Not a privilege – just hell!

MDOC-Commissioner-Pelicia-Hall, Not a privilege – just hell!, Behind Enemy Lines
The first Black woman to head Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), Pelicia Hall oversaw death and abuse in MDOC’s concentration camps. She has since stepped down from MDOC to go into the private sector to continue her “advocacy to reform” the same atrocities she allowed under her watch. Oppression is oppression by any color or gender.

by Dawn Alexander

It will soon be two years since the women at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) were moved back to the part of the compound known as “the yard.” The buildings in this section were condemned in 2011! 

We, the prisoners, are now being told that it is a privilege to be housed in this area of the compound. A privilege to be housed in housing that’s unfit for habitation, in buildings where:

  • Sewage backs up through the floor drains onto the bathroom floor.
  • Water, including drinking fountains, often smells like sewage and has a putrid taste.
  • Toilets and sinks stay stopped up.
  • On the coldest days, we have no hot water.
  • Black mold grows on the walls and ceilings.

 And this is just for starters!

Talk about shitty situations – the A-Building has been required to use a pump to run the flooding water into the septic system whenever it rains. Sewer water backs up into that building’s bathroom so bad that prisoners have to literally wade through shit to go to the toilets or to the showers! 

B-Building also has had sewage back up into their bathroom several times, but not to the point where they’ve needed to use a pump. On the other hand, B-Building’s water smells like sewage too and tastes putrid about 70 percent of the time. We have little choice except to boil the water in the microwave and drink it.

B-Building has sinks and toilets that are always leaking or stopped up and, of course, the blame is usually placed on us, the prisoners, when anything gets broken.

These two buildings are more than 30 years old and their septic system is in disrepair and in dire need of replacement. There are ordinarily six toilets per bathroom – when they are all working – that are supposed to service 140 women. 

Like most prisons and correctional systems, we have our share of staff that get their kicks out of beating up on prisoners. Nine out of 10 times they’ll get away with these abuses that violate our rights – so it’s done again and again. 

That’s a lot of usage. When the plumbing is aging or ancient, it’s going to breakdown!

B-Building has no hot water on the coldest days and they always tell us that the problem is when the breaker to the hot water heater “trips” – funny how it will never “trip” in the summer! 

Oh, but let it be 30 degrees outside and there it goes – with no hot water for days until maintenance can come and flip the tripped breaker. Just more worn-out equipment needing to be replaced.

The black mold I’m sure grows everywhere in all the buildings. They spray and scrub, but it invariably comes right back. I’ve even seen them paint over it as if that will contain it and solve the problem. 

We’ve breathed in these mold spores for weeks, months and countless years. Could that account for the many unexplained sicknesses and respiratory illnesses?

Like most prisons and correctional systems, we have our share of staff that get their kicks out of beating up on prisoners. Nine out of 10 times they’ll get away with these abuses that violate our rights – so it’s done again and again. 

MDOC-Commissioner-Pelicia-Hall-testifies-legislative-budget-hearing-091718-by-Rogelio-V.-Solis-AP, Not a privilege – just hell!, Behind Enemy Lines
In Sept. 17, 2018, Pelicia Hall, Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner. speaks before a meeting of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee Fiscal Year 2020 hearing in Jackson, Miss. A report from the state auditor’s office released in December 2020 cites widespread fraud, waste and abuse at MDOC facilities for the period of July 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2019.

There is one lieutenant, Sheila Lawson, who has on more than one occasion forcefully cut a prisoner’s hair recklessly and uncaringly, cutting or nicking a prisoner’s side of face or head during the process. Generally, Lt. Lawson only gets a slap on the wrist, a short suspension or no punishment at all. 

This same Lt. Lawson has been known for her derogatory comments, telling certain prisoners that she will “slit their throat” or “cut their head off, put it in a box and mail it to mommy.” 

She also has been known to, along with Lt. Aimee Brown, beat up prisoners then lock them up in “max” and hold them there until the bruises heal up. They always get away with this! 

We’re forced to wade through shit, breathe in harmful black mold for extended periods and drink contaminated water.

Sadly, many of the women here don’t realize that the staff’s offenses are grounds to file a lawsuit and often those who do know are too afraid to do anything about it.

We, the women of Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, are forced to live in condemned housing units that I’m sure is due to the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) not accepting federal funds, because doing so would allow the feds a mandate to see how things are run here.

Instead, we’re forced to wade through shit, breathe in harmful black mold for extended periods and drink contaminated water. 

They claim the prison system is financially broke, yet they purchase new vans, trucks, pickups and golf carts. Commissioner Pelicia “Moving MDOC Progressively Forward” Hall dresses to the “nines” with fancy coiffed hair, grinning her ass off and feeling pleased as punch with herself – but they still don’t want to let people out of this hell!

We write the media, our families, anyone who will listen, yet nothing changes. Though I’ve not mentioned much yet of the drugs that come in here more and more every day – every day things keep getting worse and worse and we need help! 

They say it’s a privilege to be housed on “the yard.” Nowhere on the CMCF compound is it a privilege – just hell!

Dawn Alexander is incarcerated at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) but has asked that her address not be published.