Recent violence at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman has hit close to home, both figuratively and literally, for Tracey Rosebud.
Parchman falls right into the Mississippi House District 30 Representative’s district, and the prison lies just seven miles from his home, he told The E-T on Friday.
After a huge riot broke out on Thursday, which resulted in one death, several injuries and multiple local and state law enforcement officers coming to the scene to assist, Friday brought more violence and death inside the walls of Parchman.
Friday’s fatality was the third in as many days at the prison and the fourth related to gang violence across the state this week, according to a statement from the Mississippi Department of Corrections on Thursday.
The recent escalation in violence not only represents a direct physical threat to inmates, guards and others who go inside the gate at Parchman, but it also represents a threat to the institution itself, a place where many of Rosebud’s constituents work.
“If you look at it, this is the only truly state funded institution in the Delta,” Rosebud said. “I’m afraid of what would happen if we lose it.”
Rosebud said Parchman draws from several neighboring counties for its labor.
“This would be devastating to lots of families,” he said.
Rosebud, and House District 29 Rep. Otis Anthony both told The E-T on Friday that they would be looking at ways the Legislature can help the situation at Parchman, and other prisons, during the 2020 legislative session.
“They are a big employer,” Anthony said. “We can’t afford to lose anymore jobs.”
Anthony said he has requested to be on the Corrections committee, and he hopes to see more transparency and accountability with all agencies, especially the Department of Corrections.
Anthony said he would like to get a briefing on the standards and protocols that are currently in place when it comes to housing inmates of rival gangs near each other.
“I would like to see more accountability from a management standpoint, from a supervisor’s standpoint and from a superintendent’s standpoint at Parchman Prison,” Anthony said. “You’re going to have gangs in prison. When you identify those individuals who are in rival gangs, how do you separate them? I’m sure that would prevent some of this from happening.”
Both Anthony and Rosebud agreed that something needed to be done to enhance pay and incentives for corrections officers.
“In the past year, that was something I was working with Senator (Willie) Simmons on,” Rosebud said. “We need to make sure that the employees are paid a decent wage. I’ll be pushing for it myself, personally.”
Rosebud said he believes contraband cellphones have also contributed to the recent rise in violence, as social media has been utilized to escalate these situations, he said.
Anthony said he hopes to see MDOC and other agencies be more transparent to the public as a new administration begins in Jackson, with the inauguration of Tate Reeves as governor this month.
“In order to keep and maintain the public’s trust, they have to believe we are above board when we operate,” Anthony said. “I am for total transparency and accountability across the board.”
MDOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall announced her resignation from the agency earlier this week, effective mid-month.
As of press time, Reeves had not named a new candidate to take over as commissioner of MDOC.
Click the link below for The E-T's comprehensive coverage of the Parchman deaths, escapes