Two inmates were beaten to death at Mississippi’s Parchman prison after a burst of violence that left five inmates dead across the state. The New York Times says the new deaths underscored the troubles facing a correctional system the new governor called a “catastrophe.” Parchman, a maximum-security prison notorious for its harsh conditions, has been on lockdown since a gang-fueled spate of violence and disorder several weeks ago. Critics have urged federal officials to investigate conditions they called unconstitutional and inhumane. Twenty-nine inmates filed a lawsuit last week against state officials, calling the recent killings as the “culmination of years of severe understaffing and neglect.” Coroner Heather Burton in Sunflower County said both inmates had been killed by blunt force trauma and were pronounced dead on Tuesday morning.
The corrections department called the murders “an isolated incident — not a continuation of the recent retaliatory killings.” Another Parchman inmate was found dead in his cell on Saturday night, an apparent suicide. The inmate was being held in Unit 29, a section that officials have been trying to clear because it has fallen into disrepair. The prison turmoil is one of the most pressing issues confronting Gov. Tate Reeves, who took office last week. On Tuesday, he tweeted that there was “much more to be done here.” While gangs have driven the unrest, activists and inmates say a severely underfunded and understaffed prison system has been a contributing factor. “These inhumane conditions are unconstitutional,” inmates declared in a lawsuit last week. The effort is being backed by the rappers Jay-Z and Yo Gotti. Reeves asked a group of prosecutors and law enforcement officials, led by Mayor George Flaggs Jr. of Vicksburg, to find a replacement for Pelicia Hall, the former prison commissioner who took a private sector job last week.
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