WASHINGTON – Melvin Hilson, 50, a former deputy warden at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, was sentenced to 24 months in prison and three years of supervised release for violating an inmate’s civil rights in 2016. On May 26, Hilson pleaded guilty in federal court to willfully depriving an inmate of his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by repeatedly striking the inmate and knocking him to the ground, which resulted in the inmate suffering a ruptured eardrum, abrasions to his ear and neck and prolonged headaches.
“This defendant abused his position as a corrections officer by unlawfully assaulting an inmate in his custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This defendant violently assaulted the victim, and violated the trust that we place in corrections officials to lawfully carry out their duties. The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously enforce our civil rights laws and hold jail and prison officials who break the law accountable.”
“This prosecution and sentence demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that every person’s civil rights are protected under the Constitution, and corrections officials who abuse their position are not above the law that they have sworn to uphold,” said U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner for the Northern District of Mississippi.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Hilson was working as a member of Parchman’s K-9 Unit at the time of the assault. On or around Aug. 3, 2016, J.T., an inmate at Parchman, was in a caged area inside of the medical unit, where he waited to be seen by a medical provider. Hilson approached J.T. and struck him several times, knowing that there was no reason to use force and that J.T. did not pose any threat to himself or others. During the assault, Hilson knocked J.T. to the ground, picked him up, and then struck him and knocked him to the ground again. According to prosecutors, J.T. did not attempt to fight back or defend himself from Hilson’s assault. Following the assault, Hilson falsified a report to conceal his unlawful actions and lied to Mississippi Department of Corrections investigators about his conduct.
The FBI Jackson Field Division investigated this case. Special Litigation Counsel Samantha Trepel and Trial Attorney Cameron A. Bell of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Hampton and Robert Mims of the Northern District of Mississippi prosecuted the case.