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Families urge MDOC to end ‘group punishment’

Often times when an incident occurs within a prison facility, it’s the family members on the outside who suffer right along with the inmates. 

The Mississippi Dreams Prisoner Advocacy group recently began a petition calling for the end of group punishments.

Jennifer Davis is the founder of the group and her husband is serving a life sentence and while he is not currently affected by the lock downs she said that can change at any time.

“Ending group punishment is important because studies show that over punishing only encourages bad behavior. Once these inmates that are obeying the rules lose faith that they will ever get their visits back, they will begin to see it as they have nothing left to lose because it has already been taken despite their good behavior,” said Davis.

The petition states:

“We are tired of everyone being punished for things the majority of the men are not involved in. We do not understand why so many men who are following the rules and doing what they are supposed to be doing are being punished for the actions of others. There are more men being punished for absolutely no logical reason than there are men being punished for breaking the rules. Not only are the men being punished for no logical reason, but their families are being punished as well. We feel this practice should be changed. I do not see any way that it is going to help any problem MDOC faces to punish the innocent (as MDOC rules stand) along with those guilty of breaking the rules. I have reviewed MDOC’s disciplinary policies and do not see where the department of corrections has the right to punish those men who are abiding by MDOC’s rules.”

Supporters of the petition said that these lock downs cause suffering for families of inmates who live visitation to visitation.

Davis said during these lock downs inmates are not able to use commissary, which prevents them from purchasing things that are not supplied by the facility such as stamps, paper, envelopes, or hygiene products.

“They are also only allowed showers maybe once a week and with no air conditioning and the warm weather, you can only imagine the increased risks for staph infections and other hygiene related issues,” said Davis. 

Stephanie Beaudry Martin’s husband is also incarcerated. She said the last time she was able to speak to him was March 5 before the wall phones were shut off. This was just one day after his unit had come off of another lock down the day before when contraband was found. She said that since the second lock down happened so quickly her husband was not able to order the things such as extra food, deodorant, or letter material, you would need.

“I’m in constant stress mode. I have read so many reports over the last 3 months about inmates being stabbed or being found dead in their cells. My husband is a strong man but he is only one man. If he is attacked by numerous other inmates at one time, he may not survive,” said Martin. 

During that period people outside of the jail do not receive any communication from those locked up. Even pre-paid calls are not honored. Martin said one of the things she misses most during lock downs are her husband’s drawings.


The petition pleads to the MDOC to only punish those who are breaking the rules, not everyone else. Those who support it believe ‘group punishment’ is only causing more aggression, anxiety, fear, and anger for offenders.


Kristina Williams, whose husband has been in Unit 29 at Parchman since October of 2016, said she has not seen her husband since he was locked up, with the exception of two to three weeks.

“Temporary lockdowns are what MDOC calls them.  How is months and months straight considered temporary,” said Williams.

As many of the other wives mentioned, not being able to speak to their spouse behind bars is continually stressful and filled with anxiety.

“The worry grows greater every day.  My husband is still my husband and needs to be a part of my life daily despite the situation,” said Williams.”  Williams added for the sake of MDOC employees, offenders and families of offenders, allow these offenders to have contact with family. It only creates a pleasant environment.

Recently the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) put two facilities on lock down after contraband was found in a surprise shakedown of the Yazoo County Correctional Facility and Holmes-Humphrey’s County Regional Correctional Facility.

During the search officers found homemade alcoholic beverages, excessive nuisance contraband like cell phones, chargers, digital scales, cigarette lighters etc. They also found spice and Marijuana at the Holmes County facility.

The collection of these items forced both facilities into a lock down as part of Operation Zero Tolerance. Under the police all visits, access to commissary, and phone calls are suspended for all inmates.

Davis said they have not received any response from MDOC regarding the petition.

Another petition started by the group would allow visitors to take photos with inmates during visitation hours.

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