JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Sheldon Gooch was serving life in prison with two 30-year-sentences added on when he received what he calls a ‘miracle pardon’ from former Governor Haley Barbour.
Since that time he has used his life to serve as a minister, a businessman, and an author.
It's been years since he was incarcerated, but Gooch says the problems today at Parchman are the same.
“This kind of thing has been going on since prison came into existence. The only reason we know about it now is because of the cell phones. And I understand cell phones are not right -- in the prison it’s contraband -- but how would you all know were it not?” he said.
When asked if the images coming out of the prisons is the same as it was when he was serving time, he replied, “All the time. All the time.”
Every situation brings bloodshed, Gooch says, so a violent mindset grows among the inmates.
“If I do get into that situation, I’ve got to go all the way, because there’s always recourse. There’s always retaliation. If not by you, then by your comrades,” Gooch said.
Blackfist Outreach Ministries founders Keewin Grayer and Kenneth Daggans served 24 and 17 years behind bars respectively.
Much like Gooch, they became leaders inside prison. Grayer says a problem bigger than the facility itself is the alleged hiring of corrupt guards, and that responsibility falls on the state.
“I feel like the people that you hire, if I have a company and I hire employees, those employees are a reflection of my judgment,” he said.
Kolean Sanders ministers to female inmates in the state prison system as well. She said the issues inmates face run the same across the board.
“And there’s a lot of abuse there. There’s a lot of mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse there. And they have the same issues that the men have,” she said.