MDOC changes coming in wake of Epps scandal - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

MDOC changes coming in wake of Epps scandal

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - One month after federal officials implicated former state prison chief Chris Epps and businessman Cecil McCrory in a million-dollar bribery and kickback scheme, comes news their trial has been delayed.

A federal judge on Friday granted the delays requested by attorneys for both men, moving the start date to April 6.

Hours earlier, the MDOC Task Force began its own investigation, discussing how to decipher these corrections contracts in the wake of that federal investigation.

Their goal: keep a corruption scandal like this from ever happening again.

"There is a lot to cover. In fact, one of our challenges General Moore pointed out, is how do we get our hands around the scope of work here?" said task force chairman Andy Taggart.

Members of the MDOC Task Force discussed the scope of what they'd be responsible for during Friday's meeting.

"We're just gonna go methodically through it, see if we can come up with some best practices for contracts," said task force member and former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore. "The best thing we could possibly do is try to prevent some of this from happening and deter people from doing this kind of thing." 


During the meeting, news also broke of Gov. Phil Bryant's choice for MDOC commissioner; Marshall Fisher, a former Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics director with nearly four decades of law enforcement

experience. Fisher

starts in January 2015, and will serve the remainder of Gov. Bryant's term in office.

Former attorney general Mike Moore hopes the public is encouraged by these developments.

"It's always an uphill battle [with the public], but frankly, I commend the governor for putting together a task force to take a look at this thing," said Moore. "It means to me that he's really serious about it."

Gov. Bryant created the task force through an executive order last month.

Task force member Constance Slaughter-Harvey said she's serious about getting to the bottom of these failures, failures that led to years of mostly unnoticed bribes and kickbacks.

"I don't want to be a part of a sham," Slaughter-Harvey said. "I want to make certain that, before my name goes on it, that I have all the information that's available."

That means the task force will go through every single vendor contract with MDOC.

It's a lengthy process, they hope, will bring a worthy payoff for taxpayers.

"At the end of the day, if somebody's gonna be dishonest and steal, all the safeguards in the world can't keep him or her from doing that, said Taggart. "But our job is to put in the reasonable safeguards that we can and ensure that the oversight is actually working."

Taggart said he hopes to have an outline of sorts ready to submit to the governor by the Dec. 31 deadline.

The task force anticipates the entire process will take several months.

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