Mothers of inmates concerned about conditions inside Mississippi prisons

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Family members of Mississippi inmates want state leaders to end the statewide lockdown and improve conditions inside prisons.

After a week of deadly riots, the mother of one Parchman inmate said she’s scared. “As a mother, it’s very saddening. It’s sickening to not know if you are going to get a call saying your child was hurt,” stated Lashawnda McGowan.

In the past week at Parchman, there have been riots, a fire, and three inmate deaths. Two inmates also escaped but were later captured.

McGowan said the last time she talked to her son, he discussed the conditions inside the prison. “The inmates that got killed and lost their lives. I was told their bodies laid out for hours.”

McGowan claimed she obtained pictures from inmates that showed the conditions inside Mississippi prisons. The Mississippi Department of Corrections said it cannot confirm the validity of the images.

MDOC said the unrest started last Sunday when a gang member was killed and others were injured inside the South Mississippi Correctional Institution. The incident prompted the statewide lockdown. Since the lockdown started, at least four other inmates at prisons across the state have died. Recently, state leaders moved inmates at Parchman to more secure housing.

“When the last inmate got killed, they moved them out of open bay to a part of the prison that has been shut down for 10 years. So, there is no running water over there,” said McGowan.

Another inmates’ mother, Juanita Johnson, agreed with McGowan’s statement. “It’s hurtful. It’s a really hurtful feeling. You think about your child everyday and every night. Especially if they are locked up. This kind of stuff that’s going on you can’t do nothing but think. You can’t sleep. You can’t do anything,” said Johnson.

12 News talked to a man who claimed he’s an inmate at Parchman. The alleged inmate said, “I ain’t took a shower since December 31st. Ain’t brush my teeth. We ain’t got mats, no blankets, no running water. I’m in Parchman. We are locked in 32, a condemned building. It’s the closest thing to hell.”

12 News asked the man how he got the cellphone. He said, “Soon as I got to 32, and officer sold it to me.”

MDOC recently tweeted pictures of Parchman, but the inmates and their families told a different story.

“I know he locked up, but he’s still my child and I love him,” said McGowan. “Nobody should have to live like that. Nobody. If you are gonna house him, take care of them. For your kid to say I’m hungry and I’m scared for my life and make weapons to survive. You don’t want to tell your child to do something bad, but you want your child to come home.”

“I know we all make mistakes,” said the alleged inmate. “I’m not saying we don’t deserve to be here. But if we are in prison, please give us what we are supposed to have. We don’t want anything extra. Running water, sheets, blankets.”

12 News received reports about low staffing at the jails that could contribute to the conditions. We reached out several times to the state to confirm the validity of the pictures and video. We will let you know when or if they respond.

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