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MDOC investigates inmate death

WOODVILLE — Investigations continue into Saturday’s deadly prison brawl at the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, state corrections officials confirmed Monday.

Tara Booth, a spokesperson for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, said Monday that the state agency was working “in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies” to complete an investigation into the death of a state inmate at the private prison owned and managed by Corrections Corporation of America.

The incident occurred shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday, when multiple fights broke out between inmates at multiple housing units across the 1,000-bed facility.

When the fighting was quelled, inmate Demond Flowers, 21, was dead inside the facility. Flowers was serving an 18-year sentence for car burglary, strong-arm robbery and robbery. Mississippi Department of Corrections records indicate Flowers was convicted in Hinds County.

Wilkinson County Coroner Travis Sharp said Monday he had yet to receive a preliminary autopsy report on Flowers’ death.

In addition to Flowers, nine other inmates sustained injuries that required hospital care and an undisclosed number of other inmates received minor injuries, and were treated within the facility, a spokesperson for CCA said Saturday.

By Monday, of the nine originally hospitalize, all but three were discharged, CCA reported.

Saturday’s fighting comes as CCA is increasingly under fire across the country by prison rights advocacy groups for being understaffed.

Earlier this month, CCA officials admitted prison employees at the Idaho Correctional Center had falsified the number of hours worked. The falsified records indicated that security posts were staffed when in fact they were not.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen told The Associated Press earlier this month that the falsified records were a serious matter.

“We will take appropriate disciplinary action with the involved personnel, and we will work to enhance the staffing, training and record-keeping processes at the facility,” he told The AP.

Owen wrote Monday that he could not provide information about the details of the investigation or disclose information about staffing levels at WCCF at the time of the fights.

“Saturday’s incident at WCCF is currently under investigation, with full support and cooperation from CCA,” Owen wrote in an e-mail. “It is premature and speculative to answer questions before all of the facts have been gathered, and to do so at this point would undermine the investigation that is taking place.”

However, CCA’s corporate website indicated Monday afternoon that the Woodville prison was accepting applications for corrections officers.

WCCF promoted a hiring event on Jan. 17 at the Natchez Convention Center, at which CCA touted it was looking to fill “30+” open positions, though not all were corrections officers. The facility was also seeking nurses, maintenance workers and other positions.

Saturday’s fight was less than one year after inmates at the Adams County Correctional Center, also owned by CCA, began a riot that ended with a prison guard’s death.

In the May 2012 Adams County incident, prisoners took control of the prison for nearly nine hours before a CCA special operation team regained control using pepper spray. At the time, some inmates alleged the riot was over mistreatment of inmates.

Although both prisons are owned and operated by CCA, their inmate population differs significantly.

The Adams County facility houses more than 2,500 inmates, most illegal federal immigrants.

Wilkinson County’s facility houses mostly Mississippi Department of Corrections prisoners.

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