Two inmates at a maximum-security prison in Mississippi have died after suffering injuries from a “blunt force beating,” officials said Tuesday, bringing the death toll across the state’s prison system to at least seven since the beginning of the year.
The deaths come after another inmate at the same facility — Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman — had apparently taken his own life in his cell on Sunday, Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton said in a news release.
The increased scrutiny has spurred Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican who took office last week, to pledge his administration would provide transparency amid the fraught situation.
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“There is much more to be done here,” he tweeted Tuesday.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections did not immediately provide details into the latest deaths, but tweeted that they stemmed from an “isolated incident,” and not part of the recent wave of retaliatory, gang-related killings. The gang violence led to a lock down of prisons across the state earlier this month.
Mississippi State Penitentiary, the state’s only maximum-security prison for men and home to more than 3,500 inmate beds, has been the focus of attention given its history of inmate abuses, racial segregation and corruption.
One of this week’s victims was identified as Timothy Hudspeth, who was serving a 10-year sentence for possession of a firearm by a felon. The other inmate was not named pending notification of kin.
“The safety of staff and prisoners at Parchman is our immediate priority, and we are working hard to restore and maintain order,” interim Commissioner Tommy Taylor said in a statement, adding, “The environment that makes such violence possible must be addressed quickly, and we are committed to making changes to do so.”
The Department of Corrections also faces a new lawsuit after rap mogul Jay-Z filed a federal complaint in Mississippi last week against the agency and the warden of the state penitentiary, saying the recent deaths “are a direct result of Mississippi’s utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights.”
The department replied that it does not comment on pending litigation.