Mississippi State Penitentiary

Mississippi State Penitentiary – also known as Parchman Farm – is a maximum-security state prison for male inmates that is located in Parchman, Mississippi, but it does house inmates of all security levels. This facility is the oldest prison in the state, and the only maximum-security prison for male inmates in Mississippi. The maximum capacity of this facility is 4,840, and it is home to Mississippi’s male death row, the lethal injection execution chamber, and the pauper’s cemetery.

Mississippi State Penitentiary occupies 18,000 acres of land and has 53 buildings with a total of 922,966 square feet of space. Throughout its history, it has been referred to as "the prison without walls" because of the dispersed camps within its property. It has 3,560 beds, 58 support buildings and seven different housing units, ranging in size from 56 beds at Unit 42, which is the hospital, to 1,568 beds at Unit 29.  

Hugh Ferguson, the director of public affairs of MSP, said that the prison is not like Alcatraz, because it is not centralized in one or several main buildings. Instead, MSP consists of several prison camps spread out over a large area, called "units." Each unit serves a specific segment of the prison population, and each unit is surrounded by walls with barbed tape.

The perimeter of the overall property does not have fencing and is located on flat farmland in the Mississippi Delta with almost no trees. Ferguson said that a potential escapee would have no place to hide. 

Richard Rubin, author of Confederacy of Silence: A True Tale of the New Old South, said that MSP's environment is so inhospitable for escape that prisoners working in the fields are not chained to one another, and one overseer supervises each gang. An inmate who tries to escape could wander for days without leaving the MSP property.

MSP has two main areas, Area I, and Area II. Area I includes Unit 29 and the Front Vocational School. Area II includes Units 25-26, Units 30-32, and Unit 42. Seven units house prisoners. The prison grounds have small red houses that were used for conjugal visits, but those types of visits came to an end on February 1, 2014.

The prison has a Visitation Center which serves as a point of entry and as a security checkpoint for visitors to MSP. After security screening, visitors are taken to the visiting rooms in buses.

Facility Buildings and Housing Units

Area I:

Unit 29, (Division One house MPIC workers, Faith Based Initiative (FBI),  Field Operation workers) & (Division Two house, High Risk Initiative Program, Administrative Long-Term Segregation, Protective Custody, Transit Offenders, Death Row, and Administrative Segregation)

Area II:

Unit 25 Pre-Release & Processing, Unit 26 Agriculture, MPIC, Processing & Institution Workers,  Unit 28 MPIC & Processing, Unit 30 Drug & Alcohol Programs & Vocational School, Unit 31 Disability Offenders, and Unit 42 hospital for all MDOC offenders.

Administrative & Support:

Transportation, Emergency Operation Center, Visitation, Post Office, Central Laundry, Front Vocational School & MPIC.        

Guard Row

"Guard Row" is the area where employees of MSP and their dependents live. It has identical wood frame houses, most of which were built in the 1930s by the Work Projects Administration. The state provided housing for employees due to the isolation of MSP, and so the staff can quickly respond to emergencies.


Mississippi State Penitentiary was constructed by inmates and opened in 1901 with four stockades. For the majority of the 19th century, the state of Mississippi used a convict lease system, and lessees paid fees to the state while providing food, clothing, and housing to inmates who worked as laborers.

Due to abuses and corruption, the state ended the convict lease program on December 31, 1894, and started building prisons to accommodate convicted persons. 

The state of Mississippi purchased land in Sunflower County in 1901 to establish a state prison. Four stockades were constructed, and the state moved prisoners to begin clearing land for crop cultivation.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History says that MSP "was in many ways reminiscent of a gigantic antebellum plantation and operated on the basis of a plan proposed by Governor John M. Stone in 1896.” Prisoners worked as laborers in its operations. Originally, Parchman was one of two prisons designated for black men, with the other prisons housing other racial and gender groups.

Throughout its history, Mississippi State Penitentiary has been part of numerous investigations and lawsuits because of corruption, as well as inhumane treatment and living conditions for inmates.

Throughout MSP's history, most prisoners have worked for ten hours per day, six days a week in the surrounding fields. Parchman Farm has had a reputation of being one of the toughest prisons in the United States. 

In 2010, the Mississippi State Penitentiary became the first correctional facility in the United States to install a system to prevent contraband cell phone usage by inmates after prisoners, visitors, and guards had been smuggling in cell phones as whole units or in pieces for later re-assembly and use. 

Due to the installation of the system, between August 6, 2010 and September 9, 2010, more than 216,320 texts and calls were blocked.

In 2019 and 2020 there was a wave of inmate deaths. In January 2020 alone, eight prisoners died in non-natural circumstances. That same month, the MDOC closed Unit 29 due to infrastructure issues, causing prisoners to be housed in prison facilities outside of Parchman. As the issues continued, MDOC commissioner Pelicia Hall resigned.

Pop Culture

Mississippi State Penitentiary served as a major source of material for folklorists such as Alan and John Lomax, who visited numerous times to record work songs, field hollers, blues, and interviews with prisoners. 

In 1987, the BBC filmed Fourteen Days in May at Parchman. The documentary followed the last two weeks of the life of Edward Earl Johnson, who was executed in the prison's gas chamber.

The Coen brothers' film Oh Brother Where Art Thou? makes reference to Parchman, both directly and by including a song on the soundtrack that was recorded at Parchman in 1959 by Alan Lomax.

The Chamber, a best-selling novel by John Grisham, is set at Parchman's Death Row. Many of Grisham's other novels make reference to the prison. The Chamber movie based on the novel starred Gene Hackman and Chris O'Donnell, and was filmed at the penitentiary.

The 1999 film Life, portraying a group of bootleggers from New York who are falsely convicted of murder and are given life sentences, takes place at Parchman. While it is set in Mississippi, filming occurred in California.

Prison Insights

Mississippi State Penitentiary

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Visiting Hours and Rules

MSP Visitation Department is open seven days of the week. 

Medium & Minimum Custody Offenders – Saturday or Sunday, 0900 – 1400 hours.  Each unit has its own assigned visitation days. 


Protective Custody Offenders - *PC Minimum Custody - every Monday, (except 5th)

*PC Medium Custody – 2nd & 4th Monday; *PC Closed Custody – 3rd Monday, non-contact.
Closed Custody Offenders – Unit 29 – 2nd or 4th Tuesday; 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Wednesday; 2nd Thursday.

Death Row Offenders – 1st & 3rd Tuesdays.

Long-Term Administrative Segregation Status – One hour, non-contact visit on the 1st Wednesday.

General Visiting Rules

  • Each offender is allowed to fill out a visitation list with ten visitors. The list should be created at Receiving & Classification.
  • A visitor cannot be on two offender's lists unless they are immediate family.  Documentation is required.
  • Each visitor must have a valid state or federal ID.

Visitors will not be permitted entrance to any unit in the institution without photographic identification. Identification required will be Federal or State-issued photograph identification.

Visitors with infants may have one diaper bag with up to four diapers, two bottles, one change of baby clothes a, one pacifier, diaper wipes in a zip lock bag, and any necessary medication for the infant.

  • Visitors are scanned by the scanner and searched by staff before departing the visitation center.
  • Visitors will be processed through the Visitation Center between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
  • Visitors are bused to the units and the last bus leaves at 1:30 p.m.


  • ​The offender will be the only one allowed to purchase the canteen bag.
  • The offender will purchase the canteen bag the week of the family scheduled visit. (Limit of three)
  • He will do so by using his code on the same call he purchases his weekly canteen order. 
  • The family will be limited to three bags and will not be allowed to bring in any currency.
  • The family will follow the visitation rules and regulations before advancing to the Canteen window.


Sequcia Wren, Commander - (662) 745-6611 Ext.  4276/4278/4280
Hillary Benson, Sergeant - (662) 745-6611 Ext.  4276/4278/4280

Dress Code


  • Shirts must be worn
  • No tank tops, bare midriffs, or sleeveless tops
  • Shorts may not be above the knee
  • No cut-off shorts, jogging shorts, or biking shorts
  • Shoes must be worn (no house or shower shoes)
  • Under wear must be worn
  • No pants pulled below the hip line
  • No hats or head covering of any kind
  • Hats, caps, and bandanas will not be permitted
  • Medical alert bracelet 


  • Shorts at knee level or below
  • No hip huggers, cut-offs, jogging shorts, or biking shorts
  • Skirts and dresses shall not be above the knee
  • Slits shall not extend above the knee when seated
  • No see through clothing
  • No tank tops, bare midriffs, or sleeveless tops
  • Shoes must be worn (no house or shower shoes)
  • Underwear and bra must be worn
  • Hats, caps, and bandanas will not be permitted
  • No jewelry except wedding ring, religious medallion, and a medical alert bracelet
  • Dress code applies to children also.
  • Visitors departing units are not allowed to bring anything from units except canteen purchases.

Physical Address

Mississippi State Penitentiary
Hwy 49 West
Parchman, MS 38738

Driving Directions: https://goo.gl/maps/JxV54SPVMiGaBVYi7

General Phone Number

​(662) 745-6611

Inmate Mailing Address(es)

Inmate Name and DOC Number
Mississippi State Penitentiary
Post Office Box 1057 - Hwy 49 West
Parchman, MS 38738

How to Call an Inmate

You can’t call an inmate at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, but they do have access to phones and are allowed to make monitored outgoing calls during approved hours. For complete details on how to call an inmate in Mississippi, please click here.

How to Send Money

There are three different ways to put money on an inmate’s account:

Money orders

The Mississippi State Penitentiary only accepts Postal Money orders. The money order should be filled out completely and sent to:

Mississippi State Penitentiary (INMATE NAME, POD NUMBER AND BED NUMBER)
Post Office Box 1057 - Hwy 49 West
Parchman, MS 38738

You must include the facility name, the inmate’s MDOC number, and the inmate’s name on all money orders.

Online Deposit

Waycross Bank & Trust offers you a fast and secure way to deposit money into an inmate's account using a credit or debit card. In order to deposit money, you will need to know the inmate's id or name. 

Kiosk machine

Machine located in the lobby of the building can only be used on visitation day.

Programs For Inmates

The Mississippi State Penitentiary Training Academy and the Thomas O. "Pete" Wilson Adult Basic Education (ABE) facility are located on the MSP grounds. "The Place," a restaurant, is also on the prison property. 

MSP also has the Rodeo Arena, a venue for a prison rodeo and two POTW (Publicly owned treatment works) sewage treatment plants.

Mississippi State Penitentiary has a dedicated fire department, a wastewater treatment plant, road crews, utility crews, a grocery store, and a hospital. 

Prisoners may receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Ministry from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The Parchman Animal Care & Training (PACT) program organizes inmate care of livestock.

Programs offered at MSP include:     

  • Therapeutic Recreation
  • Religious Programs
  • Independent Study and Tutorial Programs
  • Pre-Release
  • Faith Based Program
  • Alcohol & Drug Program
  • ABE/GED Programs
  • Administrative Remedy Program(ARP)
  • PACT
  • Vocational Skills     
  • Agri-Business
  • Auto Body & Fender
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Carpentry
  • Diesel Mechanics
  • Communications Systems Installer
  • Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration
  • Industrial Electricity
  • Marine Maintenance
  • Welding
  • Culinary Arts

MSP offenders provide more than 100,000 hours of free offender labor each year to adjacent municipalities and counties, as well as assisting other state agencies.

Parchman holds a unique place in the prison system for reasons other than its age.  MSP is also home to Mississippi Prison Industries Corp. (MPIC)'s work program for its textile and metal fabrication. 

The majority of the farming activity involving Mississippi Prison Agricultural Enterprises (MPAE) takes place at MSP. MPAE supplies food to Parchman and the other two state institutions, 10 community work centers, and four restitution centers.

Additionally, unlike the other two state prisons, MSP has its own hospital. Health care is contracted through Centurion Mississippi, LLC., which provides medical services twenty-four hours a day. The hospital is a licensed, full-service facility.

Pictures of Mississippi State Penitentiary

Careers at Mississippi State Penitentiary

If you are interested in a career with the Mississippi Department of Corrections at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, you can find job listings by clicking here