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15th inmate dies in Mississippi state prison

15th inmate dies in Mississippi state prison
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A 15th inmate has died in a Mississippi state prison since the end of last year, amid a push to improve conditions in the facilities.

Officers found Jesus Garcia, 39, lying unresponsive in his cell at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility Saturday, Issa Arnita, a spokesperson from the Management and Training Corp., the company that runs the prison, told The Hill in a statement. Life-saving efforts by medical staff were unsuccessful, and Garcia was pronounced dead at 12:52 p.m.

“The cause and manner of death are under investigation,” Arnita said in an emailed statement. “There were no obvious signs of assault.”

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Garcia was in prison for a 20-year sentence for capital rape, reported the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Miss. He is the fifth inmate to die in Mississippi in a little more than a week. 

Two inmates, Nora Ducksworth and Jermaine Tyler, were found dead in the Marshall County Correctional Facility. Joshua Norman was found hanging in his cell at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and Limarion Reaves collapsed while talking to a relative on the phone at the Kemper-Neshoba Regional Correctional Facility in DeKalb.

Criticism about the Mississippi prison system and the inmate deaths has sparked a call for new legislation. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) mentioned the deaths in his State of the State speech, vowing to shut down Parchman’s Unit 29 after nine deaths were reported there. 

The state’s Department of Corrections previously attributed some of the deaths to gang violence, and its officials have said decreased funding prevents them from addressing existing problems. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center requested the Department of Justice investigate Mississippi prisons after five inmates died within 10 days.

A group of sheriffs has reportedly proposed taking medium-threat prisoners to regional jails in an effort to lessen the strain on state prisons, which they say could save Mississippi $22.5 million a year, according to the Clarion Ledger.