Mississippi State Penitentiary must find prison cells for 625 violent offenders
After corrections facility proved to be 'understaffed,' 'unsafe,' and 'unsanitary,' officials scurry to find placement for convicts who constitutionally can no longer live such conditions
Mississippi is grappling with where to house 625 violent offenders currently in need of jail cells.
Seven months after a state Department of Corrections report found that Mississippi’s prisons were unsafe and unsanitary and falling apart, prison officials have moved 375 maximum-security inmates to another jail, while 625 more inmates currently housed at Unit 29 of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman are in dire need of being relocated, according to CNN.
“It is important to continue to address housing and infrastructure needs for the most violent offenders,” Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall said Monday, according to a news release put out by the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). “Moving the 375 inmates to the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler provided some relief to an overstressed system. However, there are additional close custody inmates at Unit 29.”
When Rayford Horton, state Department of Health environmental administrator, visited the facility at Parchman last year, he found inhumane living conditions, such as no power, no hot or cold water, leaky and inoperable toilets, moldy food and milk and food containing no expiration dates, exposed wiring, an inoperable garbage disposal and holes in the ceiling so that every time it rains, inmates would get water in their cells, according to CNN.
After his inspection, Horton wrote a report documenting his findings.
And Hall asked the state to increase her budget to help deal with some of the problems outlined in the report. “This facility, originally constructed in 1980 and renovated in 1996, has become unsafe for staff and inmates due to age and general deterioration,” Hall wrote in a budget letter for fiscal 2021 last summer where she requested $22.5 million to repair the unit and $35.6 million to hire nearly 1,000 open positions at three Mississippi prisons.
The jails are understaffed with hundreds of vacant positions, which is why MDOC cannot relocate the remaining 625 inmates to the vacant Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in Leake County because the department has insufficient staff resources to operate the prison.
Recently, at Unit 29 in Parchman, inmates were involved in clashes that resulted in the deaths of four prisoners, prompting rapper Jay-Z and Yo Gotti to get their legal teams involved in helping the prisoners sue the state. This spate of violence caused Hall to take steps to relocate the 375 inmates to a jail eight miles away.
Hov’s team sent a letter to Hall on Jan. 9 in which he accused Mississippi of “utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated” and promised to “pursue all potential avenues to obtain relief” if state officials didn’t make the necessary changes. “These inhumane conditions are unconstitutional,” the letter added. “The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment and is violated when prison officials fail to protect against prison-related violence and when prison conditions fail to meet basic human needs.”
Hall said MDOC understands the urgency and is moving as quickly as it can.
“The department acted swiftly because of the violence …and a lack of manpower to restore and maintain order,” she said in a statement, according to CNN.