Doc Trailer With Jay-Z, Yo Gotti Highlights Prisoners’ Inhumane Conditions, Hope for Change
A new documentary, Exposing Parchman, looks to shine a light on human rights violations at the Mississippi State Penitentiary known as Parchman Farm. The three-hour film, which was co-produced by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, premieres on A&E on June 17 at 8 p.m. ET.
A trailer shows prisoners complaining about a lack of power and water. Jay-Z comments that “people [are] losing their lives and being covered up.” It also shows a woman talking about how her son didn’t think he’d make it, living there, and another talking about how the prison was built on a former plantation with a history of slavery. “If this was an animal shelter, people would be going to jail,” one man says.
The film, directed by Rahman Ali Bugg (Washington Heights, Funk Flex Full Throttle, Run’s House) looks into the efforts of a team of attorneys lobbying on behalf of Parchman prisoners who are living in inhumane conditions. Their plight became public in 2019 when footage shot on cell phones, which are prohibited, leaked to the media. The scenes of postapocalyptic living conditions reached Jay-Z, who, with Yo Gotti and Team ROC (Roc Nation’s social justice arm), launched a campaign to help more than 200 prisoners with aid from a group of lawyers who filed multiple lawsuits. The U.S. Department of Justice subsequently found the prison violated the Constitution’s Eighth and 14th Amendments. (The former prohibits excessive bail for criminal defendants; the latter guarantees “equal protection of the laws” to all citizens.)
Interview subjects include Jay-Z, Yo Gotti, Congressman Bennie Thompson, activists Tamika Mallory and Rukia Lumumba, family members of the prisoners, and the legal team.
“The incarcerated population in Parchman and their loved ones have experienced immeasurable pain and suffering, so we felt a responsibility to help them share their stories with the compassion and consideration that it deserves,” Desiree Perez, CEO of Roc Nation, said in a statement. “Our hope is that this documentary will educate the public about these torturous injustices, hold the leaders in Mississippi accountable for fostering unconstitutional and inhumane conditions in Parchman, and create swift and comprehensive change to eradicate the state’s depravity in this prison and disregard for the criminal justice system.”
In January, the attorneys hired by Jay-Z and Yo Gotti dropped two lawsuits against Parchman since conditions had improved. The state’s Department of Corrections said it had added air conditioning, renovated bathrooms, and new electrical systems.
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