Join Our Fight to Fix Mississippi’s Broken Prison System

The abysmal condition of Mississippi’s prisons is in the news again after two inmates were beaten to death at Parchman Farm — a location already infamous for brutality and cruelty.

Six other inmates have died at Parchman since late December, and here’s the sad truth: what goes on in prisons like Parchman is sickening, but unsurprising.

The violence, mistreatment, neglect and indifference to some of our most vulnerable — who are overwhelmingly black men and women — have been a daily reality at Parchman and Mississippi’s other prisons since their creation. And the past and present conditions there are manifestations of a purposeful devaluing of African American lives. We are a smart, strong society; if we wanted something different in prisons like Parchman, it would have happened a long time ago.

But we don’t.

The problem we face at Parchman, and other prisons in Mississippi, is structural and systemic. Tinkering around the edges with more guards, more cameras, and more training may be helpful, but there’s no easy fix. The horrific outcomes there arise directly from the culture of injustice we’ve allowed to fester in our state over the past 200 years.

This is what you get when you criminalize poverty, race, and mental illness in Mississippi. And we will continue to see the violence and neglect that are ravaging our prisons as long as mass incarceration ensnares people because they are poor, or mentally deficient, or addicted, or make bad choices because there were no good ones.

The Mississippi Center for Justice exists to dismantle the systems that reinforce poverty and racism. Through our work on criminal justice reform, housing, education, disaster recovery, and consumer protection, we are doing our part to make Mississippi better and to solve the wide range of problems associated with poverty and neglect.

We’ve had some major successes, including recently winning the release on bail of Curtis Flowers, a wrongfully convicted black man who spent 23 years on Mississippi’s death row. But we’re under no illusions about the enormity of the fight that lies ahead as we try to stop the continued criminalization of poverty and race.

We need your help, and your support. Let’s fight for our state’s future together.

Fighting with you,

Vangela M. Wade