DOJ launches investigation into Mississippi prison system

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Photo courtesy of MDOC

The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Mississippi’s prison system. 

Amid the recent outbreak of violence in Mississippi’s prisons, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division will investigate the living conditions at four facilities including the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman along with the Southern Mississippi Correctional Institute, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility.

According to the DOJ, the investigation will focus on whether 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.”

The investigation will be conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA).  Under CRIPA, the Department has the authority to investigate violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights that result from a “pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights.”  

Over the past month, 15 inmates have died in state custody. Officials have attributed many of the deaths to gang violence inside of prison walls. Recently, Governor Tate Reeves announced that he has instructed the MDOC to begin the process of closing Unit 29 at Parchman, a central location of violence in recent weeks.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch stated that her office will work alongside the DOJ as the investigation begins. 

“Since taking office on January 9th, I have been made aware of the conditions with the Mississippi Department of Corrections and my office immediately took a proactive position to meet and address these challenges. I visited Parchman personally and my staff and I have had conversations with the Department of Justice and others about next steps. I will work closely with the U.S. Department of Justice in their investigation and I am committed to ensuring safety and justice for all parties,” Fitch said.

The ongoing situation in Mississippi’s prisons has drawn national attention. The MDOC is currently being sued by Roc Nation, a company owned by rapper Jay-Z. 

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