On Tuesday, music and business mogul Jay-Z sued the head of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the warden of the penitentiary on behalf of 29 prisoners who say nothing has been done to stop the violence that left five inmates dead in the past two weeks.
“These deaths are a direct result of Mississippi’s utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed by Jay-Z’s lawyer Alex Spiro at the U.S. District Court in Greenville, Mississippi.
The suit names DOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall and Mississippi State Penitentiary Superintendent Marshall Turner as defendants.
“We cannot treat people this way and it’s time to do something about it,” Spiro of the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP law firm, said in a statement to NBC News.
The suit comes after a letter from Spiro was sent to Hall and governor of Mississippi on Jan. 9. The letter, which protested the “inhumane conditions in prisons operated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections”, was sent on behalf of Jay-Z and hip-hop artist Yo Gotti.
Spiro said they were “prepared to pursue all potential avenues to obtain relief for the people living in Mississippi’s prisons and their families.”
“This unthinkable spate of deaths is the culmination of years of severe understaffing and neglect at Mississippi’s prisons,” Spiro’s letter reads. “As Mississippi has incarcerated increasing numbers of people, it has dramatically reduced its funding of prisons. As a result, prison conditions fail to meet even the most basic human rights.”
“People are forced to live in squalor, with rats that crawl over them as they sleep on the floor, having been denied even a mattress for a cot,” the letter said.
The lawsuit names three prison inmates who were killed this year at the state penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi.
“Walter Gates, an inmate of Unit 29E at Parchman was stabbed multiple times the night of New Year’s Eve, and pronounced dead just after midnight,” the suit states. “Roosevelt Holliman was stabbed to death in a fight the next day. And Denorris Howell, an inmate of Unit 291 at Parchman was stabbed multiple times and pronounced dead the day after that.”
Spiro closed with a warning: “Roc Nation and its philanthropic arm, Team Roc, demand that Mississippi take immediate steps to remedy this intolerable situation.”