Thursday, July 24, 2008
I’ve had lunch at a lot of places, but never a prison.
That changed Thursday when I was finally able to attend an annual community relations meeting at the Marshall County Correctional Facility.
The food was good, along with the fellowship with MCCF supervisory personnel and other community members.
We’ve all passed by the facility on West Street many times – seeing its 12-feet high, double chain link, security fence with two rolls of razor wire at the top and a single roll at the ground.
It houses 1,000 prisoners on the inside. And it’s not a county jail. That facility is on the same street but just to the south of the prison.
Last week it was good learning more about the facility – its history, its community involvement, its operations, its services, its programs and more.
New warden Jessie Streeter can be pretty intimidating, too – a big man – which I would think would be a good trait of a person in the top position at a prison.
But he’s very friendly, too.
He welcomed everyone and talked about the correctional facility’s community contributions.
“We pride ourselves on community involvement,” Streeter said.
• The facility pays $80,000 annually in taxes.
• It provides $10,000 in scholarships to high school graduates for continuing their educations.
• It employs 202 people.
• It is a blood drive sponsor.
• It is actively involved in the Chamber of Commerce.
• The correctional facility participates in job fairs at Rust College and the University of Mississippi, plus others locally.
• The staff participates in the Angel Tree program, adopting 10 families and providing Christmas presents for children.
• MCCF supports the nursing home, with visits, songs and gifts.
The facility is managed by GEO and operates under contractual agreement with the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Its mission is to ensure safety for citizens of the state by operating a professionally managed, adult male, medium security institution. Its main purpose is to provide a safe, secure and humane environment for its offenders and to prepare those incarcerated for a successful reintegration into society.
Offender programs include Adult Basic Education (ABE)/General Education Diploma (GED), on-site college classes, a Bible Education Program (B.E.P.) with 260 students, life skills and introduction to computers. There’s much more, including a culinary arts program with a capacity of 15 students and horticulture classes. Offenders who successfully complete the culinary arts program move into the kitchen to further their hospitality and food service experience.
One person spoke up and in honesty told the warden that he opposed the prison’s locating in Holly Springs. It opened in 1996. But his mind has since changed.
MCCF was the first institution in the state to receive initial accreditation in January 1998 with a score of 99.3 and the first to receive re-accreditation in January 2001 with a score of 99.75. This was a milestone for corrections in the state, as MCCF was the first accredited facility in the state. MCCF received its second re-accreditation from the American Correctional Association (ACA) and the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections (CAC) in September 2003 with a score of 100 percent compliant with all mandatory and non-mandatory standards.
And by the way, the correctional facility reported 424 significant incidents from January 2007 to June 2008. None were escapes. Most were contraband (cell phones), some being tossed over the 12-foot fence by passers-by to prisoners. But a big net is in the works to solve that problem.
Thanks to MCCF for a job well done.
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