Families petition MDOC for photographs with inmates

Jackson, Miss. (WJTV) – In 2001, Joseph Martin was sentenced to 20 years in jail for armed robbery and aggravated assault. Martin’s most recent picture, since being in jail, is a mugshot. Three years ago, Joseph married Stephanie. There was a ceremony but no photos. His wife wants that to change.

Stephanie Martin says, “Why does anyone want a picture with their spouse, their child, their dad? It’s to capture that moment. The moment that I have is not perfect but it’s my moment. and I have 4 more years and I want those moments captured so I can have them at home with me.”

Stephanie is part of a group who petitioned MDOC and some state lawmakers in August. They’re asking that the Mississippi Department of Corrections allow photos to be taken of inmates with their families. Stephanie is even willing to pay for a picture. The petition comes with comments from wives, fiances and former and current inmates. Joseph Martin writes in the petition, “Having a picture of my wife and I would build up my morale and keep me focused on my dream of going home to her.”

Stephanie is also concerned with inmate visitation. MDOC has said they would change visitation rules, allowing only 10 immediate family members to visit inmates, in order to prevent contraband from entering prisons. But because a group of pastors and the ACLU questioned the decision, MDOC postponed making the changes.

Stephanie says, “They had a friend that’s visited for 8 years that helps that person to have a reason to go on and behave. You know they take that visitation that privilege away from people that do not have a spouse.”

WJTV checked with MDOC today. There’s no update on when a new visitation policy might go into effect.

MDOC did send the following statement regarding inmate photographs:

“The Mississippi Department of Corrections currently has no plans to allow family photos to be taken with inmates. The agency is understaffed and needs to devote all personnel to carrying out its public safety mission. Therefore, MDOC does not have the staff to supervise the photographing of inmates.
Also, our practice of prohibiting inmate photographs is based on state law 47-5-193, which prohibits contraband.  Unauthorized electric devices, cell phones or any of its components or accessories used in the taking of photographs are contraband.
Should we consider changing our position, we will consider all voices, including the victims, some of whom have told us that the offenders in our custody have taken away their right to be able to be with their loved ones.”

You can find the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/congressmen-bring-back-visitation-family-photography-to-mississippi-prisons

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