With coronavirus infecting thousands in the U.S. and tens of thousands across the globe, Mississippi inmates are among the most vulnerable populations at risk of contracting the disease, according to a new legal filing. A motion was filed on Monday (March 16) is demanding that Parchman prison inmates receive coronavirus testing.
The motion is apart of an ongoing lawsuit spearheaded by Yo Gotti and Jay Z’s Team Roc, surrounding inhumane conditions inside the facility. “Those inmates have been subjected to inhumane health and safety risks, and now have to deal with the uncertainty and potential devastation of the coronavirus too,” Gotti said in a statement. “It is imperative that the Mississippi Department of Corrections implement a plan within Parchman to provide medical resources necessary to protect inmates that might be exposed.”
In addition to immediate testing, the motion calls for a 14-day quarantine for new inmates, as well as quarantines for inmates who test positive for COVID-19, exhibit symptoms, or were exposed to the disease.
“In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Parchman inmates are helpless in the most literal sense of the world without Court intervention, the MDOC will default to the same feckless approach to crises that has become the norm at Parchman,” the motion states per CBS News. “If said adequate testing kits are unavailable or scarce, then the most concerning symptoms — fever and cough — should be tested.”
More than two dozen inmates have died in Mississippi prisons since last December, many of whom passed away at Parchman, where at least 2,200 prisoners are housed. The last reported death was 42-year-old Michael Robertson who was found unresponsive in his cell last Thursday (March 12). Robertson’s cause of death has yet to be determined pending an autopsy. There were no signs of foul play suspected, according to the MDOC.
In an effort to protect staff, inmates and the public from exposure to COVID-19, the MDOC has temporarily suspended visitation “at all facilities where inmates are housed,” with the exception of attornies and other “essential visitors.” The MDOC also suspended inmate transfers from county jails to MDOC facilities, and GlobalTell is offering inmates two free phone calls up to five minutes each per week.
Mississippi has confirmed at least 21 coronavirus cases as of Tuesday (March 17), with 389 individuals tested. There are currently no confirmed COVID-19 cases within the MDOC prisons.
“We are monitoring new developments and plans will be updated accordingly,” said Deputy Commissioner Jeworski Mallet. “Steps are being taken to protect staff, inmates, and the public from potential exposure to the coronavirus.”