Attorneys hired by Jay-Z, Yo Gotti, and other entertainers have ended two lawsuits they filed on behalf of Mississippi inmates in 2020, Billboard reports. The lawsuit pinpointed inhumane living conditions at Mississippi's oldest prison, the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, including broken toilets, moldy showers, rats, and roaches.
One suit alleged that a lack of funding and inadequate staff over the years has caused “prisoners to endure abhorrent conditions, abuse and constant violence, inadequate health care and mental health care, and overuse of isolation." Additionally, the suit alleged, "The conditions of confinement at Parchman are so barbaric, the deprivation of health and mental healthcare so extreme, and the defects in security so severs, that the inmates confined at Parchman live a miserable and hopeless existence confronted daily by imminent risk of substantial harm in violation of their rights under the U.S. Constitution."
The lawsuits were dismissed on Jan. 13 after the inmates’ attorneys and the state Department of Corrections said improvements have been made during the past three years, including "installing air conditioning in most of the prison, renovating some bathrooms and updating the electrical, water and sewer systems."
The Justice Department spent two years investigating Parchman. Mississippi Department of Corrections officials cooperated with the investigation, agreeing to resolve the problems. In a statement, Yo Gitti said he was "pleased" Parchman has begun to address some of its issues, but there's still a lot more work to be done.
“We’re pleased that Parchman has started to address the cruel and inhumane prison conditions after the Department of Justice’s investigation, but we aren’t satisfied with short-term improvements,” the Memphis rapper said in a statement Monday (Jan. 22). “The Mississippi Department of Corrections has neglected these torturous living conditions for decades, so we will continue to hold them accountable and ensure they commit to creating long-lasting change that safely protects their incarcerated population.”
Moving some prisoners to other prisons was among the improvements made to Parchman. The prison had 3,200 inmates in December 2019 but has about 2,450 as of this month.
“The Mississippi Department of Corrections appreciates the tremendous responsibility of housing individuals sentenced to our care, custody and control and has always been committed to continuously improving the living conditions of the individuals housed in all of our correctional facilities, including the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman,” Courtney Cockrell, an attorney for the department, said in a statement Monday (Jan. 23). “Accordingly, we have and will continue to make diligent efforts to improve the quality of life for all individuals in the custody of the MDOC and provide them with opportunities to successfully return to their communities.”