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
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
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
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
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; and the Whitney M.
Young Jr. Service Award of the Andrew Jackson Council Boy Scouts
of America. In 2007, then-Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher awarded
him the honorary title “Kentucky Colonel.” In July 2013, he
received the Arkansas Traveler Award to serve as an Ambassador
of Good Will from Arkansas.
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.