Jay Z and Team Roc, are backing a new lawsuit on behalf of inmates at Mississippi’s Parchman prison. The suit accuses Centene Corp. of providing substandard healthcare to inmates and downplaying the risk of COVID-19 infection within the prison.
The lawsuit, filed in Delaware Chancery Court on Wednesday (May 27) by Centene shareholder, Laura Wood, seeks “basic answers to basic questions about grave injustices perpetrated behind prison walls.” Wood is asking for a court order to “inspect Centene’s books and records in an effort to investigate potential wrongdoing.” Jay Z and Roc Nation lawyer, Alex Spiro, is listed as legal counsel.
Centene is the the parent company of Centurion, which provides healthcare to prisons around the country. According to the legal documents, Centene has a “long history of failing to provide proper health care to the prison populations.”
The company seemingly disputed claims made in the lawsuit. “Centurion and its board of directors are proud of the company’s history of providing outstanding and innovative health-care solutions to this vulnerable population,” spokesperson Marcela Hawnin a statement. “We look forward to sharing more about our role in the delivery of health-care to these individuals during legal proceedings.”
Centurion has faced misconduct allegations in the past, which are outlined in the lawsuit. In 2016, a woman sued the company for forcing her to “give birth in a non-sterile environment without a qualified OBGYN,” and two Centurion health administrators were removed from their positions for failing to disperse medication to inmates at Tennessee Prison for Women in a “timely manner.” In 2018, a third-party audit found that Centurion “jeopardized patient safety in an effort to increase its earnings.”
Parchman inmates were already subjected to inhumane conditions, including no electricity or running water, rodents, and crumbling infrastructure, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Aside from the operational and janitorial issues, prison overcrowding and lack of proper health care could result in the viral disease wreaking havoc on Parchman’s prison population, especially vulnerable inmates who suffer disproportionately from conditions like diabetes, hepatitis, HIV, and asthma.
Forty detainees have died while in custody at Mississippi prisons since late last year. At least one Parchman inmate died from COVID-19. According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, the inmate battled preexisting health conditions.