AceShowbiz - Jay-Z and Yo Gotti are taking the stand for Mississippi prisoners. The two hip-hop stars have sued DOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall and Mississippi State Penitentiary Superintendent Marshall Turner on behalf of 29 prisoners over reported inhumane conditions in the prison.
Gotti enlisted Team Roc, the philanthropic arm of Jay-Z's Roc Nation, and its high-powered attorney Alex Spiro to rep the prisoners. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday, January 14 in federal court, claiming that the two officials did nothing to stop violence that has left five inmates dead in the past two weeks.
"These deaths are a direct result of Mississippi's utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights," according to the lawsuit, which was filed at the U.S. District Court in Greenville, Mississippi.
According to docs obtained by TMZ, the MS prison system is "chronically understaffed" and also dramatically underfunded, as in reduced by tens of millions each year. It's additionally said that Parchman doesn't have enough mattresses for the inmates, cells are covered in black mold raw sewage is spilling out on the floors, and the prison has a serious water problem.
The suit states that inmates are exposed to serious harm and left unprotected because there just aren't enough prison guards. Spiro said in a statement to NBC News, "We cannot treat people this way and it's time to do something about it."
The suit seeks damages for the inmates, and an order forcing Mississippi's Dept. of Corrections to lay out a plan to address all the issues, especially increasing staff and cleaning up the sewage.
Gotti tells TMZ, "The Lives of countless individuals in Mississippi prisons are at stake and we will not stop until this is fixed." Meanwhile, the Mississippi Department of Corrections has not commented on the lawsuit, saying that it does not discuss pending litigation.
Jay-Z and Gotti previously said in a letter that Spiro sent to Hall and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant that they were "prepared to pursue all potential avenues to obtain relief for the people living in Mississippi's prisons and their families."
The letter claimed, "This unthinkable spate of deaths is the culmination of years of severe understaffing and neglect at Mississippi's prisons. As Mississippi has incarcerated increasing numbers of people, it has dramatically reduced its funding of prisons. As a result, prison conditions fail to meet even the most basic human rights."
"People are forced to live in squalor, with rats that crawl over them as they sleep on the floor, having been denied even a mattress for a cot," it added. Spiro additionally stated, "Roc Nation and its philanthropic arm, Team Roc, demand that Mississippi take immediate steps to remedy this intolerable situation."