New details on Parchman’s Unit 29 and what closing it will involve

Updated: Jan. 28, 2020 at 7:33 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Governor Tate Reeves is asking the Department of Corrections to start shutting down Unit 29 at Parchman. That unit has been at the center of the recent violence we’ve reported this month.

Hynefa Jones has lost both a brother and nephew who were inmates in Unit 29.

“It’s not a hopeful situation to me of closing 29 down," explained Jones. "Shut the whole prison down. Shut it down.”

Jones is among the growing number of voices calling for more radical change.

“I’m fighting right now for justice for my brother and my nephew, as well as other inmates," Jones added. "But guess what? I’ll never get the chance to see my brother or nephew again.”

Southern Poverty Law Center's Policy Director is cautiously optimistic and hopeful that other parts of Parchman will soon get similar consideration.

“I think including in his first speech, making it a real central point of his administration in the early going should be encouraging," said Southern Poverty Law Center’s Policy Director Brandon Jones. "Now, again, we need to see if the words are going to connect to meaningful fast action.”

Meanwhile, we’re learning more about Unit 29.

980 inmates are currently being housed there. It’s also not just one building. Unit 29 is made up of 12 buildings. The Governor says there are a lot of logistics being considered.

“We have to ensure that we can safely and justly and quickly ship them to other facilities,” said Governor Reeves Tuesday.

Three Unit 29 buildings are already closed. Those inmates were moved to a private prison in Tallahatchie County, along with 20 others from other Parchman units.

And one part of Unit 29 is death row, and interim Commissioner Tommy Taylor says MDOC can’t move those 40 inmates.

“That’s where they’re designated by death row, which that’s done by statute by the legislature that’s where they’ll be," Taylor explained. "Now, if the legislature makes a change, then we’ll look at that. But we’re not moving any death row inmates anywhere other than where they are right now.”

For Jones, she thinks the rally cries have fueled the decision. But she thinks it’s too little, too late.

“Don’t just do enough to try to gain the public vote," said Jones. "Don’t just do enough to try to shut us up because I will not go nowhere and I will not shut up.”

Reeves today referenced the possibility of using private prisons or regional jails to move some inmates. He says that wouldn’t necessarily be inmates from Unit 29 but says they’ve got to reallocate assets within the system.

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