Pub. date: 2005 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952514 | Print ISBN: 9780761927310 | Online ISBN: 9781412952514| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Parchman Farm, Mississippi State Penitentiary
Situated in a remote area of the Yazoo Delta of Mississippi, Parchman Farm is, perhaps, the most notorious penal institution in the American South. For many years, prison authorities based their regime on the racial oppression and physical exploitation of inmates and resisted nearly all attempts at reform. Parchman Farm was founded by Mississippi Governor James K. Vardaman in 1904. Vardaman conceived the prison as a solution to the convict lease system, under which state authorities hired out black prison inmates to private contractors who employed them as unpaid laborers. The governor believed that the railroad barons and plantation owners had no interest in promoting the reform of prison inmates, but sought only to bolster their profits at the public expense. Parchman Farm was therefore intended to improve the condition of black prisoners by instilling them with the habits of hard work and respect for white authority. In many respects ...