The families of some Mississippi prisoners are calling on state prison officials to take action against a correctional officer after a posting about cruel treatment of inmates as part of an internet meme.
Screenshots from the “Correctional Officer Life” Facebook group circulated across social media this week, showing selfies of men and women wearing prison employee and law enforcement uniforms as part of the Feeling Cute Challenge. Many of the captions made light of shooting prisoners with Tasers, placing them in solitary confinement or confiscating their personal belongings.
“Feelin (sic) cute; might put your baby daddy in the shower for 6 hours,” one poster wrote.
“Feeling cute, might just gas some inmates today, idk,” wrote another.
“Feeling cute…….. might lock their asses down today I dont (sic) know,” a third posted.
In Mississippi, an online support group for prisoners’ families called attention to one particular post. It features a photo of a woman in a cap bearing the insignia of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
The poster’s Facebook name matches the name of a correctional officer at Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, according to state personnel board records. The poster did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections also declined to comment.
For many prisoners’ advocates and family members, the posts only further highlight a correctional culture predicated on cruelty and abuse of incarcerated people.
“I find the challenge very humiliating, very disgusting,” said one woman whose husband is incarcerated at Parchman. Citing the possibility of retaliation by prison officials, she requested to be identified by only her first name, Kristi.
“As if prison isn’t enough, they have officers like that, that antagonize and degrade them and then want to be so quick to use that pen to issue [rule violation reports],” Kristi told Mississippi Today, adding that she thought the employee in question should be reprimanded and terminated.
The jokes made by the posters, such as leaving inmates in the shower because segregation units were full, echo real-life accounts from prisoners, said Jody Owens of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Jackson.
“What it really speaks to is this: the reality is that inmates are a vulnerable population at the whim of whatever [correctional officers] choose to do to them,” Owens said. “And far too often throughout the country we’ve seen instances where people’s possessions, cells are just pillaged, through boredom or any insignificant reason, and it’s not a joking matter.”
Owens also made note of the significance of the noodles referenced in the post made by the correctional officer in the Mississippi uniform.
Ramen noodles represent both a staple of creative prison meals and a valuable alternate currency in many prison economies, but they can only be purchased through commissaries, where contract vendors set prices.
On Tuesday, Texas prison officials said they were investigating allegations that their employees made some of the posts, the Houston Chronicle reported. Two Georgia Department of Corrections prison workers also allegedly took part in the challenge.
Many correctional officers have taken to social media to voice opinions about their jobs, as a collection of such posts by The Marshall Project in 2016 revealed.
In the last decade, civil rights groups have taken Mississippi to court several times, alleging the state does not keep prisoners safe from violence at the hands of staff and other prisoners. The state entered a consent decree in 2012 to improve conditions at the now-shuttered Walnut Grove prison, where the U.S. Department of Justice found rampant abuses of prisoners by guards. A lawsuit over conditions at the privately operated East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian is ongoing.
Over the last fiscal year, MDOC saw 420 inmate on inmate assaults and 91 inmate on staff assaults across its three main prisons, according to documents prepared for the Legislative Budget Office.