GREENWOOD — A Department of Corrections memo shows an inmate was transferred to a separate unit inside the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman for writing a newspaper letter that criticized Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher.
The Greenwood Commonwealth reported it published a letter Sept. 27 from Tim Turner, 52, who’s serving a 20-year sentence for a 2012 drug conviction in Itawamba County.
Turner’s letter said Fisher excessively uses lockdowns and revokes inmates’ privileges to try to curb violence and contraband.
“Fights and stabbings are very rare here, and contraband is smuggled in by his officers. But Fisher uses every trick possible to hurt us,” Turner wrote in the letter to the editor.
The newspaper obtained a memo showing Turner was transferred inside the prison Sept. 30. The memo, signed by Parchman Superintendent Earnest Lee, cited Turner for writing the letter and said he violated a rule banning “unauthorized communication with any member of the public, staff or between inmates.” The memo said Turner waived his right to a hearing about the letter.
However, an inmates’ rights attorney, Ron Welch of Jackson, said the transfer sounds like a violation of the inmate’s free-speech rights and a throwback to a time that put Mississippi’s corrections system under federal court supervision.
“That’s crazy. That’s wrong,” Welch said when told of the Department of Corrections’ treatment of Turner.
A department spokeswoman declined to discuss the reason for any inmate relocation.
“Other than what appears on our website, MDOC does not reveal the exact location of any inmate or discuss internal movement of inmates for security reasons,” said communications director Grace Simmons Fisher, no relation to Marshall Fisher.
Welch, however, said MDOC is asking for a lawsuit if it is disciplining inmates for expressing their opinions to the newspaper or to anyone else on the outside.
“That’s a clear violation,” he said. “They need to correct that stat. If they don’t, I would encourage (the inmates) to seek representation to right that clear wrong.”
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