‘Shut it down:’ Families, advocates and celebrities demanding Mississippi prison reform

Prison reform rally in Jackson

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Hundreds rallied in front of the Mississippi State Capitol Friday to call for prison reform.

“I’m sick of it," said one family member. "I’m fed up. Let’s get it right.”

“I want justice," shouted Hynefa Jones who has had both a brother and nephew die while in Parchman. "I will get justice for my brother. I want justice for my nephew. I want justice for everybody that’s in the Mississippi State Penitentiary.”

Cries for change echoed through the streets in downtown Jackson.

“Shut it down,” adovates chanted in reference to Parchman. “Shut it down.”

But some speakers say they are simply sharing the cries of those locked up in Parchman.

“They are murdering our babies, our husbands, our wives, our children," said Sharon Brown with Mississippi Prison Reform Coalition. "I will not be afraid if I have to walk alone. I’m gonna walk for them brothers that are crying out.”

Family members shared what they describe as living in a constant state of fear about what their loved ones are experiencing inside Parchman.

“Waiting for that phone call,” explained one wife of a Parchman prisoner. “Every time an inmate death is released, you cry, you scramble...you try to reach out to whoever you know.”

Others hope their notoriety will help raise awareness. Hip hop artist Big K.R.I.T. says he usually lets his music speak his message. But this was different.

“I had to be here, get information and use my brand in any way I can to promote the fact that we need to close Parchman down and places like this and shine some kind of light on actually getting people rehabilitated, prison reform and how to change these kind of scenarios because Parchman isn’t the only place this is happening,” said Big K.R.I.T.

Mississippi native and New Orleans Saints player Demario Davis has similar reason for attending.

“I would encourage the Governor and say this... if you can get reform right here in Mississippi, you have a chance to set an example and a precedence for the rest of the country,” noted Davis. “The problems that exist here in Mississippi are not just here in Mississippi. They exist all throughout the country.”

The cries for change also turned into legal action.

“We filed an emergency motion last night on behalf of 29 prisoners at Parchman to seek injunctive relief,” said Dania Diaz with Team Roc/Roc Nation.

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