Listen: Ep. 158 - The Human Rights Atrocities in Mississippi Prisons
"Yesterday I was on a phone call with Chris who I work with at the action. Pack and our friend and adviser and in in justice reform expert Jess brand and we were talking about how city after city and county after county how they're finally establishing conviction review units and how these units are supposed to be designed assigned to review the cases of men and women who were wrongly convicted and those units are supposed to help exonerate those people people and we had a long winding conversation about how those units work ingest was just kind of giving me a tutorial will on how they work how they don't work. What is working in other places and I was just trying to sharpen my toolbox on things things that I could support to help more people and one of the things that Jess said to me Caused me to think about it. All daylong she said to me she said Sean. A lot of us in jess was a former public defender for years. She said Sean a lot of us. I have a concern about the hyper focus on the wrongly convicted. And I said I didn't know where that was going. Okay because wrongly convicted people we need to do anything in everything we can Dan to exonerate them. Nobody should spend a day a week a month season a year. Some people spend decades decades generations in prison for crimes they didn't commit. It's such an abomination that it deserves the focus. An attention that we give it. But she said Sean there. There is a a strange unintended consequence. She she said the focus. By a number of groups and organizations and conviction review units and things like it the focus on exonerating honoring. Those who aren't guilty has created this weird space where Democrats and Republicans alike people all across the political spectrum. Really don't Oh care what happens to guilty people like there's very little concern about the conditions about about the sentencing. There's very little concern about people. Who've been convicted of crimes they actually committed and the concern for them? The millions is disproportionately small compared to concern for the thousands of people who are indeed wrongly convicted. And need that focus and attention. But she said Sean. Because the attention is so disproportionate people are basically locking locking millions and millions of people who are convicted locking them up and throwing away the key and the level of advocacy Kissy on behalf of the millions. who were convicted for crimes they committed is so low and I don't I don't think any place personifies that more than what we see going on right now at this very moment at Parchman prison some people call it Parchman farm a place that was created in shadows of slavery to basically be new slavery slavery in Mississippi? I I have something that I want you to do. And I'm going to continue to ask you over and over for an over again to do this so please just do it. There's a book that I need you to read. And if you don't read the book that's fine. I need you to at least watched. What's the documentary based on the book? The book is called Slavery by another name a won the Pulitzer Prize. It was was a book that changed the way I saw the whole world. Not just this country it made made me see the world in a brand new way slavery slavery by another name and it's documentary is equally powerful and it was produced by my friend and brother Sam Pollard. And if you Google Slavery by another name documentary it's on. PBS Online. And you can watch it. It's ninety minutes and you know you read the book. But being able to see the documentary and see the footage hear the voices see the images of institutions that that were created as soon as slavery as we knew it ended institutions that were created to pick up that mantle and run with it and did so for generation after generation after generation was when I first came to understand that when we say mass incarceration was just to continue a continuation of of slavery like that's not hyperbole. No we mean that literally early. Mass incarceration the modern systems structures buildings prisons institutions laws policies personnel. It was literally just a continuation of slavery in the Book Slavery by another name which won the Pulitzer Prize and the documentary slavery. By another name which it's won awards all over. The country illustrates that and at the center of that is a place that was originally originally called Parchman farm which was just a horrible death camp for who had been a manse so called emancipated quote unquote emancipated from slavery in Mississippi? But were then worked to death regularly and they were normally convicted. But let me push back on that and this was slavery by another name talks about these men would be convicted of what we're often called. Vagrancy laws like out after ten PM. Eight what are you doing. You can't walk out here after ten PM. Hey what are you doing walking on this highway this highway. You're not allowed to walk on this highway and they would send you to Parchman prison like this highway is for cars only this highways for horses. Only all you have to have a permit to walk on this highway. Well I didn't know I had to have a permit. You're you're under arrest they'd send you to Parchman prison for anything. Speaking too loud on the street corner parchman prison and literally they would over and over and over and over again work. People to death will to this day Parchman farm which is now just parchman. Prison exist in Mississippi and I would be shocked if you had not yet seen the Horrible conditions there because at least in my world on my social media feeds almost every day. Hey I'm seeing hidden behind the scene footage of what's going on in parchment prison right this very moment I mean yesterday and me and many of my friends and colleagues and partners and others are not only talking with an having communication with people either in Parchman or connected to people in Parchman but a Jay Z has just weighed in and has even filed an injunction Shen against Parchman prison for the horrible conditions. People are being murdered. Tortured forced to live in wings. Things of Parchman prison that were actually shut down and condemned years ago with filthy water with no sanitary conditions nations. I I feel horrible even describing what we're seeing but what we're seeing is people stabbed to death with people shot to death literally. I've I've seen so many horrible bloody images of men who've been murdered or men who were hardly barely clinging to life. I see images of men with rising water in their cells and in the water. The water is dirty feces water. I mean like it just horrible conditions that if we saw anybody being entreated that way in Iraq or Iran or North Korea or Russia people here would be saying look at the horrible horrible ways they treat people in in China but notice right. It's right there and the heart of good ole. US avai where people are being treated in ways that animals are not allowed to be treated in this country. You know right now. Mississippi has the third highest incarceration rate in the nation and this itself is a horrific injustice in it's driven by extreme sentencing laws. That are disproportionately as they have always been applied to black men. But this fact matters Adar's deeply because Mississippi's prisons are short narrowly deadly last year. More than seventy five people died in. Mississippi's prisons sixteen last August alone and again twenty. Nineteen and twenty twenty. The deaths are spiking liking again at an extreme rate and we have so many horrible reports of people who who are suffering in Parchman prison and that just parchman but we're now getting reports which are so hard hard to get your hands on people are basically having to smuggle out information about their mistreatment all over Mississippi's prisons prisons and it's it's an atrocity. These are human rights violations. But what I'm coming to understand. Is that it in this country. We have what I call. Throw away people that some some of us are fully willing to see discarded mistreated and because ause. They don't check a certain box. They're not a voter. They're not white.."