COLUMN: Do Not Disturb: A Discussion About Privately Owned Prisons


After numerous deaths occurring within Parchman, Mississippi’s state penitentiary, it has been shut down. Gov. Tate Reeves deemed Unit 29 unsafe and has taken action to ensure that the inmates are relocated.

Nine inmates have died within Parchman. The causes of these deaths include altercations between inmates and suicide. Inmates within the prison report easy access to contraband and drugs.

Aside from the deaths, many have reported and even taken photographs of the terrible conditions within the cells and in the common areas. Additionally, Prison Legal News reports the abuse of prisoners inflicted by the guard staff there last year.

Michelle Liu wrote that the Mississippi’s Department of Health found several environmental issues such as “flooding and leaks, lack of lights, power and water, broken toilets and sinks as well as missing pillows and mattresses…” The inspector also discovered instances of black mold, and broken showers. Public figures Jay Z and Yo Gotti have provided lawyers for the inmates, and want to ensure that they are relocated to a federally owned prison.

It has been reported that these issues have been going on and are repeated offenses, which the prison has yet to fix. Many are referring to Parchman as the “Notorious Prison.” but are failing to reiterate what exactly the word, “notorious” means.

Parchman has been around for over a century, and during that time, has endured and participated in the prolonged American evolution of social inequality. It has even experienced slavery on its own property. Cotton still grows around the facility’s exterior and stands as a reminder of the south’s dark past in terms of prisons.

It is important to note that according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections Monthly Fact Sheet, approximately 12,958 inmates are black. This means that 61.61 percent, over half of the prison population, is black. It is no secret to those who know American history, that the mere existence of African Americans and minority groups have been continuously exploited for money and power.

How do these statistics relate to the disgusting conditions at Parchman? These conditions can be attributed to deregulation within a privately-owned prison. Costs are cut to save the funds they receive for inmates, which leads to instances where proper materials aren’t being purchased and provided.

Shrewd individuals take advantage of disparaged, and predominantly black, areas where the crime rates are higher than others. This then leads to problems like the ones seen at Mississippi’s state penitentiary.

Contracts regarding payment for the inmate housing during this relocation have been released, and are being reviewed to ensure legality and competence. However, this leads one to question: Just how many prisons out there are existing in the same conditions as the notorious Parchman.