Attorneys filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Mississippi State Penitentiary on behalf of 152 inmates who they say live in “abhorrent conditions.”
The legal team is asking for class-action status to cover all current and future inmates at the state penitentiary in Parchman, Miss.
Their lawsuit comes after a similar lawsuit was filed last month on behalf of 33 other Parchman inmates. Attorneys in both are being paid by entertainment mogul Jay-Z, rapper Yo Gotti and Team Roc, the philanthropic arm of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.
At least 19 inmates have died in Mississippi prisons since late December. Many died amid outbursts of violence at Parchman and other prisons. Some were found hanging in their cells. Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department said its civil rights division would investigate Parchman and other Mississippi prisons.
Omar Beard, a 36-year-old inmate who had been serving a 20-year sentence for a manslaughter conviction, is the latest death. The state Department of Corrections said Beard had been in Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and he died at an area hospital. A press release said his death “appears to be from natural causes” and an autopsy will be done.
Mississippi prison officials have told state budget writers for years that prisons are short-staffed and that the department has trouble hiring guards because the jobs are dangerous and the pay is low.
Health inspections have found problems with broken toilets and moldy showers. State officials cut spending at prisons in recent years.
“The conditions of confinement at Parchman are so barbaric, the deprivation of health and mental health care so extreme, and the defects in security so severe, that the people confined at Parchman live a miserable and hopeless existence confronted daily by imminent risk of substantial harm in violation of their rights under the U.S. Constitution,” Marcy Croft, one of the attorneys representing inmates in the two lawsuits, wrote.
The state has moved at least 425 inmates from Parchman to the privately run Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, a few miles away.
Last month, newly elected Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said had ordered the Department of Corrections to shut down most of Parchman’s Unit 29, where some of the violence has occurred. He said last week that about 500 more inmates will be moved from Parchman to the Tallahatchie prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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