Q: One of your predecessors, Robert Johnson, recently wrote in an op-ed piece for us that said there are 3,360 empty beds, almost enough to hold the entire prison population housed in for-profit prisons. Do you see continued use of private prisons as still viable for Mississippi given that MDOC’s budget has been cut?
A: Mr. Johnson’s point regarding private prisons and the circumstances under which we turned to them 20 years ago are well taken. But I feel that more analysis of private prisons is in order before we ring that bell. I consider that evaluation a priority of mine, especially for the long-term future of corrections in Mississippi given the drop in the inmate population. Meanwhile, we may be forced to consider closing at least one private institution in order to comply with the 7.8 percent possible FY16 reduction. Even if we do so, the amount of money we owe on the four private prisons is still at $200 million.
Q: While the MDOC Task Force is making recommendations to the governor and Legislature, in the interim how are you approaching the awarding of contracts?
A: MDOC has hired an employee solely responsible for the RFO/IFB process. Committees evaluate proposals pursuant to bid submissions. A recommendation for a contract award is presented to me to accept or reject before we go to the contract review board for approval. I do not discuss contracts with vendors. We are committed to transparency and integrity of the process.