Jay-Z, Yo Gotti and Team ROC, the philanthropic wing of Roc Nation, have filed a second civil lawsuit against the Mississippi Department of Corrections on behalf of 152 more inmates allegedly suffering from inhumane conditions at Parchman prison. The new suit follows a similar one filed in January on behalf of 29 inmates.
The suit is packed with an array of harrowing allegations and claims that a lack of staffing and funding over the years has caused “prisoners to endure abhorrent conditions, abuse and constant violence, inadequate health care and mental health care, and overuse of isolation.” It continues: “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.”
Along with filing the new suit, Roc Nation released a chilling 20-minute documentary that includes disturbing, never-before-seen footage from inside Parchman, as well as commentary from the families of inmates alongside activists and politicians.
The suit claims staff shortages, incompetency and corruption are at the core of many of the problems at Parchman. The suit states there’s one guard (who’s often female) for every 160 inmates, which allows prisoner-on-prisoner violence to flourish, and notes that nine inmates have died at Parchman this year, putting Parchman well on “pace to break its morbidly shameful record of annual inmate deaths.”
On top of the violence, the living conditions at Parchman are reportedly “abhorrent” and “medieval.” The suit states that cells often lack power and water, and they frequently flood from both rainwater and broken toilets, filling spaces with sewage that further leaks out into common spaces. Additionally, the potable water system at Parchman is allegedly contaminated with feces and the food is often dried, spoiled or “adulterated with rat feces, cockroaches, rocks, bird droppings, and other foreign matter.”
Inmates seeking health services, the suit claims, are rarely able to obtain any help. The process to see a doctor requires filling out a “sick call” request form, which isn’t readily available, and can only be submitted by guards, nurses, or floor walkers. If a request form is submitted, it can then take weeks for an inmate to receive a response. And if they are able to see a doctor, the suit notes that a visit to the medical clinic costs $40, “far more than the average insurance copay.”
As a result, the suit claims that inmates will “insert their own catheters, treat their own stab wounds, vomit up blood, teeter on the verge of diabetic comas, and suffer through seizures without medical care. Even a broken neck can go without treatment at Parchman, with the inmate being left to suffer through his injury while sleeping on exposed, steel bedsprings with no mattress.”
Mental health care at Parchman, the suit alleges, “is virtually nonexistent.” There’s “no legitimate mental health screening program for inmates” or treatment options for previously-diagnosed inmates. Suicidal inmates are allegedly ignored, and the suit claims that one inmate who died this year, Thomas Lee, hung himself after “pleading with a guard to help him.”
Per a statement from Roc Nation, the first suit that Jay-Z, Yo Gotti and Team ROC filed helped pave the way for a Department of Justice investigation into the conditions at Parchman. The DOJ did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment about the status of the investigation. A rep for the Mississippi DOC declined Rolling Stone’s request for comment.