January 30, 2020

Mississippi Civil Justice Groups Provide Additional Evidence to U.S. Department of Justice

JACKSON, Miss.—This week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), MacArthur Justice Center, and the Mississippi Center for Justice sent additional evidence to the U.S. Department of Justice of the endemic violence, filthy conditions, and inadequate medical and mental health care in support of a 22 page January 7 letter from multiple groups requesting federal intervention into Mississippi’s failed prison system.  These examples include:

·       At least nine people have died at Parchman in recent weeks, including five as the result of the violence.

·       At East Mississippi Correctional Facility, there were at least two reported stabbings in recent months, reports of guards opening the doors to allow incarcerated people to hurt each other, and multiples fires set.

·       At Marshall County Correctional Facility, there were multiple assaults, including at least one stabbing and sexual violence.

·       At Parchman, men have reported no running water, having to defecate into trash bags, and being surrounded by sewage with no way of cleaning themselves or washing their hands.

“Mississippi’s broken prison system, which holds over 19,000 men and women, is overcrowded, dangerous to the incarcerated people and staff, and inhumane.  The Governor’s promise to close Parchman’s Unit 29 is a welcome first step to address this crisis.   We are monitoring the situation to insure this occurs quickly and safely,” said Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director,  SPLC. “We renew our call to the Department of Justice for a full statewide investigation because only a system wide solution can solve Mississippi’s severe overcrowding and understaffing problem.”

“Our most serious problem is the overcrowding in prisons throughout the state,” said Cliff Johnson, director, MacArthur Justice Center. “We have been sharing proposals with state officials for safe reduction of the prison population, such as expansion of the parole system, sentencing reform, and the establishment of reentry programs that reduce recidivism.  Mississippi has the 16th lowest violent crime rate in the country but the third highest incarceration rate in the world – we must overcome our addiction to locking people up.”

“The dysfunction in Mississippi’s prisons makes the public less safe and results in a massive drain on the state budget,” said Rob McDuff, Impact Litigation Director at MCJ, Mississippi Center for Justice.   “If the State can change direction, close units that need to be closed, and stop paying to house prisoners who are not dangerous and do not need to be in prison, we can begin to move toward a more sensible prison system that is safer for prisoners, for prison staff, and for the public.”

A copy of the letter sent to DOJ on January 7, 2020 can be found here.