By Oliver Laughland
“People were begging for their lives as they were stabbed,” said Kelly Mallett, as his gaze drifted. “There were fires being set. Trash everywhere. Rats. Roaches. It was just total chaos.”
The 44-year-old is a former inmate at Mississippi’s crumbling state penitentiary at Parchman, part of a sprawling, century-old prison farm complex in the north of the state. He had only been free for two days and was the first eyewitness to speak freely in public about the days of bloody rioting inside Parchman over the new year, a facility that remains shrouded in the legacy of Jim Crow, marked by decaying conditions and its culture of brutality.
In a single week, five inmates in the Mississippi correctional system were killed, three in Parchman, during violence state officials tied to a bitter gang rivalry that dominates prisons in the state. But the bloodshed has also drawn attention to what lawmakers say are routine constitutional violations, as well as the chronic underfunding of a system that incarcerates people at a rate almost twice the American average.
“For 48 hours it was just violence,” said Mallett, who served an eight-year sentence for a non-violent drug crime. “Nothing but violence, before any help.” …
... “It is pure hell there,” he said. “Inside you have no rights.”
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