A two-year federal investigation that was spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently found evidence of unsafe and inhumane conditions at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi. In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said that the DOJ’s civil rights division found that certain practices at the prison violated both the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These violations, according to Clarke, are a result of the facility’s failure to “provide adequate mental health treatment, failing to protect people at risk of self-harm, subjecting people to prolonged isolation in solitary confinement and failing to protect people from violence at the hands of other inmates.” The problems at the prison were described as severe and systemic, and said to have been exacerbated by serious deficiencies in staffing and supervision, which allowed widespread violence to occur. Investigators also found that in a span of a few years, ten inmates were victims of homicide, while twelve inmates died by suicide. The DOJ further reported that the Mississippi Department of Corrections had known about the deficiencies for years and that it had failed to take the measures necessary to address the violations. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, federal prosecutors can sue the state of Mississippi if it fails to address the unconstitutional conditions at Parchman, but Clarke said taht she believes state officials will work with the department to address the problems.
The DOJ is still in the process of conducting additional investigations into the conditions at other facilities in Mississippi, including the Southern Mississippi Correctional Institution, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, as well as prisons in Georgia and juvenile detention facilities in Texas.
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: Explain how Mississippi violated the constitutional rights of people incarcerated at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman.
- Debate: According to an article by MSNBC, Mississippi, which has the third-highest incarceration rate in the country, embodies the failure of mass incarceration. Do you believe that mass incarceration has worsened prison conditions in Mississippi, as well as prisons across the country?
- Poll: TheMississippi State Penitentiary should be held accountable for not fulfilling its constitutional obligations. (Agree or Disagree).
- Short Answer: Discuss the protections afforded to prisoners by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Cover Image: iStock/MikeVanSchnooderwalt