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Legislation introduced to shut down Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would rid of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

Senate Bill 2353, introduced and authored by Democratic Sen. Juan Barnett, would begin a four-year phasedown of operations at Parchman beginning July 1 if passed. In that time span, inmates and employees would be transferred to other state and regional facilities under the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Portions of the 18,000-acre prison site in Sunflower and Quitman counties could then be leased out for agricultural, industrial, commercial, residential, or recreational use while maintaining at least one building for treating mental illnesses in prisoners. The facility would be called the “Northwest Mississippi Facility for Treatment and Care of Inmates with Mental Illnesses,” per the legislation. Any remaining buildings that MDOC were to choose to use would make up the site renamed to “Northwest Mississippi Correctional Facility.”

The Mississippi State Penitentiary has been the subject of criticism over the years with documentaries showcasing the living conditions and lawsuits challenging the humanity of the facility. In February 2023, MDOC Commissioner Burl Cain announced that renovations and repairs have allowed Parchman to regain national accreditation for the first time in nearly a decade.

As of Tuesday, SB 2353 had been double-referred to committees on Senate Corrections and Senate Appropriations.

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