Mississippi governor calls for reform after prison deaths: 'I've seen enough'

Gov. Tate Reeves (R) promised reforms in the Mississippi prison system after 12 people have died in the state’s custody since the new year started. 

In his Monday State of the State address, Reeves called for changes specifically at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, where nine people have died this year. Three of those deaths occurred in Parchman’s Unit 29, which the governor said the Department of Corrections will begin to close, calling it the “most notorious” place in the facility.

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“I’ve seen enough,” he said. “We have to turn the page.”

The Mississippi Department of Corrections, which has been under scrutiny for the deaths and treatment of inmates, is searching for a new head after the former commissioner resigned to join the private sector, The Washington Post reported

But Reeves said the interim commissioner has already made adjustments, including ensuring correctional system leaders are available to officers, becoming more strict about blocking cell phone use and researching guards for gang affiliations, local station WDAM reported

Parchman erupted in gang riots earlier this month, causing two deaths and prompting the facility to go into lockdown. 

Unit 29 inmates complained they were unable to shower during the lockdown, but interim commissioner of the Department of Corrections Tommy Taylor said the facility that holds as much at 1,500 people now has warm showers and clean water, according to the Post. 

He also said the prison is making repairs to keep rain out of buildings, fixing electrical and heating issues and repairing the toilets.

“The problems were infuriating,” Reeves said in his speech. “There is no excuse. We can do better."

The state’s prison has acquired national attention as Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonStates plead for cybersecurity funds as hacking threat surges House members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes Federal watchdog finds chemical facilities vulnerable to cyberattacks MORE (D-Miss.) and the Southern Poverty Law Center call for investigations into the prison deaths.