Health Code Violations and Dangerous Conditions at Parchman MS Prison

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Troubling details are coming out of reporting direct from the Parchman State Penitentiary in central Mississippi; problems recently reported at this prison include power outages, under staffing, overcrowding, and resulting “unrest” (in the words of MDOC.) Now, officials are moving hundreds of prisoners to other facilities like the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, but are not convincing the public that serious issues, including health code violations, have been resolved.

Due to a mysterious lack of beds, inmates are rolling out styrofoam packaging if they have it, or sleeping on cold hard concrete. That’s just the tip of the iceberg: visual documentation of condition at Parchman in the last few days show garbage dumped in stairways, falling ceilings, rancid food, and blood – blood everywhere.

As with so many inmates of national prison systems, at Parchman, injurious beatings and untended medical conditions are sadly commonplace.

Now prison officials are telling the press that inmates are to blame for ramping up conflict behind bars, but the videos sent to advocates outside of the prison tell a different story, with three Parchman inmates now dead, and many more suffering from lack of adequate care.

“This is how we do here,” says one melancholy inmate repeatedly, panning a camera around tiny, overcrowded cells with dangerous bare wiring close to water, and the kinds of minimal facilities you’d expect in a third world country.

“All of the cells passed a sanitation inspection which includes running water, hot and cold temperature availability, and proper lighting,” said Mississippi State Department of Health Environmentalist Rayford Horton according to a Jan. 9 report by WLBT channel 3. “We also inspected the water quality and kitchen facilities. I am pleased with what I found out there.” However, advocates connected with our non-profit group also have explicit documentation of dozens of serious health code violations, regardless of what’s coming out of staff reports.

To the best of their ability, these prisoners are trying to let the world know that conditions at Parchman are abusive in every sense of the word. Unfortunately, they are rarely heard from inside those grey walls.

There’s a greater movement slowly going on across America that wants to overturn the draconian system of American mass incarceration, relieving stiff penalties for minor substance abuse crimes and streamlining District Attorney’s offices to practice a more humane form of prosecution.

However, with the sycophants and quislings of the reactionary right, along with their grandmasters, there are only three things they’d like to invest in when it comes to prisons – in the words of Stephen King’s fictional Shawshank prison warden: “more walls, more bars and more guards.” There’s no Tom Hanks in the Green Mile at Parchman – it’s more Mad Max territory. In fact, it’s likely that decades from now, prison rights advocates will be shouting the name of the notorious Mississippi detention center the same way that Al Pacino’s character shouted “Attica!” in the classic film Dog Day Afternoon – as a symbol of the common man’s acknowledgement that terrible things happen behind the walls of American prisons, things that many of us don’t even want to know about. Those things are happening at Parchman, right now! Reasonable observers who see the reality of it would agree that the Geneva Convention would ban a lot of the practices happening there – and that the inmates have little agency to change their situations as they live at the hands of the state.

One of the core conditions that many inmates feel is glossed over is the pervasive lack of sanitation and the egregious public health risks rampant in several Parchman areas including unit 30: when heat and running water are affected, it doesn’t take much to send any population into chaos, let alone a captive one. That’s in addition to all of the many evident health threats in photo documentation that our investigative teams have in hand. To our dismay, the welfare of these inmates is actively threatened by an environment that none of us would wish on our worst enemies. They used to call Parchman “the Farm” – now they could more accurately call it the fiasco.  

Prison officials continue to paint a rosy picture of the shortcoming at Parchman, but to us, it appears to be unequivocally bad – but unless we counter some of the false narratives getting distributed to mainstream media, Parchman will continue to function as the dismal backwater jail that it’s become. The injustice will continue to rain down upon these unfortunate heads, with little relief in sight.

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