- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The former Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics director is set to head the state Department of Corrections, taking over a prison system that has been rocked by bribery charges brought against its ex-leader.

Gov. Phil Bryant on Friday named Marshall Fisher as the new corrections commissioner, saying he will begin work in January. He must be confirmed by the state Senate.

“Marshall’s integrity and his decades of experience overseeing complex public safety issues at the state and federal levels will be instrumental in his role as MDOC Commissioner,” Bryant said in a news release. “He has met operational and budgetary goals in previous positions, and his time serving in the U.S. Navy lends itself to establishing the type of departmental discipline expected in Mississippi’s correctional system.”

Rick McCarty has been interim commissioner since early November, when ex-chief Christopher Epps retired amid a federal corruption investigation. McCarty will return to his former job as a deputy commissioner in charge of financial matters.

Indictments of Epps and a businessman whose clients had contracts with the Department of Corrections, Cecil McCrory, were unveiled Nov. 6, the day after Epps retired the commissioner’s job he had held for 12 years. Epps and McCrory have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, bribery and money laundering, and are scheduled to go to trial April 6 - a delay from the original date of Jan. 5.

During a recent legislative hearing, McCarty told state House members that gangs have been a problem in Mississippi prisons. Bryant said Friday that Fisher’s first mission “will be to detect and eliminate any criminal activity that occurs within our correctional facilities.”

Fisher retired from the Bureau of Narcotics in January, after having led the agency since 2005. House Corrections Committee Chairman Tommy Taylor, R-Boyle, said Fisher is respected by lawmakers.

“I think he’s a good choice,” Boyle said in a phone interview Friday. “I’ve talked to a lot of agents when he was with the bureau, and they had nothing but praise for him.”

Before he led the state Bureau of Narcotics, Fisher was the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s agent in charge in Mississippi. Taylor said it’s not easy to get cleared to work for the DEA.

“Your integrity has to be above and beyond,” Taylor said. “He has good management skills when he was with the bureau, and I think he will do well.”

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .


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