Jay-Z-Funded Lawsuits End as Mississippi Improves Prison Conditions – Billboard


Attorneys employed by Jay-Z and different entertainers have ended two lawsuits they filed on behalf of Mississippi inmates in 2020 over what they stated have been squalid living conditions at the state’s oldest prison — a facility that got here underneath Justice Division scrutiny after outbursts of lethal violence by inmates.


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Even earlier than the violence on the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman in late 2019 and early 2020, state well being inspectors had discovered repeated issues with damaged bathrooms and moldy showers. Inmates stated some cell doorways didn’t lock, and it was widespread to see rats and roaches.

The lawsuits have been dismissed Jan. 13 after the inmates’ attorneys and the state Division of Corrections stated enhancements have been made through the previous three years, together with putting in air con in many of the jail, renovating some bogs and updating {the electrical}, water and sewer techniques.

In April, the U.S. Justice Division issued a report that stated Parchman had violated inmates’ constitutional rights. The division stated the jail failed to guard inmates from violence, meet their psychological well being wants or take ample steps for suicide prevention, and that the jail had relied an excessive amount of on extended solitary confinement.

The Justice Division spent two years investigating Parchman. Assistant Legal professional Basic Kristen Clarke stated in April that Mississippi Division of Corrections officers cooperated with the investigation and pledged to resolve issues.

U.S. District Choose Sharion Aycock in northern Mississippi filed the order this month dismissing the lawsuits that have been funded by Jay-Z; rapper Yo Gotti; and Crew Roc, the philanthropic arm of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. In a courtroom submitting, attorneys for the plaintiffs and for the defendants within the Mississippi Division of Corrections agreed that no one concerned within the lawsuits admitted legal responsibility or accountability to anybody else within the fits.

“We’re happy that Parchman has began to handle the merciless and inhumane jail situations after the Division of Justice’s investigation, however we aren’t glad with short-term enhancements,” Mario Mims, who goes by the stage title Yo Gotti, stated in a press release Monday (Jan. 22). “The Mississippi Division of Corrections has uncared for these torturous residing situations for many years, so we are going to proceed to carry them accountable and guarantee they decide to creating long-lasting change that safely protects their incarcerated inhabitants.”

One lawsuit was filed in January 2020 and the opposite was filed a month later. They two have been ultimately merged. The second go well with stated Parchman was a violent, rat-infested place the place inmates lived in “abhorrent situations” and their medical wants have been routinely ignored.

Burl Cain, a former Louisiana jail warden, grew to become commissioner of the Mississippi Division of Corrections in Might 2020 and vowed to enhance situations at Parchman. Since then, the division has moved some inmates to different prisons. Parchman had greater than 3,200 inmates in December 2019; it has about 2,450 this month.

“The Mississippi Division of Corrections appreciates the large accountability of housing people sentenced to our care, custody and management and has all the time been dedicated to repeatedly bettering the residing situations of the people housed in all of our correctional amenities, together with the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman,” Courtney Cockrell, an legal professional for the division, stated in a press release Monday. “Accordingly, we’ve and can proceed to make diligent efforts to enhance the standard of life for all people within the custody of the MDOC and supply them with alternatives to efficiently return to their communities.”

Violence has been a longstanding drawback in Mississippi prisons, the place many roles for guards have gone unfilled. Officers with the state Division of Corrections have stated for years that it’s troublesome to search out individuals to work as guards due to low pay, lengthy hours and harmful situations. The state elevated pay through the previous two years.

The Justice Division stated final 12 months that it discovered “gross understaffing” and “uncontrolled gang exercise.” It additionally discovered that inadequate safety gave inmates “unfettered entry to contraband.” Parchman was based in 1901 on the location of a former plantation. For many years, inmates labored in a farming operation that critics stated was akin to slavery.

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