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Life Inside

Blood, Sex and Contraband

One inmate’s unexpurgated version of life in a Mississippi prison

Later this week in Jackson, Miss., a federal judge will conclude a hearing into conditions at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, a troubled prison run by the private operator Management and Training Corporation. MTC executives and state officials are claiming they have satisfied the terms of a 2012 consent decree that called for an end to corruption and abusive treatment. The decree was the result of a federal lawsuit alleging systemic abuse and neglect of teenagers and young men held at Walnut Grove.

Mississippi officials and MTC argue that conditions at the detention facility — which now houses adults exclusively — have improved substantially since 2012, eliminating the need for federal oversight. Lawyers for some of the inmates within the facility say otherwise.

Among the evidence the judge will be pondering is this testimony from Jeremy Evans, an inmate who spent three years of his eight-year sentence for armed robbery in confinement at Walnut Grove before being transferred last month to another facility. A certified nursing assistant, Evans was assigned to work in the medical department at Walnut Grove where, he testified, he saw the bloody results of three riots, including one in July 2014.

The testimony is, of course, one inmate’s word, and is likely to be disputed by the Department of Corrections and the operators of the facility. The questions here come from an attorney for the inmates, Jody Owens; the answers belong to Evans.

Q. So what happened after you were called to come to medical?
A. I was — walked up to the medical clinic.
Q. What did you — what, if anything, did you see when you walked to the medical clinic?
A. A trail of blood and a thick cloud of smoke and gas.
Q. What was the blood coming from?
A. From all different directions, but it all trailed back to the medical department.
Q. And what happened when you got to the medical department?
A. It was offenders laying all over the place. People was trying to help out, you know, trying to stop the guys from, you know, bleeding pretty much to death and trying to get everybody seen. It was just — it was just chaotic. It was something you would think to see on a movie, but only this was reality, you know, watching guys with stab wounds and lacerations over their head and, you know, just constantly bleeding and in and out of consciousness. It was a sight.
Q. And what did you do when you arrived there?
A. My first instinct was to immediately help out. The — and that was to start cleaning wounds and getting the offenders from this point to that point, you know, just — just pretty much just responding.
Q. Are there any specific injuries that you remember?
A. Yes, sir. It was this one offender, he had a lacerations over his head. And he had glass inside of it. And he kept going in and out of consciousness. And he wouldn't ever, you know, respond to the staff. But he confided in me to not leave his side and asked me to take care of him, make sure that, you know, he don't die, because he was under the impression that they was going to let him die. So that, in particular, just — it just stuck with me that moment.

Evans also testified that he was sexually assaulted by a female nurse at Walnut Grove in February of this year.

Q. So you said that [prison nurse] Butler offered you some of her Coke?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What happened next?
A. I declined. And her response was, It's not like that. I mean having sexual intercourse.
MR. SILER: Objection. Hearsay.
BY MR. OWENS:
Q. Did you drink any of the soda?
A. No, sir.
Q. What happened next?
A. She brought up the subject about oral sex.
Q. The CNA brought up the subject about oral sex?
A. Yes.
Q. Oral sex between who?
MR. SILER: And I'm going to object to all this on hearsay, your Honor.
MR. OWENS: Your Honor —
THE COURT: I'm going to give you some leeway to have him — I understand how difficult it is. But if he's been involved in a sexual assault as he testified, he's going to have to — maybe you're getting there. It's difficult to get there, but get there, please.
BY MR. OWENS:
Q. What happened after there was a discussion around oral sex?
A. I was fondled and she put her mouth on my genital area.
Q. And did she perform oral sex on you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you resist?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you ask her to stop?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Approximately how long did this interaction last?
A. 30 seconds to 40 seconds.
Q. Then what happened?
A. She eventually stopped because she see I couldn't get an erection. And I left out of that area. And I reported to the officer upon leaving my job site as to why I was leaving, and the officer made mockery of it and dismissed me.

Evans next was asked if he knew anything about “contraband at Walnut Grove.” His response:

A. I seen on several occasions where officers would bring in contraband to the housing unit and they would put — disguise it in potato chips bags and, you know, food items or just clear bottles and just give it to the offender by coming to their cell door and pop open the door and just leaving it there.
Q. And by "contraband," what do you mean?
A. I seen cell phones, marijuana, synthetic marijuana,
cocaine, alcohol.
Q. And do you know, are the officers paid for this?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Is it common knowledge that officers bring this material into the pods?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And when did you leave Walnut Grove last?
A. March the 13th.
Q. March 13th?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you see this occurring in March 2015?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you see this occurring in February of 2015?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And did you see this occurring in January of 2015?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Is it fair and accurate that you've seen this the entire time you've been at Walnut Grove?
A. Of course, yes, sir.

Evans also testified about “gang fights” that he says are a daily fact of life at Walnut Grove. And then he testified about alleged collusion between the corrections officers and inmates on basic matters of prison security:

Q. What zone were you on in Walnut Grove?
A. I was on the privilege zone.
Q. Privilege zone?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And do — what type of doors — cell doors are on your
zone?
A. Hinged doors.
Q. Hinged doors?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do they function properly?
A. No, sir.
Q. How do they function?
A. Prior to us coming there, you know, guys will stick
toothpaste caps off in the part of the door where it latch closed so it's impossible, you know, to keep the doors just locked.
Q. Do officers check the doors on a regular basis —
A. No, sir.
Q. — on your —
A. No, sir.
Q. How often do they checks the doors?
A. Up until 5:00, every two to three hours maybe.
Q. And do — is it your testimony that officers know that the doors are being rigged?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. How do the officers know the doors were being rigged?
A. They will tell you to put the door on secure after 5:00. Once the major leave, she will tell you that I'm not coming back on the zone. So keep your door *— make sure y'all's doors show secure in case the captain or somebody comes through the tower, to make sure the door just show secure. So rig them.*
Q. And what do you mean by "show secure"?
A. Make sure that the lights not on or blinking in the tower.
Q. And how can an offender do that from their door, their cell door?
A. Toothpaste caps, like I referred to, spoons, folded piece of paper. It's numerous — it's numerous things you can do to rig the door.
Q. And it's your testimony that officers are complicit with these doors being rigged.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Because if they show closed, they won't come back and check them?
A. Yes, sir, because they claim they're too busy. Yes, sir.

Then there was a brief cross-examination of Evans by William Siler, one of the lawyers for the defendants. “What are you in prison for? What were you convicted of?” was how the lawyer began. Then this exchange:

Q. Okay. Are you a homosexual?
A. No, sir.
Q. You're a heterosexual?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. So just for the record, how big are you?
A. When you say how big I am —
Q. What's your size? How tall are you?
A. Six one.
Q. How much do you weigh?
A. 230 pounds.
Q. And you're in pretty fair physical condition, wouldn't you say?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And this nurse that you claim assaulted you — this female. Correct?
A. Of course.
Q. And how big was she? How tall was she?
A. Approximately five eleven.
Q. Five eleven?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Now, when the sexual assault began, did you have your clothes on?
A. When it began?
Q. Yeah.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. All right. And so you said that she put her mouth on your genitals. So somehow or another you had to get undressed. Right?
A. After she pulled my pants down, yes, sir.
Q. All right. So this lady, woman, pulls your pants down and you are not interested in this. Correct?
A. Correct.
Q. And so you just — you just stand there?
A. No, sir. I resisted.
Q. Well, how did you resist?
A. I resist her by — by not letting her. That's how I
resisted.
Q. Okay. So what did she do, overpower you so she could put her mouth on your genitals?
A. No, sir.
Q. So how did that happen? How did that get there?
A. She just — she just put her mouth on it. I mean, after she told me to just try to relax — I mean, have you ever been sexually assaulted?
Q. Not by a woman, or anybody else, I guess, for that matter. Let me hasten to add that. So you just stand there while this woman pulls your pants down and starts to have oral sex with you. That's what's going on?
A. If you've never been sexually assaulted, never been put in that predicament, sir, it's hard for me — understand, please bear with me. It's hard to testify against this, you know. It's very uncommon, but it's not impossible for a male my size to get sexually assaulted by anybody. Until you've been put in that predicament, it's hard — it's hard to cope with that fact, but it is fact.
Q. Couldn't outrun her?
A. No, sir.

Read the full testimony given by a prisoner formerly at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility.

View the full testimony given by a prisoner formerly at the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility.