JAY-Z & Yo Gotti Are Demanding Prison Reform. A New Video Shows Why

In recent years, JAY-Z has devoted lots of energy and resources to prison reform. Since late 2016, the Roc Nation founder has used his power, his influence, and his company to take on the bail bond industry by paying for the release of incarcerated fathers, condemn many of the criminal reform measures currently in place, and to bring awareness to some of the atrocities that take place behind the walls. Recent news of nine deaths of inmates at Mississippi State Penitentiary has reignited the public stir that arose in 2018 when 15 inmates died inside the prison all within one month. JAY-Z and one of Roc Nation Management’s clients, Yo Gotti, continue to get involved.

With the Parchman, Mississippi facility holding about 3,600 of the state’s 19,000 inmates, Team Roc, which is Roc Nation’s philanthropic arm, is countering otherwise with the release of a graphic video meant to show the inhumane conditions and high levels of violence taking place. The NSFW-footage highlights a knife fight between two prisoners, some graphic injuries, and indications of poor conditions. Captured by prisoner phones, the multiple deaths and living statuses within the Parchman have inspired Yo Gotti and JAY-Z to take legal action.

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Along with Jay and Team Roc’s support, Memphis, Tennessee native Yo Gotti is moving forward with legal action over the conditions seen in the video, filing for an emergency protective order in federal court on behalf of dozens of inmates. Governor Tate Reeves recently announced he will shut down one infamous section of the prison, which attorneys for Team Roc say is grossly understaffed.

In June 2019, the state’s Department of Health Environmental Administrator Rayford Horton shared a report on the conditions at Parchman. Revelations such as the conditions of the unit’s kitchen, which did not have a soap dispenser, a ceiling leave above for and a dishwasher, and food and milk with no indicated expiration dates were some notes shared. “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.

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The leaked video comes two weeks after Gotti and Team Roc joined forces to get legal representation for 29 inmates at the same prison. The lawsuit, which was filed against the Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Pelicia E. Hall, and Marshall Turner, the Superintendent of the Mississippi State Penitentiary on behalf of inmates Michael Amos, Pittrell Brister, Antonio Davis, as well as 26 others.

The 94-page motion includes redacted statements from inmates about the prison staff and corroborated reports of the condition of food and mold present. Debra Graham, a registered environmental health specialist and sanitarian, provided a statement to the motion, writing, “Sewage has risen from the plumbing system into the living and eating quarters.”

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“I’ve seen enough,” Governor Reeves announced yesterday (January 27). “We have to turn the page. This is the first step, and I have asked the Department to begin the preparations to make it happen safely, justly, and quickly.” Since his speech, the governor has instructed the Mississippi Department of Corrections to shut down Unit 29. Meanwhile, families and Team Roc are still hoping that steps are made to move other prisoners to Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, which is eight miles north of Parchman.

One year ago to the week, Jay worked with another Roc client (and Yo Gotti collaborator) Meek Mill, to create the REFORM Alliance.