‘We saw enough years ago,’ Prison reform advocates and inmate respond to Reeves decision to close Parchman Unit 29

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – A big announcements came out in Governor Tate Reeves first state of the state address this evening. The governor has ordered Unit 29 at Parchman to be closed.

Unit 29 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman has been at the center for recent deaths and numerous dangerous fights. Though the governor’s move is praised advocates demand more action.

“I have seen enough,” Governor Reeves stated.

In his first address from the south side steps of the Capitol Building as governor, Reeves used the opportunity to announce his latest move reforming Mississippi Prisons.

“I have instructed the Mississippi Corrections to begin the necessary construction to close down Parchman’s most notorious unit, Unit 29,” Governor Reeves continued.

For long time prison reform advocates like Rukia Lumumba closing down Unit 29 prison is a nice first step, but far from real reform she sees necessary.

“We saw enough years ago this has been a decades fight,” Lumumba told us. “Many of us in this coalition have been fighting this fight for decades. And it was only through the sacrifice and the risk of people on the inside.”

Unit 29 closing is the latest in Governor Reeves moves for prison reform after he visited Parchman earlier this month. Rukia sees more to what really motivated his decision.

“I think it has to be the conditions, people cannot survive in those conditions,” Lumumba argued. “When you walk in there and you are immediately faced with the reality. Rat infested cells, to roaches and to people living next to sewage.”

Meeting up with advocate Dr. Aziatikk Blakk of Jackson we were able to speak over the phone with an anonymous inmate who served eight years at Parchman before being transferred.

“I think it’s just long overdue,” the man said. “The things that’s going on in the news and in the public have been going on 10-20 years. Most of the conditions have been the same for a number of years.”

He described to us what goes on inside Unit 29 leading to inmate deaths, and how cell phones slipping in actually saved lives despite the unrest.

“The side that where you saw all the incidents that was the closed confinement side,” the man claimed. “They have no exercise, no way to move around, they’re just locked in their cells. You keep someone locked up in their cells it causes frustration to build up over a period of time ain’t no telling what might happen.”

Rukia Lumumba with the “Peoples Advocacy” groups also urged the governor to decarcerate the Mississippi prison system which as of this year is the third highest in the nation.

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