The Intercept revisits an incident that helped prompt the U.S. Justice Department to cut ties with the private prison industry, a policy that may be reversed by the Donald Trump administration: a deadly clash at a low-security, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) facility on the outskirts of Natchez, Mississippi, that the website says reflects how private prisons not only endanger inmates, but can also force low-wage workers from economically depressed communities into perilous circumstances. In May 2012, inmates at Adams County Correctional Center staged a protest over a litany of grievances, including claims that men had died in custody as a result of medical negligence. Though CCA officials were forewarned that dire conditions had bred a sense of desperation in the prison, they failed to prevent the escalation that followed.
Adams County had a poverty rate about twice the national average. When CCA (now CoreCivic) hosted a job fair in Natchez, more than 3,000 people lined up for 409 jobs. By 2011, the Adams prison held more than 2,500 inmates, the majority of them from Mexico. The Intercept reached out to former Adams inmates who are now serving time on charges of rioting in a federal correctional facility. Several described the unrest as primarily the result of conditions they felt had become increasingly dangerous and intolerable, including medical neglect, excessive use of segregation, spoiled food, a lack of interpreters, and mistreatment by staff. The company told The Intercept that it complies with federal prison-system policies. The firm said it “employs a robust grievance process, including an available toll-free number, through which inmates can share any concerns or complaints. We work to address these claims quickly and appropriately.”