Mississippi  Department of  Corrections

Christopher B. Epps  

Phil Bryant







Christopher B. Epps

Commissioner Christopher B. Epps is the longest serving commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. He also has the distinction of having served under both Democratic and Republican administrations. He was first appointed by then-Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove on Aug. 30, 2002, and reappointed on Jan. 13, 2004, by then-two-term Republican Gov. Haley Barbour. On Jan.11, 2012, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant reappointed him. 

Commissioner Epps is a nationally recognized leader in corrections. He currently serves as president of both the American Correctional Association (ACA), the oldest and largest international correctional association in the world, and the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA).

He is in high demand as a motivator and a corrections expert. He has been featured in nationally recognized publications, including The New York Times and Time magazine, and has appeared on the CBS Evening News in May 2013 and PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly in October 2013. He testified before the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights in June 2012 about the issue of solitary confinement. Through his leadership, Mississippi has become a model for corrections reform.    

Commissioner Epps started his career with the Department of Corrections in 1982 as a correctional officer at the state’s oldest prison, the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. He has since served extensively with the agency in numerous key positions, including chief of staff, deputy commissioner of institutions, deputy commissioner of Community Corrections, director of  offender services, deputy superintendent, chief of security, corrections case management supervisor, director of  treatment services, corrections case manager, disciplinary hearing officer/investigator, and director of records.

Commissioner Epps also rose through the ranks in the military before retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He was honorably discharged from the Mississippi National Guard in March 2008.

Before being elected president of the ACA in May 2010, he had served as auditor. He was elected to the Commission on Accreditation in 2004 and as treasurer in 2008, a position that placed him on the ACA Executive Committee. He has served as vice president and treasurer with the ASCA.

In addition to ACA and ASCA, his leadership skills have been displayed with several other professional organizations. Commissioner Epps’ other correctional affiliations include the North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents (NAAWS), the Southern States Correctional Association (SSCA), the Mississippi Association of Professionals in Corrections (MAPC), and the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation (CPOF). He is past president of the SSCA and former chairman of the Mississippi Wireless Communications Commission. He also was chairman of the Corrections and Criminal Justice Task Force.

He is a national board director with the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation and is a member of the Mississippi Prison Industries Corp. Board of Directors, the Mississippi Drug Court Advisory Committee, the Mississippi Analysis and Information Center, the Mississippi Broadband Connect Coalition, the Council of Advisors for the College of Public Service at Jackson State University, the State Workforce Investment Board, and the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision. He formerly served on the Board of Directors of Alcohol Services and as a mentor with Big Brother /Big Sister of Mississippi.

Commissioner Epps’ list of accomplishments and awards also is as numerous. In December 2011, he was honored as the nation’s Outstanding Corrections Commissioner for 2011 with the Michael Francke Award from the ASCA. He also has received the ACA’s Walter Dunbar Award, which  is the highest honor bestowed by the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections to a person for superior support of accreditation.

Further honors include: Humanitarian of the Year in 2007 by the MAPC; the Criminal Justice Professional of the Year Award for 2000, 2004 and 2013 by the MAPC; the 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education; one of the “50 Most Influential African Americans in Mississippi” by BlackMississippi.com; The Distinguished Public Service Award by the University of Southern Mississippi, Department of Criminal Justice, in 2004; the 2013 Community Anchor Award in Government from Mount Helm Baptist Church;  the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award of the Andrew Jackson Council Boy Scouts of America; and the Mississippi Minority Business Alliance, Inc.’s Chairman’s Award.

His military awards/citations include the following: Army Commendations Medal; Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster; Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster; National Defense Service Medal; NCO Professional Development Ribbon; Army Service Ribbon; Mississippi Medal of Efficiency; Mississippi War Medal; and Mississippi Longevity Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Commissioner Epps has received four separate Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate commendations: House Concurrent Resolution 114 recognizing him for dedicated and outstanding service to the MDOC and for being the longest serving commissioner in the history of the agency, 2009; House Concurrent Resolution 143 upon his national acclaim and respect of his peers, as evidenced by his election as the 102nd president of the ACA, 2011; Senate Concurrent Resolution 551 saluting him during Black History Month as the longest serving Mississippi Department of Corrections commissioner and as the recipient of the Michael Francke Award, 2011; and Senate Concurrent Resolution 552 congratulating him on his investiture as the 102nd president of the ACA.

A native of Tchula, Mississippi, Commissioner Epps earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena and a master’s degree in guidance counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

He currently is a deacon at the Hanging Moss Road Church of Christ in Jackson, Mississippi. He is married to Catherlean Sanders Epps, and they have two sons, Chris and Tracey.