Despite attempts by law enforcement on keeping the murders within Mississippi prison system under wraps, inmates have reached out on social media with claims that the riots were started by prison guards who themselves are in gangs.
Numerous inmates have taken to Facebook with cries of help, saying they are no longer safe within the prison system because of correctional officers with ties to Gangster Disciples and People’s Nation gang.
Inmates also blame the violence on understaffing, poor prison conditions including food quality, rodent infestations, drugs, and sewage backups.
Unconfirmed reports from inmates are claiming that a prison guard named Redmond as well as one named Rashida Parker from Wilkinson County Correctional Facility have been arrested for allowing inmates to access other inmates’ cells to kill them.
In an interview with Photography is Not a Crime, Carol Leonard of Prison Reform Movement said inmates have told her that guards are “popping locks” and giving inmates keys to cells. But calls to the prison seeking confirmation were never answered.
“(The reports were) from many prisoners and I am speaking with men from EMCF, Wilkinson and Parchman,” Leonard said in an interview on Facebook Messenger.
So far, five inmates have died and over 20 inmates have suffered injuries. There are reports from inmates that there are more dead, but PINAC News could not confirm that.
Two inmates have also been reported missing and have probably escaped, according to a press release from the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Commenters on social media claim the department did not do a full head count till someone reported seeing an inmate on their deer camera and called to make a report.
On December 29, 2019, Southern Mississippi Correctional Institute inmate Teranndance Dobbin, 40, died due to injuries he received from what is believed to be a gang-related hit on his life. That same day, Mississippi Department of Corrections issues a statewide lockdown.
On December 30, 2019, Walter Gates, 25, was killed at Mississippi State Prison, also known as Parchman, when a fight between inmates broke out in Unit 29E. Numerous inmates were injured in the fight. He died of several stab wounds, according to Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton.
Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall resigned the same day. She is expecting to have a job within the private sector.
One of the injured inmates is scheduled to be released next month. He was stabbed 10 times and now his father, Jermone Mitchell, fears he will not make it alive till his release date.
On January 1, a video surfaced on Facebook claiming officers were forcing inmates to lay on the ground outside shirtless to watch officers beat an inmate.
On January 2, inmate Gregory Emary, 26, was killed at Mississippi Regional Correctional Facility in Chickasaw County in what other inmates called a coordinated attack. Emary was not in a gang, according to his ex-wife, Kara Cox.
An unnamed person, whose name has not been released yet pending family notification, was also killed at Parchman in Unit 29D. Multiple agencies, including MDOC, Mississippi Highway Patrol and surrounding county sheriff’s offices responded to a call for help where the victim was stabbed multiple time related to gang activity.
In an attempt to deescalate the chaos, armed state troopers arrived at Parchman. Mississippi department also released their first press release stating the situation is under control.
On January 3, Dennoris Howell, 36, who was killed in a stabbing at Parchman in Unit 29I. Inmates released a video of inmates fighting around the same time it became public.
Octavious Hill uploaded three pictures of blood on the walls and floor.
Governor elect Tate Reeves released a statement on Facebook that he has been briefed on the situation but offered little to no information.
Mississippi Department of Corrections released a statement as well on Facebook.
“There is a lot of misinformation fanning the flames of fear in the community at large, especially on social media,” Commissioner Pelicia Hall said. “Cellphones are contraband and have been instrumental in escalating the violence.”
A video surfaced on Facebook, recorded by inmates in Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, of a Vice Lord setting a fire within the prison.
Shortly after, Damirras Pulliam went on Facebook Live in a video that lasted nearly an hour showing how much smoke came from the fire.
Another video surfaced from within the same jail showing smoke in the air.
One of the toilets melted from the fire.
A video was uploaded to social media by a gang member within Peoples Nation claiming inmates cannot breathe due to the fire.
A video was posted on Facebook in a private group, Close Parchman Prison, of an inmate brawl at Wilkinson. The caption claimed that this fight is what set everything off.
Another video has surfaced on Facebook, recorded by inmates, claiming that there is an inmate that spent over 16-hours being hung. Facebook took down the video and has taken down copies of it claiming it violates their terms of service. PINAC NEWS was able to obtain a copy of the video.
Inmate Javon Miller went to Facebook Live from one of the prison towers begging for help.
Miller captioned the video:
“WE NEED HELP AT MSP UNIT 32 !!!! THEY TRYNA KILL US MAN HELP US PLEASE CALL ANYBO!!!!”
Another video was posted on Facebook showing a trail of blood on the floor. The video was removed from Facebook due to Terms of Service. PINAC News attempted to upload it to YouTube but it was removed as well.
A picture was also uploaded of two of the victims.
Mississippi Dreams Prisoner Family Support uploaded a video on Facebook showing inmates being moved from Unit 29 to Unit 32, where Walter Gates and the unnamed inmate were. In the video the walls and doors were covered in black mold, no running water, and the floors flooded. . Operation in Unit 32 stopped in 2010 after ACLU won a court case to have it shut down. According to the court case, the former death row facility was closed due to poor conditions and deaths of multiple inmates.
On January 4, a video surfaced on Facebook of an inmate preparing himself for a fight.
Mitchell believes that the bigger problem is the lack of funding and the prison being overcrowded.
“They’re working 16, 17-hour shifts. Some of them 24-hour shift and some of them are not even going home,” Mitchell told WJTV.
The starting pay for a correctional officer is $25,000 annually, according to Mississippi Department of Corrections website. With low standards and low pay, often officers come from the same background as inmates. With Mississippi having the third highest incarceration rate in the country in 2016, they should have more officers employed.
Since the images and videos started appearing online, former corrections officer Anthony Simmons, has taken to Facebook telling those that are posting about the situation to show up to the facility if they are that concerned and protest.
There is currently a rally being set up on January 24th at 3PM on South Steps of the State Capitol Building in Jackson.
PINAC News was sent two images of injured inmates from Parchman
Prison reform activists have started a petition demanding Parchman to be closed and has received over 7,100 signatures.
In 2019, the Marshall Project released a report showing that at one point gangs were put in charge at Wilkinson Correctional Facility.