Adams County Correctional Facility, Adams County, Mississippi
May 21, 2012

Hundreds of prisoners took control of a unit at a private prison owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (now Core Civic) and attempted to negotiate a meeting with the warden to voice their concerns. After guards deployed tear gas canisters, prisoners threw the canisters back towards the firing line along with stones, soda cans, and kitchen trays. Some prisoners stacked food carts and reached the roof where the guards were stationed, assaulting prison staff and again demanding a meeting with the warden. Prisoners started a large fire in the prison yard.

One guard, Catlin Carithers, died from blunt trauma and 20 others were injured. The total damage to the facility was estimated to be $1,305,142.00

The uprising occurred following complaints by prisoners of medical neglect resulting in fatalities, excessive use of segregation, spoiled food, lack of interpreters, and mistreatment from staff. The prison is a Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) facility run by Core Civic under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

On a phone call to a local ABC station, a prisoner reported rampant physical abuse by guards and a demand for better food, medical attention, and respect from guards.

The prison was at the time one of 11 privately-operated prisons under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (one has since closed). According to The Intercept, approximately one-third of the detainees at the facility were serving time for immigration offenses, such as unlawful re-entry, and about 99 percent of the detainees at the facility would be deported when they completed their sentence.

The Intercept collected statements from detainees at the facility. One detainee wrote,

“The inmates tried, though no one paid attention, to discuss the poor nutrition, with food that had already expired and medical care that was scarce and so bad prisoners were getting worse and worse…Whenever anyone complained, officers beat him and put him into segregation, the SHU, and submitted a report it had happened because of disobedience or lack of respect for an officer.”

Another detainee reported officers using racial slurs like “wetback” toward them.

A prisoner informant who supplied information on the rebellion to the prison administration in the days before it occurred, reported that the prisoners planned to stage a peaceful protest and to escalate to an uprising only if their demands were not met or if met with interference from guards and staff:

“They will present to the warden all the changes to be make and if not [comply] will burn the place down…I was in 3 meetings tonight and trust me is The real deal. I saw the paper with all demands and goes from medical, kitchen food, programs recreations and laundry. The new rep [said] warden dont accept the demands he will order all workers to stop. Will be a pacific demonstration but if the staff [interfere] will get ugly. Get ready is serious.”

 

Smoke from a fire set by prisoners during the uprising is visible outside the Adams County Correctional Center (Photo Source: CBS News).

Following the uprising, the federal government announced that it would phase out its use of private prisons, citing the uprising at Adams County Correctional as one of the events that factored into its decision (a plan that the Trump administration has since reversed).

In March, 2014, 9 prisoners pleaded guilty to rioting charges associated with the uprising. Two prisoners were later found guilty of second-degree murder and a third was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

(Updated: 4/8/19)

Citations:

Guard killed, several others injured in riot at Mississippi prison, officials say”, CNN, May 20 2012.

Adams County Prison Riot“, WAPT ABC, May 20, 2012.

Inside The Deadly Prison Riot“, 16 WAPT News Jackson, YouTube, May 21, 2012.

9 plead guilty in Adams County prison riot“, Clarion Ledger, March 12, 2014.

Inmate sentenced in deadly Adams County prison riot“, Clarion Ledger, April 14, 2016.

“Fatal Corrections: Inside the Deadly Mississippi Riot That Pushed the Justice Department to Rein In Private Prisons”, The Intercept, December 17 2016.