I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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He waved his magic gavel and, POOF, thousands of acres disappeared from Sunflower County

I knew Judge Keady was a particularly powerful federal judge, but had no idea how powerful until I read this headline (same heading in both the Oxford Eagle and the Clarion Ledger versions of this Jack Elliott story):

Parchman farm disappeared after Gates

Headline aside, the story is a good quick overview of the historic prison litigation that just ended.  One aside, though:  The shut down of the farms was not, as I understand it, directly imposed by the litigation; it was a decision made by the state at about the same time and related to the decision.    I may be remembering this in error, though.

Here’s some of the story:

Nazareth Gates is not as well known in Mississippi as, say, the late Jake Ayers Sr. He should be.

It was Ayers’ landmark lawsuit in 1975 that forced Mississippi to confess it had failed to financially support the three historic black universities as it should. The state has spent millions rectifying its mistake.

Equally, Gates, as the lead plaintiff in 1971 in a lawsuit filed by civil rights attorney Roy Haber, brought about an end to the trusty system and inmates abuses at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Also, over the next 40 years, the state of Mississippi spent millions of dollars overhauling its corrections system.

“There’s no question that the federal courts had to get involved,” said Don Cabana, a former Parchman superintendent and former corrections commissioner. “Things at Parchman had been neglected for decades … just ignored … not just the condition of the physical plant but the treatment of inmates.”

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