Begun with four stockades in 1901, the Mississippi Department of Corrections facility was constructed largely by state prisoners. It is located on about 28 square miles (73 km2) in unincorporated Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta region.
It has beds for 4,840 inmates. Inmates work on the prison farm and in manufacturing workshops. It holds male offenders classified at all custody levels—A and B custody (minimum and medium security) and C and D custody (maximum security). It also houses the male death row—all male offenders sentenced to death in Mississippi are held in MSP’s Unit 29—and the state execution chamber. The superintendent of Mississippi State Penitentiary is Marshall Turner. There are two wardens, three deputy wardens, and two associate wardens.
The Governor of Mississippi, Ross Barnett, visited the farm a few times to check on the activists. He reportedly told the guards to, “break their spirit, not their bones”. The governor ordered the activists to be kept away from all other inmates and in maximum security cells. With that order given, the Freedom Riders were stuck in the cell for the most part with not a lot to do.
As in many previous jailings of Civil Rights prisoners, they enthusiastically sang Freedom Songs, mostly direct descendants of slave spirituals. They made up songs to fit their new place. The prisoners sang these songs almost non-stop. They tell us that this singing nourished their sense of unity, purpose and spirits. Guard Tyson and the other white guards found the singing irritating, and tried to stop it. He said that it was bothering the cooks. Considering that the cooks were all black, it was clear that the effect on the cooks would be to make them “uppity …” He ordered the removal of the mattresses and bug screens to force the prisoners to stop singing. Next, the guards tried to barter with the activists. The superintendent finally apologized to the riders, and returned their belongings, as well as the mattresses and screens. It was notable that this negotiation occurred just hours before an inspection tour by a delegation of officials from Minnesota who were examining the treatment of the Freedom Riders. It was a welcome victory for the Freedom Riders.
As the 45 Riders struggled in prison, many others were heading South to join the Freedom Rides. Winnoh Myers was one of the women who went South and was eventually jailed for her activism. She witnessed the treatment first hand. She was treated just as the men were, with bad living quarters and worse clothing and meals. Although most of the Freedom Riders were bailed out after a month, Myers was the last to leave. She was visited as an activist. Their experience at Parchman gave the Freedom Riders credibility in the Civil Rights Movement
In 1970 the civil rights lawyer Roy Haber began taking statements from inmates, which eventually ran to 50 detailing murders, rapes, beatings and other abuses they had suffered in Parchman from 1969 to 1971. Four Parchman inmates brought a suit against the prison superintendent in federal district court in 1972, alleging their civil rights under the United States Constitution were being violated by the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment.
In the case, Gates v. Collier (1972), the federal judge William C. Keady found that Parchman Farm violated the Constitution and was an affront to ‘modern standards of decency’. Among other reforms, the accommodation was made fit for human habitation, and the trusty system, (where lifers were armed with rifles and set to guard other inmates), was abolished. The state was required to integrate the prison facilities, hire African-American staff members, and construct new prison facilities.
In the 1970s the Governor of Mississippi William L. Waller organized a blue-ribbon committee to study MSP. The committee decided that the state should abandon MSP’s for-profit farming system and hire a professional penologist to head the prison.
On July 1, 1984 the Legislature of Mississippi amended §§ 99-19-51 of the Mississippi Code; the new amendment stated that prisoners who committed capital crimes after July 1, 1984 would be executed by lethal injection.
In the mid-1980s, several state law enforcement officials and postal inspectors went to Parchman to end a widespread scam involving forged money orders.
In 1985 area farmers still referred to the facility as being the “Parchman Penal Farm”, even though the facility was officially named the “Mississippi State Penitentiary”. During that year MSP had over 4,000 prisoners, including 200 women in a few of the camps. When the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) opened in January 1986, all women who were incarcerated at MSP were moved to the new facility. Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_State_Penitentiary
How Did It Get So Out Of Control
Prison violence has been an issue at Parchman Farm for a long time but over the past eleven days it has grown into an apocalypse. The “prisoners” have taken over and I emphasize prisoners because the media is quick to blame everything on gangs. I’m not saying that it’s not true, I’m just saying. Three prisoners have been gruesomely killed behind the bars at Parchman over the past eleven days. Read the article below:
The mothers were told by their sons’ fellow inmates that their deaths were gruesome.
“He was beat. He was stabbed. His chest, stomach. … He has, well, he had, a lot of bruises and things on him,” says Jeffrie Holliman of Hattiesburg, mother of 32-year-old Roosevelt Holliman, who died Jan. 2.
Rotonia Gates, the mother of Walter “Keon” Gates, says she’s been told not to look at the body of her 25-year-old son after he was repeatedly stabbed on Dec. 31. But she says inmates with contraband cellphones sent her graphic pictures and descriptions of what happened.
Denorris Howell’s body was so covered in blood that Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton initially announced he had been stabbed on Friday, but later revised that to say he’d suffered a different kind of neck wound.
Relatives of all three inmates say they have few answers from prison officials , and they question whether guards acted properly.
“They’re not releasing any information,” Rotonia Gates says. “It seems like they’re trying to hide something.”
The Mississippi Department of Corrections has provided few answers to repeated questions from The Associated Press about the cause and manner of the prisoners’ deaths and how the department has responded.
“I have no information to add to your story or stories,” spokeswoman Grace Simmons Fisher said in an email Wednesday. “Thank you for asking.”
Advocacy groups have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate. They have criticized state lawmakers and officials for writing laws that they say have resulted in Mississippi having the third-highest incarceration rate in the U.S.
Prison officials themselves say they have only had enough money to fill half of available guard posts, and they say the pay is far too low. The starting salary for guards is $25,650.
Gates was the first to die at Parchman. Rotonia Gates says Keon was her “knee baby,” the second-youngest of her five children. She describes a smart child who got into trouble if teachers didn’t push him in school.
Eventually, that mischief led to worse trouble : burglarizing houses. But Rotonia Gates says she had hope that her son was ready to change his ways and was encouraged by her interactions with him when he was paroled. The parole turned out to be a mistake, however, and Walter Gates was taken back to prison. He was expected to be paroled again this spring.
Gates says she doesn’t know if her son was a gang member, and bristles at prison officials attributing his death to gang violence. But she knows conditions at the prison were bad. She says her son didn’t have a mattress to sleep on and got sick because rain poured into the prison.
Roosevelt Holliman’s sister, Theresa Holliman, says photos taken on cellphones obtained illegally by the prisoners show rats crawling over some of them.
“You just see them laying on the ground, basically worse than animals,” she says.
She says she also was told that some of the inmates had no heat.
In July, prison officials asked the state for more than $22 million to reroof and renovate a 1,400-bed complex known as Unit 29, writing in a budget request that it had “deteriorated to a point that it is no longer safe for staff or inmates.”
Gates and Wilkins both say their sons had pleaded for help or transfers to safer spaces before they died in the violence. Wilkins says Howell talked to her hours before his death.
“He was telling me , ‘Mom, get us some help, I’m fearing for my life, I’m fearing for my life. I need help now. Please get someone,’” Wilkins says.
The relatives also question whether guards contributed to their sons’ deaths, since inmates were supposed to be confined to their cells or bunk areas.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections has not answered questions from the AP about whether officials are investigating guard conduct. A number of state prison guards in the past have been charged with bringing in contraband drugs and c ellphones and have been accused of aiding gangs.
“How can this have happened?” asks Gates. “What can we do to prevent this? The families need relief. Somebody’s going to have to answer for this. That’s too many deaths, and for what?” Reference: https://wreg.com/2020/01/08/mississippi-moms-question-state-as-they-bury-slain-inmates/
Celebrities Are Getting Involved
Yo Gotti said that he is sick and tired of the blood shed in Mississippi State prisons. Gotti has threatened the Governor of Mississippi to fix the problem or else. He’s asked ROC Nation to demand changes or there will be a civil lawsuit. Parchman prison isn’t far from his hometown of Memphis and he said that the treatment of the prisoners is inhumane and unconstitutional.
It needs to be shut down….
Check this article out to view pictures of the inside of Parchman. https://www.clarionledger.com/picture-gallery/news/local/2020/01/08/parchman-prison-mississippi-photos-inside/2838156001/