Nearly 50 people gathered on Capitol grounds early Tuesday morning to protest the recent uprising within MDOC facilities. The protestors are seeking new criminal justice and prison reform.

The rally was comprised of various groups such as the MS Poor Peoples Campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center, MS Dreams for Prisoner Family Support, the People’s Advocacy Institute and Victims Voice.

The group has now taken their campaign to social media by using the hashtag #msprisonreformnow. The leader of the rally Lea Campbell, of the MS Poor People’s Campaign claimed that this group demands “action now” on several topics.

They are advocating for:

  1. Abolishing mandatory minimums and draconian sentencing for non-violent offenders.
  2. Improved prison conditions.
  3. Ending corporal punishment.
  4. House Bill 585 Retroactive.
  5. Education and vocational-technical programs.
  6. Spiritual support/rehabilitation.
  7. Decriminalization of marijuana possession.
  8. Restoration of family visitation.
  9. Efficient and effective inmate and family grievances.
  10. Transparent communications.
  11. Increased pay and support for MDOC employees.

Campbell later introduced the Senior Supervising Attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center Paloma Wu, who announced a formal request for the U.S. Department of Justice to come to Mississippi and review the actions of MDOC.

Wu went on to call on the Mississippi Legislature to begin today in working to reform the current system.

A representative and former inmate, Benny Ivey, from the People’s Advocacy Institute came forward and made claims that the recent riot at Parchman was caused by gang violence.

“If you ain’t treated like animals you won’t act like an animal,” said Ivey. He went on to say that if he can be reformed and become a productive citizen than anyone else can, too.

Other speakers made claims that they were aware that the riot was going to occur at the facility hours before it happened and when they informed officials, MDOC then set up for a lockdown.

*Story contributions by Stone Clanton