The indictment and resignation of Christopher Epps, Mississippi’s longtime corrections commissioner, has raised questions about the state’s dealings with firms that operate private prisons, reports the New York Times. Epps, an early advocate of prison privatization, is accused of receiving more than $1 million in bribes from Cecil McCrory, a former Mississippi lawmaker. The 49-count indictment charges that Epps helped secure lucrative corrections department contracts for private prison companies owned or represented by McCrory.
Mississippi has long struggled to fix its notoriously troubled prison system. In 2012, a federal judge called the conditions at one privately run facility “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions.” Now the state is facing the possibility of a widening corruption scandal, a top-to-bottom reassessment of its prison-contracting system, and the removal of the powerful Epps from the political equation amid the rollout of an ambitious alternative-sentencing law that he helped devise.