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All 21 Mississippi prisons on lockdown after 5 inmates die, 2 escape

Observation tower, fences, rolls of razor wire, and an electronic sensor grid at a Mississippi prison. (Mississippi Department of Corrections/Released)
January 06, 2020

Mississippi State Department of Corrections has ordered all prisons on lockdown until further notice amid recent prisoner deaths and escapes.

The department issued the lockdown order in a statement on Thursday, saying, “A lockdown of state, private, and regional facilities will continue until further notice as the Mississippi Department of Corrections continues to investigate the most recent violence in the prison system.”

Four inmates died and multiple were injured at three different facilities between Dec. 29 and Jan. 3. A fifth inmate died while the prisons were on lockdown.

“All movement at the three state prisons, three privately managed prisons, and 15 regional facilities is limited to emergencies only. Open bay housing units continue to be a challenge to manage at all facilities because inmates are not secured in single cells,” the statement said.

Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall said, “We are continuing to be vigilant and mindful of the situation. These are trying times for the Mississippi Department of Corrections. It is never a good feeling for a commissioner to receive a call that a life has been lost, especially over senseless acts of violence.”

State investigators are working to determine how the violence began. Some of the violence was determined to be gang-related, and cellphones were key tools in ramping up the violence.

Hall said she would be hesitant to release additional information gathered from the investigation.

“I understand the public’s right and need to know,” Commissioner Hall continued. “But my department will not rush to release information for the sake of perpetuating rumors. Contrary to what is being said, we are providing information. There is a process to releasing accurate information and that takes time.”

Two inmates escaped early Saturday from the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Authorities captured one of the two inmates early Sunday morning, but the other inmate remains at large.

The Department of Corrections has warned the public to be on the lookout for Dillion Williams, 27, a black male with brown eyes and black hair. Williams was sentenced to 40 years for burglary and aggravated assault.