasons for leaving the agency. Other spokespeople for the agency and the state remained tight-lipped about the resignation, raising eyebrows for many. Within twenty-four hours it came to light that Epps is facing a 34-count federal indictment on charges of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud, offenses that were conducted through MDOC and Epps employing position as Commissioner to cover the scandal.
Allegedly, under Epps’ leadership, MDOC paid close to $1 billion to firms affiliated with Cecil McCrory, a local businessman, former state legislator, and Rankin County School Board President (until he also abruptly resigned from his post this week). In exchange, McCrory paid Epps nearly one million to guarantee the contracts go to his firms. Evidently, Epps received so many bribes that he had to launder the money through his multiple properties.
What’s more Epps currently, serves as president of both the American Correctional Association and the Association of State Correctional Administrators, accreditation entities that are notorious for turning a blind eye to squalid conditions, violence, and safety concerns in facilities around the country while welcoming with open arms the for-profit companies that are enriching themselves on the backs of incarcerated individuals and their families.
We’ve said it time and again, and this Mississippi scandal is tragically instructive: the ability to make profit from mass incarceration provides perverse incentives and cultivates corruption within public agencies and the public servants who are tasked with managing them. Put simply, for-profit incarceration has no place in a democratic society. Period.