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Jay-Z, Yo Gotti sue prison officials on behalf of Mississippi prisoners

Hip-hop artists Yo Gotti and Jay-Z during the 59th Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on Feb. 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, Calif. Lester Cohen/Getty Images for NARAS

Rappers Jay-Z and Yo Gotti are suing the head of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the warden of the state penitentiary on behalf of 29 prisoners who say the two have done nothing to stop violence in the prison that left five inmates dead earlier this month.

Team Roc, the philanthropic arm of Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation, and Yo Gotti teamed up to hire lawyers for the inmates.

Jay-Z’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, filed the lawsuit at the U.S. District Court in Greenville, Miss.

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“These deaths are a direct result of Mississippi’s utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights,” the lawsuit says.

According to the complaint, the inmates are suing the commissioner of the Mississippi Corrections Department, Pelicia E. Hall, and Supt. Marshal Turner.

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“The unthinkable spate of deaths is the culmination of years of severe understaffing and neglect at Mississippi’s prisons,” the lawsuit reads, according to CBS.

The plaintiffs argue the lack of guards has resulted in violence, and the suit alleges the inmates are living in inhumane conditions.

“The lives of countless individuals in Mississippi are at stake, and we will not stop until this is fixed,” Yo Gotti said in a statement.

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“We cannot treat people this way, and it’s time to do something about it,” Spiro told NBC News in a statement.

Spiro said they were “prepared to pursue all potential avenues to obtain relief for the people living in Mississippi’s prisons and their families.”

The lawyer’s statement continued: “As Mississippi has incarcerated increasing numbers of people, it has dramatically reduced its funding of prisons. As a result, prison conditions fail to meet even the most basic human rights.”

“People are forced to live in squalor, with rats that crawl over them as they sleep on the floor, having been denied even a mattress for a cot,” his letter said.

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“Roc Nation and its philanthropic arm, Team Roc, demand that Mississippi take immediate steps to remedy this intolerable situation.”

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The lawsuit names three prison inmates who were killed earlier this year at the state penitentiary in Parchman, Miss.

“Walter Gates, an inmate of Unit 29E at Parchman was stabbed multiple times the night of New Year’s Eve and pronounced dead just after midnight,” the suit states. “Roosevelt Holliman was stabbed to death in a fight the next day. And Denorris Howell, an inmate of Unit 291 at Parchman was stabbed multiple times and pronounced dead the day after that.”

The five prisoners killed in January were identified as Howell, 36; Terrandance Dobbins, 40; Gates, 25; Gregory Emary, 26; and Holliman, 32.

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