Each week it feels like yet another story comes out about a prisoner being killed in a Mississippi prison. Hopefully,tonight’s news means that meaningful change is on the way.
CNN reports that the Justice Department has begun an investigation into four Mississippi prisons. The investigation is being spearheaded by the departments Civil Rights Division and will involve Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, the South Mississippi Correctional Institution, the Central Mississipi Correctional Facility and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. A statement issued by the Department said:
“The investigation will focus on whether the Mississippi Department of Corrections adequately protects prisoners from physical harm at the hands of other prisoners at the four prisons, as well as whether there is adequate suicide prevention, including adequate mental health care and appropriate use of isolation, at Parchman,”
Parchman, in particular, has come under scrutiny as it’s seen nine inmates die in the last month alone. In early January, The Root reported that five inmates died within the span of week as a result of gang violence. The situation has gotten so bad that Jay-Z filed a lawsuit over the inhumane conditions of the jails. In addition to gang violence, the infrastructure of the jails is said to be decrepit with raw sewage covering the cell floors and prisoners waiting weeks to have access to showers.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced during his State of the State address that he would be shuttering Parchman’s Unit 29. So far 375 prisoners have been transferred from the unit and they are awaiting cells for 625 more.
This whole situation is disgusting and illuminates just how barbaric the American prison-industrial system is. People make mistakes, sometimes they do reprehensible things but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be stripped of their humanity. For every violent criminal, there’s someone serving time for something as innocuous as using a cell phone. It’s unacceptable that these people have to live in squalor and fear for their lives. I sincerely hope that this investigation will lead to effective changes in the infrastructure of these prison.
Nine lives lost is already nine too many.