JACKSON, Miss. (localmemphis.com) – Emotions were raw and tensions boiled over Friday outside the Mississippi state capitol building, as activists and parents urged changes within the state’s problem-filled prison system.
In recent weeks, 10 Mississippi inmates were either killed or died by suicide inside Magnolia State prisons, including several with ties to the Mid-South.
Dozens of speakers laid out their passions and concerns, demanding Mississippi lawmakers make dramatic changes to reverse the ongoing prison system crisis.
“It ain’t no ifs, ands, or buts,” one speaker said. “No one should have to live like a dog. Nobody!”
Through speaker after speaker, the anger and frustration intensified in Jackson.
“We are here to uplift the prize of our brothers as they cry out right now!” said one speaker.
At the microphone, they urged lawmakers move Mississippi’s prison inmates to more humane facilities and shut down the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, where eight inmates died in recent weeks.
“Our brothers are being humiliated, violated, eliminated, and exterminated,” another speaker said.
Amidst the recent violence and deaths at Parchman – some of it confirmed gang-related – cell phone video also exposed mold and other unsanitary conditions while inmates were housed in a different area during a days-long lockdown.
“If it was condemned 10 years ago, what do you think it’s going to be 10 years later?” another speaker said. “The brothers slept on the floors. The brothers slept in sewage!”
Thursday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves visited several prisons and announced several planned changes, including fixing guard screening, relocating prisoners, and increasing transparency.
The Governor said all options are on the table for Parchman’s future.
“A lot of places are not good, there are no other words for it, they are terrible, I saw it myself,” Gov. Reeves said.
A Change.org petition requesting the closure the Mississippi State Penitentiary has more than 54,000 signatures to date.
A class action lawsuit is also planned, representing 20 families of inmates who died or were injured inside Mississippi prisons in the last year and a half.