Disability advocates sue Mississippi over ‘severe’ and ‘barbaric” prison conditions

Published 4:56 am Thursday, August 12, 2021

An advocacy group for the disabled is suing Mississippi’s Department of Corrections, alleging disabled prisoners are suffering inhumane conditions at the state’s prisons.

Disability Rights Mississippi filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday against the department and the state prisons’ health provider, Vitalcore Health Strategies LLC, The Clarion Ledger reported.

The complaint names MDOC Commissioner Burl Cain as a defendant. It cites severe and barbaric conditions at state prisons that put prisoners at risk of imminent and substantial harm.

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The allegations range from guards encouraging inmates to commit suicide to denying them access to toilets and showers, according to the lawsuit. Some inmates weren’t receiving their prescribed medications. One other, who used a feeding tube, wasn’t given the supplies necessary to clean their tube. Another inmate was denied a wheelchair despite a severe spinal injury.

“For individuals with disabilities, incarceration in an MDOC facility can equate to a death sentence,” Polly Tribble, executive director of Disability Rights Mississippi, said in a statement. “The appalling conditions and treatment occurring inside MDOC facilities are a human rights crisis.”

The nonprofit filed the lawsuit after extensive monitoring at three facilities: South Mississippi Correctional Institution, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and Mississippi State Penitentiary or Parchman Prison Farm.

Leo Honeycutt, a spokesman for the state’s corrections department, said Wednesday the state does not comment on pending litigation.

This is not the first time the state department of corrections has been sued for poor conditions in its prisons. In January 2020, rappers Jay-Z and Yo Gotti sued the department for inhumane and unconstitutional conditions at Parchman. That lawsuit is ongoing.