Mississippi’s newly accredited prison system subjects its death row inmates to cruel and unusual punishment, a federal judge ruled yesterday. U.S. Magistrate Jerry Davis found the state had violated the Eighth Amendment rights of 65 death row inmates by subjecting them to excessive heat, insects, human excrement, rantings of psychotic inmates and poor mental health care at the State Penitentiary at Parchman, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.
“The isolation of death row, along with inmates’ impending sentences of death and the conditions at Unit 32C, are enough to weaken even the strongest individual,” wrote Davis, who ordered remedial action and a report to the court July 7.
Margaret Winter of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, called the ruling “courageous.”
Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps, who recently completed American Correctional Association accreditation for all the state’s facilities, expressed surprise, saying that some points in the judge’s ruling have been addressed.
The judge said that inmates sometimes are forced to clean up cells that may have horrendous sanitation by prior occupants who are mentally ill. There also are “ping-pong” toilets, which have flushed excrement from one toilet to another in Unit 32-C since it was built 10 years ago.
“No one in a civilized society should be forced to live under conditions that force exposure to another person’s bodily wastes. No matter how heinous the crime committed, there is no excuse for such living conditions,” the judge said.