Miss. leaders release statement after visit to Parchman; describe ‘breeding ground for bad situation’

The prison problem has also caught the attention of JAY-Z’s Entertainment Company Rock Nation and hip-hop artist Yo Gotti.
Updated: Jan. 10, 2020 at 5:49 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Several Mississippi Representatives release a statement after a visit to see conditions at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

The statement is from Mississippi State Rep. Robert Johnson (D-94), on behalf of the House Democratic Caucus, as well as Reps. Jarvis Dortch (D-66), Otis Anthony (D-31 ), Orlando Paden (D-26), Tracey Rosebud (D-30), Abe Hudson (D-29), John Hines (D-50,) and Sonya Williams- Barnes (D-119), after a visit today to Parchman:

“First, we are deeply sorry for the loss of anyone under our state’s care. Our prayers go out to the families and the loved ones of the men we lost over the past days. What we saw today at Parchman was a breeding ground for a bad situation. Corrections officers we spoke to said each unit should have four officers for every 64 incarcerated people. What we had this past weekend was two people for 128 people in prison. People blame the gangs, but we must have the staff to manage the situation. We as legislators have not lived up to our responsibility. And we had fewer than four staffers for 128 incarcerated people, and likely, the staff managing were women because 75% of correctional officers are women at Parchman. I don’t think anyone can appreciate how bad the situation is. We have a 17,000-acre facility at Parchman for 3,400 people. We have people with low-level drug crimes who should be released and getting their lives back together, but instead are locked up. Last year, we underfunded the Department of Corrections by $980,000. Next week, we will have to pay $2.5 million to house about 300 people for 90 days. This is not a smart answer to this problem. First, we need the parole board to have discretion to release parole-eligible people. We have over 6,000 of 19,000 people incarcerated who are eligible for parole, but because of unnecessary sentencing, mandatory minimums, they are not being released. Finally, we would suggest that the governor use his executive power to commute the sentences of people who are eligible for parole so we can reduce the overcrowding in our prisons. These are nonviolent offenders and people who are not a threat to the public.The Legislature, the governor and our respective agencies have a lot of work to do.”

MDOC also released photos of an effort to clean up the mess left after the recent unrest at the prison.

The prison problem has also caught the attention of JAY-Z’s Entertainment Company Rock Nation and hip-hop artist Yo Gotti.

They wrote a letter to the governor to address prison issues and said they are prepared to take legal action.

“The conditions in the prisons operated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections are absolutely inhumane and unconstitutional. To see this happen so close to my hometown of Memphis is truly devastating. That’s why we’re calling on Mississippi state leaders to take immediate action and rectify this issue. If they don’t right this wrong, we’re prepared to take legal action to provide relief for those that are incarcerated and their families. - Yo Gotti”

Mississippi Department of Corrections lifted the lockdown on all prisons except for Parchman. The prisons were placed on lockdown last week amid ongoing violence and safety concerns across the state. Five people were killed in the prisons, including four as a result of gang violence.

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