- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A group that’s reviewing the Mississippi prison system after a former corrections commissioner was indicted on corruption charges will hold three meetings to take public comments on where its work should go.

“The task force is interested in hearing real-life experiences from Mississippians, including these groups directly affected by the management of the Department of Corrections,” co-chairman Andy Taggart said in a news release.

Gov. Phil Bryant appointed the group in November after former Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps and businessman Cecil McCrory were indicted on federal corruption charges tied to prison contracts. The two men have pleaded not guilty and await trial in April.

Marshall Fisher became corrections commissioner in January.

The task force, which will continue working several more months, has recommended that all Department of Corrections contracts, no matter the dollar amount, go through a bid process.

The first public hearing will be 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the Thad Cochran Center on the University of Southern Mississippi campus in Hattiesburg.

A second is noon-2 p.m. March 7 at Delta State University in Cleveland.

The final session is 10 a.m.-noon March 20 at the Woolfolk State Office Building in Jackson.

Epps was commissioner for 12 years. He resigned from the $132,700-a-year job Nov. 5, and federal prosecutors the next day released the indictment charging him and McCrory, who is a former state representative.

Prosecutors said that starting in 2007, Epps steered prison-services contracts toward companies with which McCrory was affiliated as owner or consultant. McCrory’s company, G.T. Enterprises, was awarded a no-bid contract to provide inmate commissary services in 2007. The Keefe Group took over the commissary services contract in 2008 after its parent company, Centric Group, bought G.T. Enterprises.

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