Yet another inmate has died at Mississippi’s Parchman Prison as the state struggles to address a spate of violence and deaths at penitentiaries across the state.
Inmate Joshua Norman, 26, was found hanging in his one-man cell during a security check just after 11 Saturday morning, according to the Sunflower County Coroner’s office. Norman’s death marks the ninth at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman this year and the 12th in-custody death at a Mississippi prison overall.
Families, activists and others including Jaribu Hill and Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T. took to the stage in front of Mississippi’s state capitol.
While most of the deaths have been attributed to riots, gang wars and other violence, authorities say no foul play is suspected in Norman’s demise at the Mississippi Delta facility, CNN reports. The young man was serving a five-year sentence for armed robbery at the time of his death.
An official cause and manner of death are still pending as investigators await the autopsy results, said coroner Heather Burton.
Mississippi’s state prisons, especially Parchman, have come under scrutiny for their crumbling infrastructure, violence and inmate deaths. Rap mogul Jay-Z recently teamed up with fellow lyricist Yo Gotti to put the pressure on state officials to improve prison conditions.
The pair helped a group of 29 Mississippi inmates file a complaint earlier this month arguing the plaintiffs’ lives are at risk and calling on the state to devise a plan that ensures their right to safety while incarcerated.
Within the past month, as many as five inmates have been killed at three separate Mississippi prisons. Two of the inmates — Timothy Hudspeth and James Talley — died in altercations at Parchman on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21, while a third, Jermaine Tyler, died in custody on Jan. 25 at the for-profit Marshall County Correctional Facility.
“The situation at Parchman is an ongoing and lethal humanitarian crisis,” said Mary Croft, an attorney representing the group of inmates backed by Jay-Z and Yo Gotti.
Newly elected Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has since called for the closure of Parchman’s Unit 29, where Norman was found dead and several violent incidents have occurred.
“I’ve seen enough,” Reeves said. “We have to turn the page. This is the first step, and I have asked the department to begin the preparations to make it happen safely, justly, and quickly.”
The governor is also looking to appoint new leadership to overhaul the state’s department of corrections.