Today, REFORM Alliance announced the launch of a new radio campaign in Mississippi featuring multiplatinum musician and criminal justice reform advocate Yo Gotti.
In the campaign, Gotti urges legislators to continue fighting for justice reforms like SB 2123 which Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves vetoed last month and directs listeners to a website where they can contact their legislators.
“REFORM and I share the same goals – to protect the people inside of Mississippi’s prisons, fix the dangerous prison conditions that led to several unnecessary deaths and improve the state’s criminal justice system,” Gotti said. “I’m proud to team up with REFORM on this initiative and we hope that Mississippi lawmakers will prioritize this issue and help us save lives.”
A Memphis native with proximity to Mississippi, Gotti has helped procure legal representation for the incarcerated population in Parchman and filed multiple lawsuits against the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) to address the deadly living conditions. The latest class action lawsuit on behalf of 227 incarcerated people in Mississippi resulted in health provider Centurion terminating its contract with MDOC. Most recently, Gotti and his legal team have been working to compel Parchman prison to adhere to strict COVID-19 testing and compliance guidelines after discovering that only 132 of the 2,034 incarcerated individuals had been tested and 33 percent were positive for the virus.
In July, the Mississippi legislature approved the bipartisan SB 2123 in an effort to create a uniform policy for parole eligibility for certain individuals serving time in the state’s prisons. The bill would have created a pathway to parole eligibility for thousands of incarcerated people who weren’t given an opportunity to benefit from similar reforms enacted in recent years. The measure would have also saved the state an estimated $45 million which could be reinvested into improving prison conditions at facilities like Parchman, where 56 people have died or been killed this year and where 100 people who live and work in the prison have tested positive for COVID-19.
Governor Reeves vetoed the conservative-backed legislation despite his promise to address the state’s prison crisis this year and an ongoing U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the state’s prison conditions.
“Governor Reeves said he wouldn’t make ’empty promises’ on prison reform, but by vetoing SB 2123, he went back on his word,” said Jessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy Officer at REFORM Alliance. “SB 2123 is a commonsense, conservative-backed bill that will reduce Mississippi’s extraordinarily high incarceration rate and save tens of millions of dollars that can be used to fix horrific prison conditions that are the subject of an ongoing U.S. Justice Department investigation. Our new campaign recognizes the effort lawmakers have made on prison reform and encourages them to continue fighting for incarcerated individuals and families in Mississippi who deserve justice and a second chance.”
The radio campaign mark REFORM’s continued quest for common-sense parole reform in Mississippi that protects public safety and helps people earn a second chance. Recently, the organization hosted a digital day of action in the state featuring several other local and national groups, including Fwd.us, Mississippi Dreams Prisoner Advocacy, RECH Foundation, and Clergy for Prison Reform.
REFORM has also sent more than 280,000 protective masks to prisons and jails in Mississippi this year to protect against the spread of COVID-19. The effort is part of the group’s nationwide initiative to distribute PPE to every prison and jail in the U.S.
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