The governor of Mississippi has called for the closure of Unit 29 of Parchman prison.
Governor Tate Reeves announced Monday that the cell block would be closed after multiple reported deaths in the prison in recent months and after officials deemed it “unsafe” due to failing infrastructure.
“I have instructed the Mississippi Department of Corrections to begin the necessary work to start closing Parchman’s most notorious unit, Unit 29,” Reeves said at his 2020 State of the State address. “I’ve seen enough. We have to turn the page. This is the first step, and I have asked the department to begin the preparations to make it happen safely, justly and quickly.”
Reeves’ announcement came a day after 26-year-old Joshua Norman was found dead in his cell. Officials said no foul play was suspected in his death. More than 10 inmates have died in the state’s prison system since December with the majority of deaths occurring at Parchman.
Earlier this month, 29 inmates filed a federal lawsuit alleging the conditions at the prison are unconstitutional. Music artists Jay-Z and Yo Gotti stepped up and said they would pay for the lawyers in the case.
In a statement to CBS News, Yo Gotti said the governor’s decision to shut down the prison unit is a start but more needs to be done.
“Governor Reeves’ plan to close down a Parchman prison unit that has caused devastating deaths is a necessary first step,” he said.
“Beyond that, he must implement broader safety measures to address similar issues in other units and urgently provide inmates with medical attention. In the interim, we’re calling for the Department of Justice to step in, move the Parchman inmates to federal prisons and ensure their immediate well-being”, Yo Gotti said.
Almost half of the approximately 1,300 corrections roles at three major facilities in Mississippi are unfilled. According to the lawsuit, the recent violence is the result of “years of severe understaffing and neglect at Mississippi’s prisons.”