December 4, 2023

Full Statement Via MS Prison Reform Coalition:

Last Friday, we held a rally at the State Capitol attended by over 600 people to demand that our elected representatives shut down Parchman and enact prison system reforms. Yesterday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced that the state will be closing the notoriously inhumane Parchman Unit 29, where multiple deaths have occurred in the last month alone. 

While we are hopeful that Gov. Reeves will follow through with this promise, we can not ignore the fact that he failed to provide a detailed plan for closure of the entirety of the Parchman  Mississippi State Penitentiary, which continues to be plagued with overcrowding, inadequate heat, lack of running water and sanitation, crumbling walls and violence; the urgent transfer of the 325 incarcerated men who remain housed in Units 29 and 30; and comprehensive policy reforms that will remedy the system-wide failures that have resulted in the current humanitarian and legal crisis as well as the ongoing threats to the safety and well-being of the men and women in the state’s care and those it employs. 

We have presented policy solutions, crafted with the input of individuals most impacted by the system and advocates. Our policy platform is supported by critical analysis of the potential financial and social impacts, and we believe our proposals will benefit individuals in the system and those it employs, their families, our communities and our state at large. 

Our policy platform is simple:

RELEASE & REDUCE incarceration in Mississippi, Decarcerate.

  • Release people with Juvenile Life w/o Parole convictions. 
  • Release the infirm and elderly.
  • Make HB585 retroactive. 
  • Repeal state Habitual Offender Law. 
  • Make simple possession a misdemeanor and support drug treatment not incarceration. 

REMOVE harmful conditions, policies and practices.

  • Immediately end lock-downs/shake-downs for cellphones & ensure all people incarcerated are provided food, clean water, heat, clothes, showers, blankets, a clean mattress to sleep on, a working toilet, yard time, mental health and medical care.
  • Immediately inform family members of their incarcerated loved one’s whereabouts & well-being. 
  • Implement community-led  restorative, educational, recreational, wellness and spiritual programs in all MDOC prisons. 

REMEDY the harm. 

  • Create a community oversight board of MDOC prisons. 
  • Conduct a full and independent investigation into the deaths of incarcerated people, including any officers or prison personnel who may have been involved. 
  • Increase funding for reentry services including transitional housing & employment. 
  • Shut down Parchman Prison for good.

Mississippi Prison Reform Coalition:  Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign, MS Southern Belles, People’s Advocacy Institute, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, Black With No Chaser, One Voice MS, Central Mississippi Anti-Fund, IWOC MS, MS Southern Poverty Law Center, Alternate Roots, with national partners including Color of Change, Until Freedom and others. 

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