By: Justin Carissimo | CBS News
January 23, 2020
An inmate was found hanging inside his cell in an apparent suicide at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman on Wednesday, authorities said. This is the eighth death at the troubled facility following a wave of violence last month.
Prison guards discovered the unidentified inmate Wednesday morning in his one-man cell in Unit 29, a cell block officials deemed "unsafe" over its failing infrastructure. Heather Burton, the Sunflower County coroner, said the cause of death "appears consistent with ligature hanging." She said the official cause and manner of death are pending the results of an investigation and autopsy.
The apparent suicide comes a day after two other inmates were found beaten to death inside their cells at Parchman. They were identified as Timothy Hudspeth and James Talley. A total of 10 inmates have died in state prisons since December.
29 inmates filed a federal lawsuit last week against the state claiming the living conditions at Parchman are unconstitutional. Rappers Jay-Z and Yo Gotti are paying for the lawyers in the case.
Jordan Siev, an outside lawyer representing the inmates, characterized the conditions in the state's prisons as "inhumane."
"What's happening runs counter to every integral value we as Americans hold as rights guaranteed to people here," Siev told CBS News in a phone interview this week. "The system is not running properly."
Almost half of the roughly 1,300 corrections positions in three major facilities in Mississippi remain unfilled. The suit blames the recent outbreaks of violence on the "culmination of years of severe understaffing and neglect at Mississippi's prisons."
Yo Gotti published an open letter in the Clarion-Ledger newspaper on Wednesday urging Governor Tate Reeves to declare a state of emergency.
"We recognize that there are people incarcerated in the [Mississippi Department of Corrections] for due cause — that they may be considered a danger to society," the letter reads in part. "We are asking that they be able to serve their sentences as human beings and not animals."
He added: "For if a goal of incarceration is rehabilitation, how can we ever hope to return these men to society when the extreme neglect and dangerous conditions under which they are subjected strips away every last bit of self-worth?"