Following a string of inmate deaths at Mississippi’s correctional facilities, lawyers representing some 152 inmates at Mississippi State Penitentiary (also known as Parchman) have filed a complaint in federal court denouncing the conditions within the facility, as well as the lack of access to medical and mental health care within the facilities.
“Parchman has been understaffed and underfunded for decades. As a result, prisoners endure abhorrent conditions, abuse and constant violence, inadequate health care and mental health care, and overuse of isolation,” the complaint read.
“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 afforded by the U.S. Constitution.”
According to CBS News, the lawsuit named the interim director of the state’s Department of Corrections, the department’s top medical official and several other officials at Parchman as defendants in the class-action suit.
The proposed lawsuit slammed the living conditions at Parchman as “not suitable for animals”, adding that “words cannot adequately describe the degree of filth and dilapidation the men” live in.
The inmates also claim that they are subject to contaminated food and poor nutrition, noting “the kitchen facilities and food service at Parchman are nauseating. The most recent annual inspection by the Mississippi Health Department in June 2019 lambasts the conditions finding containers of dried, spoiled and molded food, flies and other pests in the kitchen, food maintained in coolers at unsafe temperatures, collapsing ceilings, and other unhealthy food preparation and storage conditions. The inmates receive meals that are undercooked and served at unsafe temperatures. Many times, the food is adulterated with rat feces, cockroaches, rocks, bird droppings, and other foreign matter.”
Other claims include rampant violence within the facilities, which leads to the death of others in state care, and poor health care and no mental health care.
As CBS notes, 18 people have died so far inside of state facilities since December 29, with causes of death including suicides, homicides and “natural deaths.”
The Justice Department has also opened a civil rights investigations into the conditions of Mississippi’s prisons.