Straight Out of ‘Shawshank Redemption’ Alleged Corruption By Mississippi Prison Chief

Prison Chief Chris Epps
Prison Chief Chris Epps


*Bob Gunton played the corrupt warden in “Shawshank Redemption,” my favorite film of all time, so well. I can’t help but think about it in conjunction with Chris Epps resignation as Mississippi’s Department of Corrections chief, after an indictment was filed alleging he took bribes and kickbacks.

At least he didn’t choose the same “out” as the Shawshank guy.

It sounds like Epps had the same shady character as “Warden Samuel Norton” though. Just not the luxury of it being a movie. There was no “Andy Dufresne,” (Tim Robbins). No “Red” (Morgan Freeman) and no one yelling “Cut!” at the end.

Epps had been head of Mississippi’s prisons for more than a decade before allegations surfaced about him handing out contracts in exchange for kickbacks on the regular.

He and alleged co-conspirator Cecil McCrory, pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in court two weeks ago.

The 49 count indictment alleges that Epps lived a lavish lifestyle, “buying beachfront condos and fancy cars, raking in so much in bribes he had to launder the money,” according to the Clarion Ledger.

The paper also provided an example of the alleged corruption:

In 2008, [co-conspirator Cecil] McCrory sold his commissary company at a big profit, and Epps approved reassignment of the no-bid contract to the new company. Shortly after, authorities say, Epps had McCrory pay off his home mortgage with three $100,000 cashier’s checks and a $50,000 check all spaced months apart.

Epps awarded more MDOC contracts to companies owned by McCrory or that had paid McCrory. Prosecutors say that after McCrory paid off Epps’ home, Epps told McCrory he could get anything he wanted from MDOC.

But it sounds like greed got the best of Epps. And he didn’t stop there; making McCrory pay his mortgage on a beachfront home and deposit money into investment accounts for him.

Epps is said to have took cash bribes, which were kept in a safe at his home.

Making a salary of $132,700 a year wasn’t enough to curb Epps’ appetite for more. He is accused of  taking $1 million in bribes and kickbacks over the last eight years in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in prison contracts.

Authorities allege that Epps devised the plan for kickbacks and bribes in 2007.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering says the investigation was initiated after his office received a complaint.

“I’m shocked by this,” said Epps when asked about the charges.

I’m sure you are sir. So was your mentor, warden Samuel Norton.

warden sam norton

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