Rappers Jay-Z and Yo Gotti are helping 152 inmates incarcerated in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman State Penitentiary with a lawsuit filed February 26 in the federal court in the Northern District of Mississippi. Both rappers also assisted 29 inmates in filing a lawsuit in January, but this lawsuit is wider in scope.
Nine inmates have died at Parchman since the beginning of 2020. The initial lawsuit alleged the deaths were due to years of neglect and understaffing. Nine more inmates have died since late 2019 in other Mississippi state prisons.
Team Roc, Jay-Z’s philanthropy connected with his entertainment enterprise, Roc Nation, released a disturbing video in conjunction with the announcement of the lawsuit. Relatives of the men who died while in the prison are interviewed, and the disgusting conditions of Parchman are revealed.
Chronic Staff Shortages
The lawsuit states that staff shortages at Parchman are chronic, with only one guard for every 160 inmates. Mississippi state salaries for corrections officers are among the lowest in the nation, and hiring personnel at these low wages has been a persistent problem. Mississippi also has one of the country’s highest rates of incarceration.
The lack of supervision has led to rampant violence, which was responsible for some of the recent inmate deaths. Some inmates tie their cell doors shut at night so that guards cannot open them and allow other prisoners to assault them.
The lawsuit calls conditions at the prison “barbaric,” citing rat infestation, food contaminated with rat and bird feces and insects, little or no medical care for sick or injured inmates, inoperable lights, black mold, lack of clean water, non-working toilets and showers and flooded cells.
In the winter, the cells are cold, while in the hot Mississippi summers, they are unbearably stifling. The filthy meals served to inmates are often undercooked and delivered at temperatures posing a health risk. One inmate with a broken neck was forced left on an exposed steel bedspring, and other sick or injured inmates must try to take care of themselves or each other with no medical help or supplies.
The documents note that if an animal shelter was in such condition, the media and protestors would “swarm” all over it, and those responsible would find themselves going to jail because of the public outrage.
The lawsuit requests that the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) to design a plan within 90 days to eliminate these safety and health risks. It also asks that the court retain jurisdiction over Parchman until the MDOC remedies the conditions.
Unit 29 to Close
Parchman’s Unit 29 suffered the greatest number of inmate fatalities, as well as violent uprisings. Governor Tate Reeves announced Unit 29 would close in the next few weeks, with inmates transferred to other facilities. The Justice Department has also announced an investigation into conditions at four Mississippi state prisons, considered an unusual step by those working for prison reform. Generally, only one prison at a time falls under federal investigation.
If you or a loved one suffered death or catastrophic injuries at the hands of prison guards or jail staff, you may be entitled to damages. Visit our inmate abuse information page for more details. Ready to see if you have a case? CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.