Story at a glance

  • Gov. Tate Reeves told the AP that hundreds of inmates will be removed from Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman to a nearby for-profit prison.
  • One block in the prison complex, Unit 29, has seen almost 20 inmate deaths since the end of December 2019.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice is currently investigating prison conditions.

The troubled Mississippi state penitentiary that has seen multiple inmate deaths is in the process of transferring inmates out of the prison as the U.S. Justice Department investigates the recent string of violence, according to an AP report

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who visited the facilities after tweeting that he is “committed to seeing this through every step of the way,” told outlets that around 50 inmates were moved from the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman to a nearby private prison, Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility. Officials believe that the new facility, run by private prison company CoreCivic, is ideal because it is reportedly more secure, housing inmates in one to two-person cells. 

 

 

Over the coming weeks, Reeves confirmed that more than 500 inmates will have been relocated to Tallahatchie. The goal will be to vacate the block that has seen 18 inmate deaths since December 2019, known as Unit 29. 

Mississippi has reportedly been paying CoreCivic $65 daily per inmate for housing under the initial contract, which Reeves said has been negotiated down to $62.50 daily per inmate since more will be relocated. 

Meanwhile, back at Parchman, Unit 29 will begin closing, due to the multiple fatalities as well as deteriorating conditions. Reeves told reporters that “state officials are considering a long-term plan to reopen a closed prison in Walnut Grove, about 140 miles southeast of Parchman.”

The only remaining inmates in Unit 29 are those on death row who are legally obligated to stay. Lower security inmates who are specialized to do maintenance work around the prison are expected to stay as well. 

Reports cite that these fatal outbreaks have been linked to understaffing in the prison and in Unit 29, with prison officials saying that low pay and “dangerous conditions” has slowed hiring efforts. Moreover, state officials have cut prison funding for several years, according to the AP. 

The deaths caught national attention, with the U.S. Department of Justice launching an investigation to see if inmate rights were violated and if the Mississippi Department of Corrections “adequately protects prisoners from physical harm at the hands of other prisoners at the four prisons, as well as whether there is adequate suicide prevention, including adequate mental health care and appropriate use of isolation, at Parchman,” per an official press release

Rumors of inmate rights violations caught the eye of Hollywood, when rappers Yo Gotti and Jay-Z sued the Mississippi Department of Corrections in January 2019. 

 

Published on Feb 20, 2020