Jay-Z has filed a federal lawsuit against the head of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the warden of the state penitentiary on behalf of 29 inmates.
It is alleged that officials have done nothing to halt an ongoing spate of violence that has left at least five people dead.
The action was launched through Jay-Z’s philanthropic venture Team Roc by his lawyer Alex Spiro, and names three people killed at the state penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi: Walter Gates, Roosevelt Holliman and Denorris Howell.
“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 NBC.
It goes on to allege that underfunding and understaffing is to blame for “prisons where violence reigns” which have seen “unthinkable” deaths.
It follows a letter by Spiro on behalf of Jay-Z and fellow rapper Yo Gotti to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on January 9.
“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,” the letter read.
“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.”
The letter warned that Team Roc was “prepared to pursue all potential avenues,” and ends: “Roc Nation and its philanthropic arm, Team Roc, demand that Mississippi take immediate steps to remedy this intolerable situation.”
The Mississippi Department of Corrections has declined requests for comment by saying it does not discuss pending litigation.