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DOJ launches investigation into Mississippi prisons after riots, deaths

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it is launching an investigation into Mississippi prisons that reported fatal riots last month. 

The four state-run facilities under investigation are Mississippi State Penitentiary, Southern Mississippi Correctional Institute, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. 

“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,” the statement read. 

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The Clarion Ledger reported Sunday that since Dec. 29, 2019, 15 people have died while in state custody. Some of the reported deaths stem from riots, though others are reported as suicides or assaults. Still others remain unresolved. 

The latest death occurred on Saturday when Jesus Garcia, 39, was found dead in his cell at the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, the Ledger reported. His cause of death is still under investigation. 

The DOJ is investigating the prisons under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). 

“Under CRIPA, the Department has the authority to investigate violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights that result from a ‘pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights,’” the statement read. “The Department has conducted CRIPA investigations of many correctional systems, and where violations have been found, the resulting settlement agreements have led to important reforms.” 

 

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