A federal investigation into prison conditions after January 2020 riots at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman determined state violates prisoners' civil rights by not providing adequate mental health services and protecting inmates from physical harm, the Clarion Ledger reports. Ten inmates died in less than a month, including eight at Parchman. Five were killed in the riots during a statewide prison lockdown. Officials said some of the violence was gang-related. "No one's sentence should include deliberate indifference by prison officials that leads to death or serious harm," said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. "The Constitution safeguards the inherent dignity of every human being, including people serving time in our prisons and jails."
DOJ officials said there is cause to believe Mississippi routinely violates the constitutional rights of Parchman inmates by failing to provide adequate mental health treatment to people with serious mental health needs, failing to take sufficient suicide prevention measures to protect those at risk of self-harm, and by subjecting people to prolonged isolation in solitary confinement in egregious conditions that put their physical and mental health at substantial risk of serious harm. Prison conditions at Parchman were allowed to deteriorate after federal courts ended oversight of the facility in 2011. Inmates described themselves as being prey to prison gangs who control the supply of contraband drugs and weapons, bedding, food and cell phones. Photographs and videos reviewed by news organizations show the most dangerous inmates, identified by red-and-white striped uniforms, walking freely outside their cells, with no guards in sight.