Newswire: Inhumane conditions, violence and death represents everyday life at Mississippi’s Parchman Prison

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Entrance to Mississippi State Penitentiary


The conditions at Mississippi’s Parchman prison makes it one of the worst detention facilities in the world, according to reform advocates and human rights organizations.
Death and violence are rampant, many inmates are without beds, and electricity, plumbing, and fundamental human rights are absent. At the same time, mold, roaches, mosquitos, and rodents far outnumber the more than 5,000 inmates.
On Tuesday, January 14, hip-hop superstar Jay-Z sued the head of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the warden on behalf of 29 prisoners who have complained that officials have done nothing to stop the violence at Parchman.
In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Greenville, Mississippi, Jay-Z addressed the recent deaths at the prison. “These deaths are a direct result of Mississippi’s utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights,” the mogul said in the court filing.
The suit names Department of Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall and Mississippi State Penitentiary Superintendent Marshall Turner as defendants.
Earlier this month, hip-hop stars T.I., and Yo Gotti called on the governor to close the prison or to address the issues adequately. “This is unacceptable,” T.I. wrote on his Instagram page.
“The conditions in the prisons operated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections are absolutely inhumane and unconstitutional,” Yo Gotti wrote in a letter to the governor Phil Bryant, a Republican.
“To see this happen so close to my hometown of Memphis is truly devastating. That’s why we’re calling on Mississippi state leaders to take immediate action and rectify this issue. If they don’t right this wrong, we’re prepared to take legal action to provide relief for those that are incarcerated and their families,” Gotti stated.
In an alarming 2019 report on Parchman and other Mississippi prisons, The Marshall Project found that gang activity isn’t limited to some of the people incarcerated. They discovered that some prison employees, including some high ranking officers and managers, are affiliated with one of two gangs, the Vice Lords or Gangster Disciples. The reasons vary.
“Some staffers said gang loyalty gives some officers a measure of protection; since gangs have a lot of control, they can prevent certain attacks,” The Marshall Project reported. “Others say gang affiliation began before employment; according to lawsuits, testimony, and interviews, gangs directly recruit women to apply for correctional officer jobs.”
In a tweet, Pro Publica officials stated, “Understaffed and underfunded, Mississippi’s #ParchmanPrison recently received media attention for its grisly violence, gang control, and subhuman living conditions. Lawmakers have known about these issues for years — and have done nothing to fix it.”
Earlier this month, five inmates were killed after allegedly trying to escape.
Video captured by cellphones, which are routinely smuggled into the prison, surfaced online this month appearing to show inside Parchman and the conditions in which inmates live.
One shows individuals in orange and white prison uniforms walking through piles of trash and dirty water. Mold is apparent, and there’s no electricity, heat, plumbing, and many inmates sleep on concrete because there aren’t enough beds. “We sleeping on straight concrete. There are no mats,” one person on the video states. The individuals than demonstrate that there’s no running water by trying to flush toilets and opening faucets and showers. In another video, two inmates also complain about the lack of running water. “Please get us some help,” they plead.In still another video, an inmate appears to breakdown emotionally as he sits in an area where prisoners have disposed of their feces.
In the heart of the Mississippi Delta, the prison, once a plantation that was home to hundreds of slaves, has a long history that’s intertwined with Mississippi’s racist past. In 1901, the state government of Mississippi established Parchman Penitentiary, taking advantage of an opportunity to continue to profit off of cheap Black labor, much like Whites had done for generations before, while also continuing to exercise violent control over the descendants of former slaves.
Historians at the University of North Carolina said Parchman was modeled after a traditional southern plantation, for-profit prison in Sunflower County was segregated until 1971. “While a small farm held White convicts, Black inmates labored on Parchman’s massive, twenty-thousand-acre plantation, where they picked cotton, chopped wood, and plowed fields under the control of armed guards,” the historians stated.
Today, of the more than 5,000 inmates at Parchman, more than 60 percent are African American. The prison has an 11-to-1 inmate to guard ratio, and no one is safe.
“I will be requesting that the U.S. Attorney General launch an investigation into the ongoing failures in safety, security, health, and environmental standards within the Mississippi Department of Corrections,” stated U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). “This is unacceptable,” Thompson wrote on Twitter.

Newswire: NAACP: Mississippi candidate’s ‘public hanging’ remark is sick, shameful

 By Hazel Trice Edney

 Mike Espy, Democratic candidate for Mississippi U. S. Senate seat

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The NAACP has issued a stinging rebuke to Republican Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who recently invoked a reference to a “public hanging” amidst her campaign against African-American Democratic candidate Mike Espy. Referring to a glowing endorsement from Mississippi cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson, Hyde-Smith said, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” The remarks drew laughter and applause, but she apparently did not know the comments were being videotaped by journalist Lamar White Jr. After public release of the video, Hyde-Smith issued a statement saying, “In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.” She has refused to make any further comment or apologize for the remark, which clearly invokes painful images of thousands of Black people who were lynched or killed by White supremacists in the Deep South with Mississippi being a leading offender. The highest number of lynchings in the U. S. took place in Mississippi from 1882-1968 with 581, according to the NAACP. “Georgia was second with 531, and Texas was third with 493,” says a report by the civil rights organization, adding that 79 percent of lynching happened in the South. Among the best known killings of Black people by White supremacists, Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, occurred in Money and Jackson, Mississippi respectively. Further exacerbating the impact of Hyde-Smith’s remark is the fact that she has been endorsed by President Donald Trump, who has made no public comment on the issue. “Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s shameful remarks prove once again how Trump has created a social and political climate that normalizes hateful and racist rhetoric. We’ve seen this in Florida from Ron DeSantis and others during this election season and denounce it,” said NAACP President Johnson in a statement. Ron DeSantis, Republican nominee for Flordia governor, also drew a fire storm of criticism when he said in a television interview that Florida voters should not “monkey this up” by electing Andrew Gillum, his opponent, who would be the state’s first black governor. That campaign is amidst a recount. “Hyde-Smith’s decision to joke about ‘hanging,’ in a state known for its violent and terroristic history toward African Americans is sick. To envision this brutal and degenerate type of frame during a time when Black people, Jewish People and immigrants are still being targeted for violence by White nationalists and racists is hateful and hurtful,” Johnson said. “Any politician seeking to serve as the national voice of the people of Mississippi should know better. Her choice of words serves as an indictment of not only her lack of judgement, but her lack of empathy, and most of all lack of character.” Espy himself has released a statement calling Hyde-Smith’s comments “reprehensible” and saying, “They have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country. We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgment to represent the people of our state.” Joining the rebuke of Hyde-Smith, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson described her comments as “beyond disrespectful and offensive.” He pointed out that Mississippi has “one of the highest numbers of public lynching, that we know of, than any other state in this country.” Hyde-Smith has refused to speak further on the issue, saying, “I put out a statement yesterday, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.” It is not clear how or whether this new controversy will affect her Nov. 27th run-off against Espy. They both received about 41 percent of the vote in a four-way race Nov. 6. Espy, a former member of the U. S. Congress who served from 1987 to 1993, would become the first black senator to represent Mississippi since Reconstruction. From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were Black. The Blacks lynched accounted for 72.7 percent of the people lynched. These numbers seem large, but it is known that not all of the lynchings were ever recorded. Out of the 4,743 people lynched only 1,297 White people were lynched. That is only 27.3 percent. Many of the Whites lynched were lynched for helping the Black or being anti-lynching and even for domestic crim