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Panel to Tackle Prison Problems in Program at Overby Center

Cleaning Up MS Prison

Mississippi’s new corrections commissioner, a co-chairman of a gubernatorial task force on prisons, a state senator and a professor who has studied corrections will discuss the state’s daunting prison challenges at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at Ole Miss.

The panel includes Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher, Gov. Phil Bryant’s choice to clean up corrections; Jackson attorney Andy Taggart, co-chairman of the governor’s task force charged with making recommendations for improvements; state Sen. Lydia Chassaniol, vice-chairwoman of the Senate Corrections Committee; and Eric Lambert, chairman of the Legal Studies Department at Ole Miss, who has written frequently about corrections issues.

Jerry Mitchell, an award-winning investigative reporter who has written about prison problems for the Clarion-Ledger, will serve as moderator for the panel discussion.

The program comes just months after the resignation of longtime Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps, accused of taking $2 million in bribes connected to no-bid contracts. Epps subsequently pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and filing false tax returns and is awaiting sentencing June 9.

The scandal caught the attention of the legislature, which just tightened controls over prison contracts. Since his appointment, Fisher, a veteran lawman who ran the Mississippi Narcotics Bureau to rave reviews and got the legislature to pass one of the toughest anti-methamphetamine laws in the country, has begun making changes designed to increase contract controls, make prisons safer and improve hiring.

“Corrections has periodically been a flashpoint for controversy in Mississippi,” said Overby Fellow Bill Rose. “The members of this panel are uniquely positioned to provide insight into the challenges of modern day corrections and how this state can avoid the prison problems of the past.”

The program, the Overby Center’s next to last of the spring semester, is free and open to the public. Ole Miss visitors please call 662-915-1692 for help with parking arrangements.

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