State opts not to prosecute: Case manager attacked by inmate sues

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Catina Washington

Former Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) case manager Catina Washington knew something was seriously wrong within the state’s prison system after an inmate at South Mississippi Correctional Institution, formerly called Leakesville Prison, allegedly assaulted her and sent her to the hospital in December 2020. But the higher ups in the system displayed little, if any, incentive to punish the white inmate who jumped her, she claims.

As a result of the MDOC’s unwillingness to administer justice on her behalf in the state courts, she has filed a federal lawsuit against MDOC Commissioner Burl Cain and 12 others employed by the state’s prison and court systems who failed to support her at the time of her most critical need of their support.

In his 40-year career, Cain has been associated with two of the most notorious prison systems in the nation – as warden of Angola State Prison in Louisiana until 2015, and now as head of Mississippi’s prisons since 2016.

While at Angola, Cain was the target of several federal criminal investigations, but was never charged. His son, also a former Louisiana prison warden, and his former daughter-in-law, however, did serve time in federal prison on charges of federal wire fraud. 

Although allegedly “viciously attacked” by an inmate, Washington claimed that investigations by MDOCs Criminal Investigators (CID) were essentially sham investigations, and that she had been denied her right to be heard, and also that the correct charges were never brought against the accused, who was white.

In her federal lawsuit, Washington is asking for $3 million in punitive damages against the defendants for causing irreparable harm done to her. She is also asking for $200,000 each from Commissioner Cain and 10 other defendants; and $100,000 individually from all defendants for “engaging in cover-up and failure to safeguard rights” and for their role in preventing the charges from being executed. 

Washington was notified on December 28, 2023, that her case against Burl Cain has been given a number and has been referred to District Judge Halil Sul Ozerden and Magistrate Judge Bradley W. Rath. 


Washington was a case manager for the Department of Human Services (DHS) before going to work for MDOC. Divorced and the mother of two daughters, she is also responsible for her 86-year-old father. She lives in Ruleville and has been working at the prison in nearby Leakesville since 2017.

As a prison case manager, she serves as a liaison for the inmates in helping them take care of their business. She might help them with time sheets, with their phones, or she might need to help them with their records.

“I like to build relationships,” she said. “Because, if you’re rehabilitating, I feel like that’s a part of the process as well. We work on parole, jobs, and transportation. Or, if an inmate is restricted to his cell, I can help him obtain the services he might need during that time of restriction.

“This was something new,” she said. “I didn’t know what it would entail to be at the prison. My specialty is serving people, so I felt it couldn’t be too much different from helping needy families. The job duties were what I like to do. I started working there, and I liked it. I believe that’s the best job I ever had. There’s a difference between people needing services and somebody feeling they’re entitled to services. Like at the food stamp office. They’re more aggressive in thinking it’s theirs. and that it’s their right. Within the prison system, if they know that you will help them, it’s a different type of spirit.


She was not a prison guard, but she served as a guard when the regular guards had to go on a break or were out due to emergencies.

“Because we were short staffed, I was pushed into that duty sometimes,” she said. “Guards who work the towers have to stay there for the full two hours and can’t leave. When the officers in the towers had to go to the bathroom or do the head count, I would have to watch the towers while they would go about doing those duties.

“There’s supposed to be a chaplain, a captain, and a lieutenant, but we don’t have any of that. There’s just me and one person in this tower. We have a hall man, an inmate, who’s like a trustee. He cleans up things, and passes out coats for the guards, etc. They would have two, one to relieve the other.

“So, I didn’t feel the danger part of it, if you’re a respectful person. I kind of liked it, but there was always the potential of danger inside the prison. When I say that, it’s not so much about the inmates. There are particular ones that you have to be scared of, maybe. Depending on their psyche or their crime. I was very careful about that. My problem was the staff. You don’t know what angle they’re coming from – if it’s from having a relationship with the inmates or what. The staff is mostly white, but it’s a mixture. I had 200 inmates in my building. I would say that there are at least 3,000 in the entire complex. Each case manager has a population of at least 200 in their building.


The onslaught of the COVID-19 epidemic hit her family hard in 2020, Washington said. “I was out on medical leave because I had lost so many family members because of COVID. I lost an aunt. I lost two uncles within a week. I lost my stepmother; I lost a brother; I lost my mother; and I lost my pastor. And the prison is such a stressful place that I kind of needed a break. 

“When I came back in October 2020 after suffering these terrible family losses, that’s when I saw that this new inmate had been brought into the building I worked in. He immediately let me know that he likes Black women. And I told him, ‘you can’t talk to me like that.’” 

The inmate named in the alleged attack on Washington is Phillip Charles Fredenburg. On August 31, 2021, the Greene County Grand Jury found that Fredenburg “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously:” put Washington in fear of bodily harm and that he had forced his way into her office, pulled at her clothes, and dragged her by the foot across the floor.

Despite the grand jury findings, Assistant District Attorney Elliot Burch decided on November 10 not to prosecute because “the state would show that evidence in this case does not rise to proof beyond a reasonable doubt due to conflicting witness testimony.” 


“There weren’t a lot of officers there. And the officers didn’t know I was having a problem with him (the suspect). Only the inmates knew I was having a problem with him. So, the day that this happened I wasn’t in my original building. They moved us out of my building because they had to put cameras up. So, they rotated everybody from building to building. I left my building. I had my desk up to the door and I had stuff lying around just in case something happened. But in this particular office, the desk was back, like away from the door. The way the door is made, you have a steel door and you have what we call a cage door; it’s a half door where they come, and it’s locked. That’s where we keep our log-in sheet, to tell who we had seen for that day. 

Washington says she went to the ice machine to get ice and on her way back to the office the accused inmate appeared at the cage door trying to force his way into the office as she pushed against him to keep him out.

 According to Washington, she was struggling to get help with this inmate but he was able to get into the office and grabbed her by the leg. And after she fell, he began dragging her across the floor. As three other inmates grabbed Fredenburg, he claimed that Washington had attacked him.

At this point, the captain, the warden, and the deputy warden come in, she said. The warden asked if he had touched her. And he said, “Oh yeah, he’s got to go.”


Washington went to lunch after the alleged attack and her coworkers advised her to go to medical. “So, I went to medical. And something just told me you need to wait and let the investigators talk to you. So I went in and did an email and asked what the process is for pressing charges, and they didn’t answer.

“When I went to the doctor, this was during COVID, so I had to do a drive through. And I went in for the X-RAY. I ended up going back to my office and printed out all the paperwork I had on the inmate. I’m pretty thorough with my paperwork, so I printed it all out on all those incidents I had documented.

“It takes a while for them to tell you what the problem is. So, I had to go back in for them to put a brace on. So, the investigators and the warden’s staff automatically presumed that I was not hurt, that I was faking. 

“There was no investigation or anything. So, I’m there two months, and they never moved the inmate. I had written this inmate up three times on charges before this incident happened. One for coming into a security area, another was for assault on an officer, and there was one more. The deputy warden said we’re only going to do the CA (criminal assault). I wrote these charges during the time of the assault. It’s the action he did on me, I wrote him up for that. It was for that attack, but I don’t know if I did it at the time it happened.

“The investigator tells me he’s got to talk to the inmate to get his side of the story. He never got back with me. There was no investigation or anything.” The suspect inmate was placed on lockdown, Washington said. But they didn’t move him.

“If anything happens at that prison, if it’s anything involving an inmate, they’re going to move him. They never moved this guy. I couldn’t understand. Why didn’t they move the guy who assaulted me? They moved the inmate that hit a case manager on the butt – supposedly. Her husband was a warden, They went down there and beat him up and did everything and moved him. Mine was the worst attack of all. And they did nothing to this man. He was the only one they didn’t move. He was white, though.”


“I came back from medical,” she said. “They told me I had to go to Jackson to do a due process. They were trying to get rid of me right now. And I’m trying to deal with my health, my mental, trying to come to work, trying to solve the issues with that, and trying to deal with this inmate. When I leave for the day, he’s talking to me outside, speaking to me. So, I wrote him up again. The RVR was never recorded or anything. They never moved this man.

“At this time, we had a bad storm, a rainstorm,” she said. “They told us not to come in. At the time, I was trying to do the due process and all, but they kept telling me not to come in. But I came in to get the papers I had been keeping in my files.” 

Washington said prison staff made her stop at the first building and leave her keys, as a matter of routine. She ran to her building, she said, not knowing what might befall her on the way. 

“I got my paperwork and came back out. I had seen this lady from HR (Human Resources) when I was on my way in. I just felt a certain way when I saw her. I was walking out with this CID guy and I felt that if he touched me, I didn’t know what I would do. I get to my car. My supervisor had tried to call me three times. I wondered how she knew I was there. I figured the HR lady had seen me and told her I was there. So, at this point, I’m afraid. I’m thinking that if they don’t open this gate up, I’m driving through it. They did open the gate up. So, when I drove out, I got out and texted in my resignation. 

“It was Feb. 19, 2021 when I drove out the gate and resigned.”

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State opts not to prosecute: Case manager attacked by inmate sues

By Earnest McBride
June 3, 2024