Five inmates have died in Mississippi's prisons since Dec. 29, and now two rappers are suing the state over the deaths. Specifically, Jay-Z and Yo Gotti filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of 29 of the state's inmates, who say correctional officials aren't doing enough to stop the prison violence that left the men dead. "Individuals held in Mississippi's prisons are dying because Mississippi has failed to fund its prisons, resulting in prisons where violence reigns because prisons are understaffed," the suit says, per ABC News. It was filed by a New York civil rights attorney, WMC Action News 5 reports. The suit alleges years of overcrowding have led to the current problems. "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," it says, per NBC News.
Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall and Mississippi State Penitentiary Superintendent Marshall Turner are named among the defendants. The suit says the deaths were "a direct result of Mississippi’s utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights," and that the plaintiffs' lives are in danger due to that same disregard. In addition to the weeks of prison riots that have left prisoners dead, the suit alleges problems including mildew, black mold, raw sewage, and other unsanitary conditions. Days ago, the rappers wrote an open letter to Mississippi's governor threatening to sue over "inhumane and unconstitutional" conditions in the state's prisons. The state department of corrections has not yet commented on the suit. (Read more Jay-Z stories.)