Prison company MTC owes Mississippi $2M for no-show employees


Note: This text was published in partnership with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system. Join for his or her newsletters, and follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Mississippi’s state auditor on Monday demanded a non-public prison operator pay nearly $2 million after the corporate improperly billed the state for 1000’s of prison guard shifts that were never actually worked.

State Auditor Shad White announced the demand — the results of an inquiry his office launched in late 2020, following an investigation by The Marshall Project that exposed the corporate’s ghost employees practice.

White’s audit found that Management & Training Corporation, the country’s third-largest private prison company, didn’t notify or credit Mississippi’s Department of Corrections when staffing at a jail run by MTC fell below minimum requirements, as agreed to of their contract. The auditor is demanding about $1.4 million for unfilled shifts between 2017 and 2020, and slightly below $600,000 in interest and recovery costs. White called it one in every of the most important demands issued during his 4 years in office.

“We look ahead to a swift recovery of those funds,” White said in a press release. MTC has 30 days to make payment, the auditor’s office said, or the case will likely be referred to the state’s attorney general.

MTC spokesman David Martinson declined to reply questions Monday. In a press release, he wrote the corporate has paid emptiness penalties under the terms of the contract, and that the auditor’s demands are inconsistent with the contract. He didn’t elaborate.

The Marshall Project investigation showed how MTC collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in Mississippi by routinely charging the corrections department for vacant security positions the corporate was required to fill. The practice illustrated a perverse financial incentive unique to non-public prisons: While fewer employees meant more danger for workers and incarcerated people, it created more profit for MTC.

The news investigation highlighted the experience of Correctional Officer Darrell Adams, who was nearly killed in 2019 when he was attacked by a prisoner during an overnight shift where Adams was doing the work of eight officers in 4 different buildings.

Adams worked on the Marshall County Correctional Facility, near the Tennessee border, where the state’s audit found that MTC billed for 12,000 unfilled mandatory shifts within the four-year

period. MTC operated two other Mississippi prisons in the course of the same period, however the auditor’s demand letter only addressed the Marshall County prison.

The Marshall Project also exposed a ghost employee problem on the two other MTC prisons. Using monthly invoices and data on vacant positions, the news organization estimated that between 2013 and 2019, the state paid MTC about $7 million combined for no-show employees on the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, south of Natchez, and the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, near Meridian.

When asked Monday if payment could be sought from MTC for ghost employees at those other facilities, a spokesperson for the state auditor’s office wrote, “Our work just isn’t over.”

The Marshall Project’s investigation in 2020 was published in partnership with The Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi Today and The Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.

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