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Parchman: The Year Everything Changed

JACKSON, Miss.–The Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman, is a place that most know they obviously don’t want to end up. 

Up until 1972, that was even more so true according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History who talked on Wednesday about the prison at its “History is Lunch” series.

That particular year was significant because Gates v. Collier was ruled on by a federal judge and brought an end to the trustee system where inmates had power over other inmates and excessive abuse put on them by guards.

“Gates v. Collier is the reason we have a Department of Corrections as opposed to county jails and Parchman only,” said historian Chloe Edwards who spoke at the event.

Four inmates sued the superintendent of the prison claiming cruel and unusual punishment for the people housed there.

“They were stripping them, hosing them down, turning fans on them,and everything like that,” she said. “Sometimes they would have to stand on milk crates and hold things over their head.”

After hearing the facts, a judge put an end to the trustee system along with cruelties guards put inmates through in the cotton fields and other places like solitary confinement for excessive amounts of time.

The prison which was segregated up until that point, also put an end to that practice.

Because of that ruling, other states in the Southeast that used the same types of trustee systems had to also do away with them.

For other “History is Lunch” meeting times and topics you can click here.

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