GREENVILLE, Miss. (WMC) - Memphis rapper Yo Gotti and Jay Z made good on their promise to sue Mississippi over the state of its prison system. A lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, Jan.14 in U.S. District Court in Greenville, Mississippi.
The suit is filed on behalf of 29 inmates. New York Civil Rights Attorney Alex Spiro told WMC Action News 5 that Gotti and Jay Z could no longer stand by and watch the “unconstitutional and inhumane treatment” of people being housed in Mississippi prisons.
Their legal action comes after two weeks of riots that left 5 inmates dead inside state prisons, including three deaths at Parchman.
Pelicia Hall, the outgoing Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and Marshal Turner, the Superintendent of the Mississippi State Penitentiary, are named in the lawsuit.
It alleges “plaintiffs’ lives are in peril. Individuals held in Mississippi’s prisons are dying because Mississippi has failed to fund its prisons, resulting in prisons where violence reigns because prisons are understaffed.”
The suit goes on to say the recent inmate “deaths are a direct result of Mississippi’s utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights.”
The lawsuit references the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution that prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. It also alleges Mississippi prisons violate the 14th Amendment which guarantees U.S. citizens equal civil and legal rights.
“There’s a certain way you have to treat people, all people," said Spiro. "And they’re not treating them that way and that violates the constitution. It doesn’t matter whether they’re accused, convicted or otherwise. You have to treat people a certain way in this country.”
Deplorable conditions are spelled out in the lawsuit, including filth, vermin, mildew, black mold and raw sewage. Inmates, the suit says, have to sleep on the floors because there aren’t enough pillows or mattresses for all of them.
The understaffing problem is so bad, claims the suit, that the maximum-security prison Parchman, built on a former plantation, only has one-quarter of the corrections officers it needs.
“It’s reached a boiling point, and we’re not going to stand idly by," said Spiro.
The suit asks a judge to force MDOC to come up with a plan to protect inmates from prison violence and to create a safe and clean environment. The lawsuit also asks for damages to be determined during the trial.
WMC Action News 5 reached out to MDOC officials for comment, but as of late Tuesday night, had not heard back from them.