Damning video footage has surfaced in the aftermath of rioting and prison violence showing apparent inmates in Mississippi living in a reportedly condemned portion of the corrections facility replete with flooding, black mold and no beds for inmates. The footage was among the most recent apparent revelations amid wider scrutiny of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) that has focused on at least five inmates dying in the past week and two escaping.
One of the prisons affected was the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, where the video footage was reportedly recorded. That was where at least two inmates were stabbed to death and from where two other inmates staged a daring escape last week, with just one of them having been captured as of early Monday afternoon.
It was unclear who was filming the video, but people wearing orange and white striped apparent prison uniforms can be seen walking through conditions they said was unlivable. Complaints with each splash of a step they took in what looked like muddy shallow water and puddles ranged from claims of widespread mildew and mold to living without electricity, working plumbing, heat and sleeping accommodations. One person can be heard exclaiming that there are “no mats” and “we sleeping on straight concrete.”
The apparent inmates then demonstrated in order to prove their claims of “no running water” by trying to flush toilets that would not, using sinks with inoperable faucets and trying to run showers that would not turn on.
The unit of Parchman where the inmates claimed they were transferred to — Unit 32 — reportedly closed nearly a decade ago was in 2010 described by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger as “a nightmare, if sworn testimony and a string of violent deaths is a reliable measure.”
Watch the video below.
As of Monday morning, the video had been retweeted more than 6,000 times.
And if that history was any indication of what the unit’s newest prisoners had in store, it may not be too different from the rest of the prison.
“Prisoners [in Unit 32] were kept in isolation 23 hours a day, often behind full metal doors in stifling cells with broken lights, yet violence was common between inmates and guards and among the inmates themselves,” according to Solidarity Watch, a nonprofit group that monitors the treatment of prisoners kept in solitary confinement.
A photo that appeared on social media claimed to show how prisoners were living in Unit 32.
It was unclear if the prisoners were moved to Unit 32 as a result of the violence at Parchman, which first began Dec. 29, according to a statement from the Mississippi Department of Correction released on Friday.
“Four inmates have died and several have been injured at two state prisons and one regional during major disturbances since Sunday. One death occurred at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution, (SMCI) in Leakesville, two at the Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP) at Parchman, and one at the Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility (CCRF) in Houston, Miss.,” it said in part. “MDOC investigators have determined a fifth death and a minor fire, both at MSP, are unrelated to the major disturbances.”
It was also unclear how the footage managed to be filmed, but Pelicia E. Hall, a Black woman who is the first woman corrections commissioner in Mississippi, said that “[c]ellphones are contraband and have been instrumental in escalating the violence” in the prisons.
In the meantime, there are many questions that were going unanswered, including what started the violence, what’s being done to address it besides locking down the state’s prison and the roles that corrections officers played in the violence.
Unverified reports have flooded social media claiming corrections officers were at the center of the violence.
A video uploaded to YouTube on Thursday claimed to show a fight between Parchman inmates that was allowed to happen by corrections officers.
Carol Leonard, who operates the Prison Reform Movement Twiter account, called the situation at Parchman and the MDOC a “crisis” and told the News Maven website that guards have been giving inmates keys to cells.
This is far from the first time the MDOC has been under fire. A prison riot at the Adams County Correctional Facility left a guard dead in 2012 and former MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps was charged in 2014 with bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges involving potentially hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars.