Jay-Z launches lawsuit on behalf of prisoners after violence kills five inmates

15 January 2020, 10:22 | Updated: 15 January 2020, 11:38

Rapper Jay-Z has sued two US prison officials on behalf of 29 inmates who say authorities did nothing to stop a wave of violence that has killed five prisoners in the last two weeks.

The hip-hop star's lawyer Alex Spiro filed the lawsuit - which relates to deaths in Mississippi's state prisons - at the US District Court in Greenville, NBC News reports.

"These deaths are a direct result of Mississippi's utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights," the lawsuit states.

In a statement to NBC News, Mr Spiro said: "We cannot treat people this way and it's time to do something about it."

The lawsuit comes after the lawyer, on behalf of Jay-Z and fellow hip-hop artist Yo Gotti, wrote a letter to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and Department of Corrections commissioner Pelicia Hall.

Yo Gotti and Team Roc - the philanthropic arm of Jay-Z's entertainment company, Roc Nation - were able to get legal representation for the prisoners, Yo Gotti's publicist Didier Morais told CNN.

According to NBC, Mr Spiro's letter said they were "prepared to pursue all potential avenues to obtain relief for the people living in Mississippi's prisons and their families".

The letter claimed that the deaths occurred as a result of years of severe understaffing and neglect in the state's prisons, adding: "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."

Violence has long been a problem in the Mississippi prison system.

The lawsuit is reportedly seeking damages for the prisoners and an order forcing the Department of Corrections to address safety issues.