What’s Killing Mississippi Inmates? FBI Investigation

15 inmates die in custody in August

CNN – The head of the Mississippi Dept. of Corrections is asking the FBI to investigate the unexplained deaths of 15 inmates.

Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall has been in contact with the FBI and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety regarding the deaths.

Earlier this week, information was released saying 12 prisoners had died in custody in August. Thre more inmates were added by Friday, bringing the total to 15.

“While we believe that most of the deaths are from illnesses or natural causes, such as cancer and heart disease, we are seeking assistance from others outside the department in the interest of transparency,” Hall said in her statement.

Hall said in a Tuesday statement that the state’s inmate population of 19,425 comprises “people from all walks of life and with all types of pre-existing conditions.”

The cause of death for each of the 15 inmates is pending the results of an autopsy. Read the full story at CNN.

Mississippi’s Troubling Prison Safety Record 

What we have here is a failure to communicate … 

Madison Pauly, Mother Jones | April 4, 2018 – Last August, when Terry Beasley and other inmates noticed a man had died in his cell, they pounded on the window of their dayroom for at least 30 minutes.

“Still wouldn’t nobody come on the zone,” Beasley recalled.

Finally, an officer opened the door to their housing area, allowing an inmate to slip past and run to get help from the guard captain.

Knowing how long it took to get help in an emergency “made me feel kind of scared,” Beasley said, “because I’m a diabetic, and you don’t know when my sugar might drop.”

Beasley described life inside the East Mississippi Correctional Facility during the first week of a federal trial over conditions at the for-profit state prison located 90 miles east of Jackson. EMCF is the state’s designated facility for inmates with psychiatric needs, and around 80 percent of the prison’s roughly 1,200 inmates have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Five years ago, prisoners there sued the Mississippi Department of Corrections, claiming that its top officials had failed to keep tabs on the prison’s corporate operators and allowed dangerous conditions to go unaddressed.

The prisoners’ class-action lawsuit describes a crumbling facility with broken locks on cell doors, frequent assaults by inmates, and a critical shortage of guards and medical staff.

“What I’ve seen at East Mississippi Correction Facility, I have not seen for decades,” said Elizabeth Alexander, one of 13 attorneys representing the inmates. “This is a trip back to the old days of prison conditions.”

The case went to trial in March after multiple failed attempts to settle outside of court, according to American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Carl Takei.

It’s being heard by US District Judge William H. Barbour, Jr., who will decide whether the state has been “deliberately indifferent” to conditions at EMCF that posed serious risk of harm to inmates.

In their complaint, filed in 2013, prisoners claimed the state prison commissioner and other officials had failed to hold the companies that run EMCF accountable for “grossly inhumane conditions” that “cost many prisoners their health, and their limbs, their eyesight, and even their lives.”

The inmates’ original complaint told the stories of multiple prisoners who lit fires to obtain emergency medical attention. According to EMCF records, 1,217 inmates and 47 staff members were injured by fires in 2016.

In addition to Beasley’s testimony, deputy warden Norris Hogans testified that as of February, inmates were still lighting fires outside their cell doors three times a week … Read more at Mother Jones. 

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