The Justice Department found that nearly two dozen inmates died as a result of correction officials’ negligence.
A federal Department of Justice investigation into conditions at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman Farm has found that prisoners were subjected to grossly inhumane conditions that violated the United States Constitution and drove inmates to violence.
According to NBC News, the Justice Department began looking into alleged abuses at Parchman in 2020, after civil rights advocates called for urgent reforms in the state’s corrections system.
On Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Kristin Clarke, who oversees the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said that 10 inmates were killed and another 12 committed suicide since a December 31, 2019, prison riot.
“No one’s sentence should include deliberate indifference by prison officials that leads to death or serious harm,” Clarke said. “The Constitution safeguards the inherent dignity of every human being, including people serving time in our prisons and jails.”
The riot, says NBC News, lasted for weeks and appears to have kick-started a period of intense repression inside the prison.
“The Justice Department concluded today, based upon a thorough investigation, that there is reasonable cause to believe that conditions and practices at Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman, violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” the department said in a Wednesday statement.
Justice officials further said that Mississippi routinely violates the constitutional rights of its inmates by failing to implement adequate suicide prevention measures.
The government also said that poor security and inmate control mechanisms exposed prisoners to unreasonable levels of violence.
The Justice Department’s stated indicated that Mississippi may face a federal lawsuit if it does not respond to investigators’ questions and concerns.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said that the state recognizes the challenges facing its corrections system and is already trying to resolve them.
“I do know that we have made significant strides at Parchman in the last two years,” Reeves said in a statement.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections is also facing a lawsuit filed by members of “Team Roc,” the philanthropic branch of the “Roc Nation.”
Roc Nation, notes the Mississippi Clarion Ledger, is an entertainment company that represents celebrity rappers including Jay Z and Yo Gotti, both of whom had written letters to Reeves and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant asked for human rights investigations at Parchman.
“For years, the incarcerated population has been forced to live inside rat-infested conditions and survive with a water system contaminated with human feces all with non-existent health care resources available to them,” Roc Nation CEO Desiree Perez said in a press release. “Over the past three years, the death toll has been utterly devastating and we hope today’s report brings many families and their loved ones one step closer toward getting the justice they deserve. We applaud the Department of Justice for their report.”