iStock/fhogueJay-Z and Yo Gotti are standing up for inmates in Mississippi and threatening to sue the state over prison conditions.

Following a recent outbreak of violence at the state Penitentiary at Parchman that left five prisoners dead in less than a week, the Roc Nation rappers wrote a letter to Gov. Phil Bryant and Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall, according to the Clarion Ledger newspaper. They addressed the violence, and complained that inmates “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.”

“To see this happen so close to my hometown of Memphis is truly devastating,” Gotti said in a statement. “That’s why we’re calling on Mississippi state leaders to take immediate action and rectify this issue.” 

Roc Nation attorney Alex Spiro is working with Jay and Gotti in their attempt to improve the prison conditions.

“I just think its troubling where you have people, predominantly African American, who are locked inside cages where they don’t have a voice to be heard and are essentially the forgotten,” Spiro says. “It strikes us that there has to be a spotlight on this, otherwise we might not even be scratching the surface of the horror going on inside these prisons.”

T.I. also addressed the prison conditions in Mississippi in a series of social media posts.  In one video, an inmate complains that prisoners had not been fed for “16, 17 hours.” Another clip shows mildew on cell doors.

State Rep. Robert Johnson visited Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman on Friday and says he saw broken toilets full of waste and leaking ceilings. He also called the lack of staff at the prison “a recipe for disaster.”

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