Yo Gotti leads prison reform push in Mississippi after tenth inmate dies

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The push for prison reform in Mississippi continues after 10 inmates have been reported dead.

Rapper Yo Gotti called the situation a humanitarian crisis and is one of the voices behind a rally set to take place Friday to raise awareness about the issue.

One family told WREG’s Quametra Wilborn they’ve been pushing for changes for decades.

“We don’t have money,” Bobbie J. Harris said. “We couldn’t just hire one of these high-priced lawyers because if we did they might not, I just didn’t know what to do. I just didn’t know what to do.”

Harris is hurting for answers when it comes to her son Willie Harris. Harris is an inmate with the Mississippi Department of Corrections serving a life sentence for rape and kidnapping.

His mother said during the 35 years of his sentence, mostly at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, he’s constantly feared for his life.

“He said he was going to be OK,” Harris said. “He said, ‘I’m just thankful to be alive. I’m thankful to hear your voice. I thought I would never hear your voice again, mama. I thought I would never hear your voice.'”

Since late December, 10 inmates have died across the state.

In an open letter to Gov. Tate Reeves, Memphis-born rapper Yo Gotti and Team Roc said “they have corresponded with those on the inside and outside of the system and, to be honest, the conditions are extremely troubling and haunting.”

Just last week, the MDOC announced it is moving more than 300 inmates housed in unit 29 to another facility to “provide relief to an over-stressed system.”

One of those inmates was Willie Harris. His mother said the last time she spoke to him, he told her he had been shot prior to his move.

“I said, ‘Where?’ He said in the side of my back or in the back of my side,” Harris said. “I said, ‘Did they take you?’ He said, ‘No. They didn’t take me to no doctor, no hospital, no nothing.'”

In efforts to raise awareness, Team Roc and several other organizations are hosting a prison reform rally Friday at 11 a.m.

“It took all of this,” Harris said. “People have to lose their lives and get hurt for people to come forward.”

As of right now, organizers have not indicated where that rally will be. WREG will provide updates as we learn more.

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