In Mississippi, allegations of jailhouse rape, brutal beatings and corrupt acts by sheriffs and their deputies regularly go ignored by the state, even despite ample evidence, Ilyssa Daly, Jerry Mitchell and Rachel Axon report in an investigation for the New York Times. Out of dozens of publicly available federal lawsuits that described severe brutality and other abuses of power, their investigation found that at least 27 claims do not appear to have led to a state investigation, including accusations of rape, brutal assault and retaliation against sheriffs’ enemies. All but five of the cases were settled, underscoring how many similar allegations have been leveled in the state over the past decade, especially in small-town jails.
The state’s public safety commissioner, Sean Tindell, said he was working toward more oversight. He said he would ask the legislature to empower Mississippi’s law enforcement licensing board, which he oversees along with the bureau of investigation, to investigate abuse allegations and consider revoking law enforcement officers’ licenses. Sheriffs are elected and not required to hold licenses, however, and it would not change how cases are investigated criminally. Across Mississippi’s 82 counties, candidates for sheriff are not required to have law enforcement experience or police training.