Jay-Z-funded lawsuits end as Mississippi improves prison

Streaming HUBJanuary 23, 2023

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Lawyers hired by Jay-Z and other entertainers have settled two lawsuits filed in 2020 on behalf of Mississippi inmates over what they said are the state’s harshest prison living conditions. – Department investigation following outbreak of deadly violence by justice facility inmates.

Even before the violence at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman in late 2019 and early 2020, state health inspectors had found repeated problems with broken toilets and moldy showers. Inmates said some cell doors do not close, and it is common to see rats and cockroaches.

The lawsuits were dismissed on January 13 after attorneys for the inmates and the state Department of Corrections said that improvements had been made during the past three years, including installing air conditioning in most prisons, renovating some bathrooms, and upgrading electricity, water and gas. Including updating the sewer. System.

In April, the US Department of Justice released a report saying that Parchman violated the constitutional rights of prisoners. The department said the prison failed to take adequate steps to protect inmates from violence, meet their mental health needs, or prevent suicide, and that the prison relied heavily on prolonged solitary confinement.

The Justice Department spent two years investigating Parchman. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clark said in April that Mississippi Department of Corrections officials cooperated with the investigation and resolved to address the problems.

US District Judge Sharryn Aycock in northern Mississippi filed an order this month dismissing the Jay-Z-funded lawsuits; rapper Yo Gotti; and Team Rock, the philanthropic arm of Jay-Z’s Rock Nation. In a court filing, attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants in the Mississippi Department of Corrections agreed that no one involved in the lawsuits accepted liability or responsibility for anyone else in the lawsuits.

“We are glad that Parchman has begun to address the cruel and inhumane prison conditions following the Department of Justice’s investigation, but we are not satisfied with short-term fixes,” Mario Mims, who goes by the stage name Yo Gotti, said. said in a statement on Monday. “The Mississippi Department of Corrections has neglected these harrowing living conditions for decades, so we will continue to hold them accountable and ensure they commit to long-lasting change that safely protects their incarcerated population “

One suit was filed in January 2020 and the other a month later. They both eventually merged. The second suit stated that Parchman was a violent, rat-infested place where prisoners lived in “disgusting conditions” and their medical needs were routinely neglected.

Burl Cain, a former Louisiana prison warden, became commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections in May 2020 and vowed to improve conditions at Parchman. Since then, the department has transferred some inmates to other prisons. Parchman had over 3,200 inmates in December 2019; This month it has about 2,450.

“The Mississippi Department of Corrections appreciates the tremendous responsibility we place on sentenced housing individuals for our care, custody and control and is committed to continually improving the living conditions of individuals in all of our correctional facilities, including the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman “Accordingly, we will continue to make diligent efforts to improve the quality of life for all individuals in MDOC’s custody and provide opportunities for them to successfully return to their communities,” Courtney Cockrell, an attorney for the department, said in a statement Monday. Come back

Violence has been a longstanding problem in Mississippi prisons, where many jobs for guards remain unfilled. State Department of Corrections officials have said for years that people find it difficult to work as guards because of the low pay, long hours and dangerous conditions. The state increased salaries during the last two years.

The Justice Department said last year that it found a “huge shortage” and “unregulated gang activity”. It also found that inadequate security gave prisoners “uncontrolled access to contraband”.

Parchman was established in 1901 on the site of a former plantation. For decades, prisoners worked in farm labor, which critics said was akin to slavery.

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