Mississippi Governor Says 'Notorious' State Prison Unit Will Close

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Mississippi Governor Says 'Notorious' State Prison Unit Will Close
Gov. Tate Reeves made the announcement after multiple deaths were reported at the prison within the first month of 2020.
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Mississippi's governor has ordered the closure of "the most notorious unit" of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman after nine prisoners reportedly died there within a month.

Gov. Tate Reeves announced Unit 29 will be closing during his first State of the State address on Monday. Just a day earlier, an inmate in that unit was found dead in his cell. According to the Sunflower County coroner, no foul play was suspected.

Reeves said: "All Mississippians must be able to trust that the people in charge of the system are acting with competence to keep them safe. We must be able to trust that the corrections officers operating these prisons have the tools that they need to do their jobs and that they are compensated fairly." 

The state's Department of Health published an inspection report on the conditions at the state penitentiary at Parchman in June. It found many of the cells in Unit 29 had no lights, were missing mattresses or had holes in the walls, among other issues. Some cells were listed as "inoperable." 

Earlier this month, more than two dozen Mississippi inmates sued the state over multiple deaths at the prison. A lawyer for rapper Jay Z filed the lawsuit on their behalf. Jay Z had previously sent a letter to then-Gov. Phil Bryant and then-Corrections Department Commissioner Pelicia Hall saying the conditions at Mississippi prisons were "inhumane and unconstitutional." Hall has since stepped down.