Ad of 2015, the Mississippi Department of Corrections oversees three state prisons, 11 regional prisons, six private prisons, four restitution centers and 17 community work centers, according to the department's website. All of the state prisons, community corrections facilities, field services, private prisons and regional jails are accredited by the American Correctional Association. On Aug. 11, 2008, the department received the American Correctional Association's Golden Eagle award.
The first known prison in Mississippi was located in Natchez in 1789, reports the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Fifty years later the first centralized prison was established in Jackson. The prison later was damaged by General Sherman's army in May 1863. A few years later the Mississippi government began purchasing parcels of land, and different camps were formed to house prisoners. Because the camps were dispersed, the state penitentiary was often called "the prison without walls."
In 1971, a class-action suit led to changes at the state prison, states the Mississippi Department of Corrections. As a result of this lawsuit, racial segregation was forbidden, living conditions were improved and mail censorship was curtailed. In addition, many older units were closed while several new units were established, corporal punishment was abolished and correctional officers replaced trusty guards. The prison established rules, adopted formal discipline policies, enhanced medical care and enforced better contraband control measures.
Through a merger of the Mississippi Penitentiary Board and the Mississippi Probation and Parole Board, the Mississippi Department of Corrections was formed on July 1, 1976, explains the department's website. The department set up community facilities and restitution centers and provides for offenders' treatment needs. The department initiated other programs including the pre-release job assistance program and established new facilities such as the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.