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The Jay-Z effect? Department of Justice investigating Mississippi prisons

Rukia Lumumba, of the People’s Advocate Institute, addresses media at a press conference in the mayor’s office in Jackson, Mississippi (Photo by Lerae Funderburg for Steed Media)

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the four Mississippi state prisons following a spate of inexplicable deaths and reports of deplorable and dangerous conditions.

The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ will probe the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, the South Mississippi Correctional Institution, the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility.

This news comes in the wake of multiple high-profile protests at the Mississippi state capital in Jackson that have garnered national media attention. Also, Jay-Z, who is an influential prison reform advocate, funded his Roc Nation and rapper Yo Gotti lawsuit against the state prison system.

The prison in Parchman is going to be subject to particular scrutiny due to a prison riot on Dec. 29 after an inmate was killed.

Since that deadly day, 15 other inmates have died at the state prisons with most of the killings attributed to gang-related activity. Moreover, the Mississippi Department of Corrections says 29 staff members have also been assaulted over the same time period.

“The investigation will focus on whether the Mississippi Department of Corrections adequately protects prisoners from physical harm at the hands of other prisoners at the four prisons, as well as whether there is adequate suicide prevention, including adequate mental health care and appropriate use of isolation, at Parchman,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

Inmates, speaking anonymously to media outlets like CNN, testified secretly that the state prisons are death traps. They say the prisons are overrun by gang violence, have water quality as bad as the conditions in Flint, Michigan, have overflowing raw sewage covering their cell floors, have inadequate health care and lack of access to showers for weeks.