In early 2020, 200 inmates at the Mississippi State Penitentiary reported abhorrent conditions, including staff shortages, community violence and limited access to medical care. Complaints also included inmates tending to their own illnesses and injuries, as well as finding animal droppings in their meals.
With the assistance of Yo Gott, Jay-Z and his philanthropic department, Team ROC, the first lawsuit against the prison was filed. Roc Nation, founded by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, also conducted a YouTube video release that featured interviews with “family members of those who have recently died in Mississippi’s prisons and scenes from the inside of unsanitary conditions.”
Outrage initiated by prisoner reform advocates protesting over the conditions in the Mississippi prison system urged the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to open up an investigation across Mississippi’s prison system, later that year.
Over the last few years, conditions at the prison have reportedly improved. Some of the changes include providing two functioning ambulances at the medical center, new stainless-steel showers, refurbished toilets and sinks, upgraded ventilation and plumbing systems, recreational activities, removal of mold and the opening of kitchen operations in additional units. As a result, Team ROC has agreed to drop its lawsuit.
“We’re pleased that Parchman has started to address the cruel and inhumane prison conditions after the Department of Justice’s investigation, but we aren’t satisfied with short-term improvements,” Yo Gotti, also known as Mario Mims, said in a statement.
“The Mississippi Department of Corrections has neglected these torturous living conditions for decades, so we will continue to hold them accountable and ensure they commit to creating long-lasting change that safely protects their incarcerated population.”