On Wednesday, the agency announced a probe into conditions at four state prisons where more than a dozen inmates have died as a result of either suicide or violence in just the last few months.
The investigation, conducted by the department’s Civil Rights Division, will center on Wilkinson County Correctional, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, South Mississippi Correctional Institution and finally, the infamous the Mississippi State Prison at Parchman.
“The investigation will focus on whether [the] Mississippi Department of Corrections adequately protects prisoners from physical harm at the hands of other prisoners at the four prisons, as well as whether there is adequate suicide prevention, including adequate mental health care and appropriate use of isolation, at Parchman,” the agency said in a statement.
A 26-year-old inmate was found hanged last month at a Parchman prison unit now slated for closure, marking the ninth in-custody death there since the top of the year. In all, some 15 inmates have died inside prisons across Mississippi since Dec. 29.
Newly elected Gov. Tate Reeves is working to take action and appoint new leadership to overhaul the state’s correction system.
“I’ve seen enough,” Reeves said. “We have to turn the page. This is the first step, and I have asked the department to begin the preparations to make it happen safely, justly, and quickly.”
Rapper Yo Gotti recently also partnered with Jay-Z‘s Roc Nation to file a federal complaint against the Mississippi prison system on behalf of 29 inmates they say are suffering under poor, inhumane conditions. In a recent interview with CBS News, Yo Gotti said he felt “encouraged” by news of the Justice Department’s probe but they plan to move forward with their effort.
“We’re hopeful their findings will lead to statewide reforms to these facilities,” he said. “However, until we receive tangible commitments to shut these prisons down and move inmates to safer facilities, we’ll proceed with our lawsuit.”