Parchman Prison was facing a devastating humanitarian crisis even before the deadly coronavirus pandemic, but now the situation has gotten worse and there could be coronavirus cases in the prison already. In-person visitation has been banned, the prison facility is still in a state of squalor, no COVID-19 testing has been done, and Governor Tate Reeves has taken no action to resolve the crisis. Incarcerated people and their lawyers suspect that many people there already have the virus, so it's only a matter of time before we learn of even more preventable deaths.
Not only should Gov. Reeves take steps to release as many people as possible before an outbreak occurs, but the entire facility should be shut down. Twenty-one people have been found dead in their cells at Parchman before the pandemic outbreak, and that number will only continue to rise as COVID-19 penetrates the lives of incarcerated people across the country.
Parchman is Mississippi’s oldest prison. It is plagued with a history of convict leasing, abusive guards, and inhumane conditions. Over the last 40 years, several whistleblowers, including incarcerated people, have sounded the alarm about the harmful conditions -- visible mold taking over the buildings, undrinkable water, and scraps served as meals. And since December, conditions have taken a turn for the worse. The prison has been infested with rodents and insects, injured people have gone without any medical attention, and there aren’t even functioning toilets for the incarcerated people to use. And even worse, twenty-one people have been murdered in their cells.
Dozens of pictures and videos have been shared from inside the prison bringing to light the horrific conditions: people being stabbed to death, dead and bloodied bodies filling cells, pipes leaking water and flooding cells, molded walls caving in on themselves, and up to six people sleeping side by side in a cell with nothing more than a sheet to cover their bodies. None of this happened on accident or overnight, this is the reality of our mass incarceration crisis in America and in spite of all the cries for help, the Mississippi Department of Corrections and Governor Tate Reeves have failed to address the documented inhumane conditions inside the prison and continue to overlook the numerous claims that prison guards gave the assailants access to people’s locked cells.
This situation is an embarrassment to the State of Mississippi, and it is further proof that the state is incapable of managing its massive prison system. It’s been over 40 years since allegations of abuse, violence and civil rights violations in the prison made national headlines, and little has changed for the men, women and the elderly incarcerated there. The entire Mississippi Prison System, and especially Parchman Prison is a humanitarian crisis.
No one deserves to live in squalor, or in fear that their lives may be taken in the middle of the night. It is past time for Mississippi’s elected officials to respond to the suffering of hundreds of people inside Mississippi prisons including Parchman Prison. That’s why we’re demanding Mississippi’s Governor and elected officials take the following steps immediately:
- Move all incarcerated men from Parchman to a suitable facility and ensure that all men have access to nutritious food and water, sanitary living conditions, mattresses and blankets for sleep and adequate medical assistance for all who need it.
- Conduct a full and independent investigation into all of the murders of incarcerated men, including any officers or prison personnel who may have been involved; and
- Begin a formal process to reduce incarceration in all Mississippi prisons and shut down Parchman Prison for good.
Sign the petition below to join Color Of Change, Until Freedom, Team Roc, REFORM, and the Mississippi Reform Coalition!