Watch CBS News

Jay-Z and Yo Gotti hire lawyers to represent prisoners suing Mississippi Corrections Department

Calls for prison reform in Mississippi
Calls for prison reform in Mississippi after inmate murders and escapes 03:34

Jay-Z has made good on his promise to bring legal action against the Mississippi Department of Corrections after five prisoners died violently in the state's prisons earlier this month. Team ROC, the philanthropic arm of Jay-Z's company, Roc Nation, and hip-hop artist Yo Gotti have teamed up to hire lawyers for several Mississippi inmates, a spokesman confirmed to CBS News via email.

Jay-Z's lawyer, Alex Spiro, who he also procured to help with 21 Savage's deportation case, is on the legal team. 

According to a complaint filed Tuesday, several inmates are suing Commissioner of the Mississippi Corrections Department Pelicia E. Hall and Superintendent Marshall Turner of the Mississippi State Penitentiary. The suit claims the plaintiffs' lives are in peril inside the prison. 

Jay-Z, left, and Yo Gotti have hired lawyers to represent prisoners suing Mississippi Corrections Department after five inmates died the first week of January. Getty Images

"The unthinkable spate of deaths is the culmination of years of severe understaffing and neglect at Mississippi's prisons," the lawsuit reads. The plaintiffs claim that due to a lack of guards, the prisons are plagued with violence — resulting in three men dying in one prison alone during the first week of 2020.

The inmates are living in squalor and inhumane conditions, which is unconstitutional, the suit alleges. "The lives of countless individuals in Mississippi are at stake and we will not stop until this is fixed," Yo Gotti said in a statement. 

Mississippi Corrections Department Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall said investigators believe gang violence caused four of the five deaths that took place during the first week of January. "These are trying times for the Mississippi Department of Corrections," Hall said in a statement, just hours after an inmate was found stabbed to death in his cell at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

While these recent deaths made national headlines and drew attention from high-profile businessmen and lawyers, confrontations at Parchman and other prisons have been prevalent for years. 

The five prisoners killed in January have been identified as: Denorris Howell, 36, who was found dead in his cell at South Mississippi Correctional Institute in Leakesville; Terrandance Dobbins, 40, who was killed at South Mississippi; Walter Gates, 25, who was stabbed and several other inmates were injured at Parchman; Gregory Emary, 26, who was killed at the Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility; and Roosevelt Holliman, 32, who was fatally stabbed at Parchman.

Corrections officials have refused so far to say how many people overall have been injured, or whether there have been other violent incidents in the state's prisons.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.