Mississippi demands $2M from Utah-based prison company

The Mississippi auditor said Monday that his office is demanding nearly $2 million from a private company for failing to have enough people on duty for many shifts at a state prison it was operating.

Management & Training Corporation, also known as MTC, had nearly 12,000 unfilled mandatory shifts from 2017 to 2020 at Marshall County Correctional Facility in northern Mississippi, the auditor’s office said in a news release.

Auditor Shad White said MTC — based in Centerville, Utah — failed to tell the Mississippi Department of Corrections when staffing at the Marshall County prison fell below minimum levels required by a state contract.

The auditor’s demand covers the cost of those shifts, plus interest and investigative costs.

MTC communications director Dave Martinson said in a statement Monday that the company paid vacancy penalties under the terms of the Marshall County Correctional Facility contract, which was amended by the Mississippi Department of Corrections in December 2017.

“The calculations in the State Auditor’s demand are inconsistent with the terms of the amended contract,” the MTC statement said.

In response to questions from The Associated Press about the amount of money MTC paid in vacancy penalties and when those were paid, Martinson said the penalties were deducted from the company’s monthly invoices to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

“MDOC’s on-site contract monitor was aware of the staffing levels at Marshall and signed off on all invoices, which included the vacancy deductions,” Martinson said. “We look forward to working with the State Auditor to resolve its calculation discrepancies and have no further comment on this legal matter at this time.”

The prison in Marshall County opened in 1996 and was run by private companies until the state took over its operation in September 2021.

“This is one of the larger demands we’ve issued in my time in office,” White said in the release. “Our investigators have proven we will take on the biggest cases down to the smallest to protect taxpayer dollars. We look forward to a swift recovery of these funds.”

If MTC does not make payment on the auditor’s demand within 30 days, White said the case will go to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, which could sue the company.

MTC still operates two prisons in Mississippi — East Mississippi Correctional Facility and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility.

A nonprofit news outlet, The Marshall Project, reported in 2020 about short-staffing at Marshall County Correctional Facility and the other Mississippi prisons run by MTC. MTC spokesperson Issa Arnita said at the time that staff shortages were the result of low pay because a Mississippi law requires private prisons to cost 10% less to operate than state-run prisons. Arnita also said areas near rural prisons had a short supply of available labor.

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.




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