Jay-Z, Yo Gotti file lawsuit on behalf of Mississippi inmates over health conditions

They want to address how prisoners are treated during the COVID-19 outbreak

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 12: Hip Hop Artists Yo Gotti and Jay-Z during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS)

Continuing their ongoing efforts towards social justice and prison reform, this week Jay-Z, Yo Gotti, and Team ROC have filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 227 Mississippi inmates addressing the dire conditions for prisoners in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Billboard reports that the suit has been filed against the state’s new Department of Corrections Commissioner Nathan Burl Cain and Centurion (the healthcare provider for all Mississippi prisons).

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NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 23: Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter speaks onstage during the launch of The Reform Alliance at John Jay College on January 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for The Reform Alliance)

A spokesperson for Team ROC provided the music publication with a copy of a sworn COVID-19 questionnaire filled out by some Parchman prisoners. In the documents, several men describe a lack of COVID testing protocols in the century-old prison, a lack of social distancing compliance, a lack of PPE and disturbing accounts of prisoners at the state’s only maximum-security prison for men being placed in close proximity to inmates displaying coronavirus symptoms such as coughing and fever.

“The situation in Parchman in dire. More and more of the incarcerated population are reaching out for help and pleading for immediate medical attention, especially as the coronavirus threatens their lives,” Gotti (born Mario Mims) said in a statement.

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As the suit also points out, even prior to the pandemic the facilities had been understaffed or underfunded for decades, which culminated in the now “barbaric” conditions that allegedly also include abuse and “constant” violence.

“Mississippi Governor Reeves, Commissioner Burl Cain and Centene — as the parent company of Parchman’s healthcare provider Centurion — can’t continue to neglect this tragedy and let the death toll rise,” the rapper continued. “We will hold them accountable and fight for the rights of the incarcerated.”

“Now, with COVID-19 spreading, the lack of medical care has worsened, leading to 49 deaths throughout the Mississippi prison system since [a riot at the prison on] Dec. 29, 2019, with 24 of them taking place at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman,” according to the statement from Team ROC. 

Their statement also points out that if the conditions at Parchman were found at an animal shelter, “media would swarm, arrests would be made, and those in charge would be on their way to jail as a result of public outrage over this criminal conduct.”

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