In January 2020, the MacArthur Justice Center and a coalition of civil rights organizations sent a Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (“CRIPA”) Complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the thousands of Mississippians who are currently incarcerated in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) and their family members, friends, and communities.
As indicated by its track record over the last several years and substantiated by the events of the last ten days, Mississippi is deliberately and systematically subjecting people in its care to a substantial risk of serious harm due to understaffing, in violation of the rights secured and protected by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and it is no exaggeration to say more lives will be lost absent immediate intervention.
We requested that, pursuant to its authority under the CRIPA, the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division open an investigation into widespread, systemic, and egregious violations of the civil rights of the nearly 20,000 men and women incarcerated by the state of Mississippi.
The Mississippi prison system is in a state of acute and undeniable crisis, with five deaths in just the last ten days, and a history of preventable deaths and injuries stretching back years. Mississippi has acknowledged the danger presented by severe understaffing and horrific conditions, but has repeatedly failed to take appropriate action notwithstanding advocacy, litigation, and the pleas of those incarcerated and those who work in Mississippi’s prisons.
We put facilities like Parchman in the middle of nowhere so that people don’t have to think about the humans inside those facilities or their inhumane treatment. We don’t want to hear about it. We don’t want to see it. We don’t want to think about it.
The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division announced that it has opened an investigation into conditions of confinement in four of Mississippi’s prisons: the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman), Southern Mississippi Correctional Institute, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility.
We requested the U.S. Department of Justice to open an immediate investigation into the MDOC and its violations of the civil rights of those who are incarcerated in the custody of the MDOC.
On January 3, Denorris Howell was killed at Parchman.
On January 2, Gregory Emary was killed at the Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility.
On January 2, Roosevelt Holliman was stabbed to death at Parchman.
On January 1, 2020, Walker Gates was stabbed to death at Parchman during a “major disturbance” at that prison.
On December 29, 2019, Terrandance Dobbins was killed in a “major disturbance” at SMCI, in which severalother individuals were injured.