UPDATED 2/27, 10:40 a.m. ET: JAY-Z, Yo Gotti, and Team ROC took out full pages in today’s New York Times and Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger, where they wrote a letter to Tate Reeves, Governor of Mississippi. In it, they slam the conditions of the state's Parchman Prison, and urge Reeves to shut it down until the conditions are improved. Read it below.
We need to be blunt: the alarming humanitarian crisis currently overwhelming Parchman Prison is spiraling out of control. We’ve heard you talk about bold and immediate action; now we need to see results before more lives are destroyed. The situation is critical.
There have been nearly two-dozen senseless deaths since December 29th, along with countless injuries and untold cases of mental and physical terrorism inflicted upon the inmates. Given those tragedies, if you don’t act decisively, Parchman will soon be the site of a human catastrophe the likes of which the United States hasn’t seen in a generation.
And so we call on you again, even more loudly and urgently: shut down this facility—which has become a shameful symbol of society’s moral decay—until it is safe for the inmates and the prison staff.
The video we provided is shocking: raw sewage pouring out of broken toilets, inmates locked in ruined cellblocks with a lack of heat, lights, working plumbing, and with only rotten food to eat. They have no access to medical care, despite having documented medical conditions and after being brutalized. Rats and roaches overrun the facility.
These men, many of whom are serving sentences for non-violent crimes, live under the constant threat of violence while they are being deprived of even the smallest amount of dignity. Inmates are being assaulted, raped, murdered and driven to commit suicide.
It’s incomprehensible that this is happening in the modern-day United States; that we allow our fellow citizens to suffer so acutely in the name of justice. And what are we teaching these men who, if they survive your prison system, will eventually be released and expected to be a member of society?
If animals in the Jackson Zoo were treated in such a way you would immediately shutter it and launch an investigation.
And yet, despite your promises last month to close the facility and transfer the inmates to a safe facility, you decided instead to have the prisoners paint some prison walls. The psychological effect of making them cover up their own abuses shows a breathtaking level of cruelty.
It also sends a clear message: that you are not interested in the inmates paying their debts to society. You’re conflating their suffering with a warped desire for justice.
So just to be clear: this is now part of your legacy. The systematic stripping of the inmates’ human health and dignity will forever be linked to Mississippi and your family name.
You can no longer point to prior administrations as the culprits and no longer attempt to scapegoat the inmates, many of whom had the simple misfortune of being arrested in Mississippi.
If your administration is overwhelmed by the scope of the disaster, we implore you to appeal to the federal government to declare a State of Emergency and step in with the resources to fix this disgrace.
Every day you refuse to do the moral and just thing malnourished inmates will be forced to lie on the cold wet ground, shivering in their own filth, and wondering if they will live to see another day. Or if they even want to.
Mississippians are a compassionate people, understanding of history and determined not to repeat it. Its governor should realize that history cannot be painted over, no matter how hard you may try.
Urgent attention is needed to this matter.
See original story below.
Team ROC has filed the suit on behalf of 152 more prisoners who are enduring cruel conditions at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, a prison in Sunflower County. Eighteen inmates have died throughout the Mississippi correctional system, with most of those deaths happening at Parchman.
Inmates have said that “the food is adulterated with rat feces, cockroaches, rocks, bird droppings, and other foreign matter” and many inmates are “in dire need of medical care for cancer, lupus, serious heart defects,” according to a press release from Team ROC.
Parchman’s conditions are inhumane and lack clean water, acceptable food, electricity, heat, clothing, healthcare, and basic needs—and have led to internal riots, which first began on Dec. 29, 2019. At least nine inmate deaths from suicides, homicides, and other incidents that have been categorized as “natural deaths.”
JAY-Z, Gotti, Team ROC, and the inmates are asking the court to maintain jurisdiction of Parchman until the Department of Corrections can establish a safe, stable environment.
In January, Team ROC filed its first lawsuit on behalf of 29 inmates against the Mississippi Department of Corrections for similar grievances. The suit came after five prisoners were killed in the prison riots over the New Year. The suit alleged persistent underfunding and understaffing, which led to violence and deaths. The January lawsuit initiated the Department of Justice’s investigation into Parchman.
A PSA video highlighting some of the inhumane conditions is available below via Roc Nation's YouTube. Warning: some of the images shown contain graphic content.