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DOJ To Investigate Mississippi Prisons After Spate Of Inmate Deaths

After a string of inmate deaths in Mississippi that began late last year, the Justice Department announced Wednesday that it is opening a civil rights probe into the state's penitentiary system.

The department's civil rights division says it will examine conditions at four Mississippi prisons, including the state penitentiary at Parchman, the state's oldest, where a prison riot broke out on Dec. 29 after an inmate was killed. The all-male prison includes the state's death row.

Since December's riot, a total of 15 inmates have died.

Officials say two of the deaths were apparent suicides by hanging, but that many of the others are thought to be gang-related killings. The Mississippi Department of Corrections says 29 staff members have also been assaulted over the same period.

"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," a DOJ statement said.

The Justice Department says its investigation will focus on conditions at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, the South Mississippi Correctional Institution, the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, which is run by a private contractor paid by the state.

The violence in Mississippi prisons has drawn national attention, particularly because of the advocacy of entertainment figures such as hip-hop artist Mysonne and Jay-Z, whose company, Roc Nation is funding a lawsuit against the state demanding improved conditions.


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