Prisoner advocates are calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Mississippi prison system for possible civil rights violations. MPB's Ashley Norwood reports.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and others are rallying outside the Mississippi State Capitol. Five inmates have recently died at the hands of other inmates in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and prisoner advocates say this violence is the predictable and preventable result of the state's guard shortage.
Paloma Wu with the Southern Poverty law Center says a short term resolution is for the state to allow a mass release of those convicted of drug offenses and non-violent crimes.
"We demand institution of a permanent oversight body over MDOC. We demand long term parole eligibility for everyone and short term... the Governor must release the over 30 percent of people who are currently serving sentences and if the Governor doesn't do it, the legislature has to do it and make simple possession a misdemeanor and retroactively," said Wu.
Salaries for MDOC's prison guards are the lowest in the nation starting at just over 25,000 dollars.
Republican Senator Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula is a member of the Corrections Committee. He says he agrees the legislature should look at ways to funnel more money into the department for staffing and infrastructure.
"What's going on right now has brought it to the forefront and yes we need to address it and look at ways we can do it but it's not going to be fixed in one year. I mean we didn't get here overnight. We're not going to get out of this overnight," said Wiggins.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, between 2017 and 2019 the number of corrections officers in Mississippi fell from 905 to 593. Ashley Norwood, MPB News.