Jay-Z Suing Mississippi Prison System for Inmates Claiming Dangerous Living Conditions

Entertainment mogul Jay-Z watches the New York Yankees play against the Texas Rangers in Game Three of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2010 in New York, New York. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Rapper Jay-Z is suing two Mississippi prisons on behalf of 29 prisoners who claim that prison conditions are dangerous and expose them to the type of constant violence that has already killed five prisoners.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Greenville, Mississippi, charges Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm, with negligence and says the deaths in the Mississippi prison is “a direct result of Mississippi’s utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights,” the Daily Mail reported.

Jay-Z’s lawyer, Alex Shapiro, added that he was “prepared to pursue all potential avenues to obtain relief for the people living in Mississippi’s prisons and their families.”

The filing insists that the deaths of the five prisoners are a result of years of neglect by authorities and severe understaffing of prison staff.

NBC News recently reported that the state prisons department had been steadily reducing staff.

“As Mississippi has incarcerated increasing numbers of people,” NBC reported, “it has dramatically reduced its funding of prisons. As a result, prison conditions fail to meet even the most basic human rights.”

The lawsuit cites the names of prisoners who died from violence inside the prison, including Denorris Howell, 36, Walter Gates, 25, Roosevelt Holliman, 32, Terrandance Dobbins, 40, and Gregory Emary, 26.

Mississippi prisons have recently suffered several riots in which prisoners were injured and others killed.

At least two prisoners David May, 42, and Dillion Williams, 27, escaped confinement during riots in which the five prisoners lost their lives.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant recently blamed the prisoners for the deaths.

“Someone asked earlier, who’s responsible for what’s happening at Parchman? The inmates,” Bryant said. “The inmates are the ones that take each other’s lives. The inmates are the ones that fashion weapons out of metal … So, I would say look to the inmates.”

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