What's at Stake
The ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Law Offices of Elizabeth Alexander, and the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP, filed a petition for class certification and expert reports for a federal lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF). The lawsuit, which was filed in May 2013, describes the for-profit prison as hyper-violent, grotesquely filthy and dangerous. EMCF is operated “in a perpetual state of crisis” where prisoners are at “grave risk of death and loss of limbs.” The facility, located in Meridian, Mississippi, is supposed to provide intensive treatment to the state’s prisoners with serious psychiatric disabilities, many of whom are locked down in long-term solitary confinement.
In December 2016, the ACLU, SPLC, Elizabeth Alexander, and Covington & Burling submitted six expert reports showing that EMCF continued to be a violent, dangerous, unsanitary place that provides grossly inadequate medical and mental health care, and continues to hold people with serious psychiatric disabilities in long-term solitary confinement. The Mississippi Department of Corrections responded to this by submitting expert reports that sought to counter our claims on excessive force, failure to protect from harm, and other non-medical issues. However, they opted not to offer expert reports on medical and mental health care. They chose not to submit these reports even after asking for an extension of the deadline and further discovery to assist with preparing a mental health expert report. The Mississippi DOC then moved for partial summary judgment and that they be allowed to revisit the class certification decision. The ACLU and co-counsel partners provided responsive briefing, which included the following:
“The record is replete with evidence showing that Plaintiffs are housed in a prison where unnecessary and excessive applications of force are a routine occurrence; that Plaintiffs are housed in a prison where the locks on their cell doors do not work, guards do not actually supervise prisoners, gangs have significant control, and weapons are widely available; that Plaintiffs are housed in a prison where the food is not nutritionally adequate and prisoners have no guarantee of actually receiving a tray during any given meal; and that Plaintiffs are housed in units that are in serious disrepair, with dark cells and showers, constant indoor fires, and a maintenance program that is slow to respond, even when human waste is seeping into a prisoner’s cell. The record is also replete with evidence showing that Defendant knows, and just does not care, about the horrific conditions under which Plaintiffs must live.”