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Parchman Found Lacking in Keeping Prisoners Safe, Healthy

The Justice Department announced today that after a civil rights investigation into Mississippi State Penitentiary, commonly known as Parchman, it has concluded that conditions and practices at the prison violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner for the Northern District of Mississippi and U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi made the announcement.

Specifically, the department concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe Mississippi routinely violates the constitutional rights of people incarcerated at Parchman by:

  • failing to provide adequate mental health treatment to people with serious mental health needs;
  • failing to take sufficient suicide prevention measures to protect people at risk of self-harm;
  • subjecting people to prolonged isolation in solitary confinement in egregious conditions that place their physical and mental health at substantial risk of serious harm; and
  • failing to protect incarcerated people from violence at the hands of other incarcerated people.

As required by the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, the Justice Department provided the state of Mississippi with written notice of the supporting facts for these findings and the minimum remedial measures necessary to address them in a comprehensive 59-page findings letter.  

“The Constitution guarantees that all people incarcerated in jails and prisons are treated humanely, that reasonable measures are taken to keep them safe, and that they receive necessary mental health care, treatment, and services to address their needs,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. “Our investigation uncovered evidence of systemic violations that have generated a violent and unsafe environment for people incarcerated at Parchman. We are committed to taking action that will ensure the safety of all people held at Parchman and other state prison facilities. We look forward to working with state officials to institute comprehensive reforms.”

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District Clay Joyner said prisons have a Constitutional obligation to keep prisoners safe.

“Mississippi violated the rights of persons incarcerated at Parchman by failing to keep them safe from physical violence and for failing to provide constitutionally adequate mental health care and that people confined to Parchman experience serious physical and psychological harm as a result,” Joyner said. “Our office is dedicated to defending the civil rights of all our district’s residents, including those who are incarcerated. We look forward to continuing to work with the Mississippi Department of Corrections to protect the civil rights of those incarcerated at Parchman.”

The department’s investigation began in February 2020.

Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the department by phone at (833) 591-0288, or by email at Community.MSDoc@usdoj.gov.

Staff report

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