Feb. 3 (UPI) — Authorities are investigating the 15th inmate death in a Mississippi state prison since late December.
Officials found Jesus Garcia, 39, lying in his cell unresponsive Saturday at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, spokesperson Issa Arnita, of Management and Training Corp., the company that runs the prison, told The Hill in a statement.
Garcia was pronounced dead at 12:52 p.m. after life-saving efforts were unsuccessful.
“The cause and manner of death are under investigation,” Arnita told the Hill. “There were no obvious signs of assault.”
Garcia was serving a 20-year sentence for capital rape in a DeSoto County case, the Clarion Ledger reported.
His death marks the 15th inmate to die in a state prison since Dec. 29 and the fifth in little more than a week.
Two inmates, Nora Ducksworth and Jermaine Tyler, died at Marshall County Correctional Facility.
Ducksworth’s death remains under investigation though initial signs showed the death was due to natural causes. Tyler’s death showed “no initial signs of foul play,” according to MTC.
One inmate, Joshua Norman, was found hanging in a one-man cell at Parchman, and another inmate, Limarion Reaves collapsed while talking to a relative on a facility phone at Kemper-Neshoba Regional Correctional Facility and was pronounced dead later at a local hospital, according to a release.
On Jan. 27, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves vowed to close Parchman’s Unit 29 cell block after the ninth inmate death in a month there.
On Jan. 7, the South Poverty Law Center asked the Department of Justice to investigate the conditions in the state prison after five inmates died in 10 days.
Also, in early January, entertainment mogul Jay-Z filed a lawsuit on behalf of 29 state inmates who say authorities have done nothing to stem the violence.
Corrections officials previously attributed some of the deaths to gang violence and officials have said lack of funding prevents them from addressing problems.
Last week state lawmakers began to introduce legislation to address violence and living conditions.
“We need to get started as quickly as possible,” House Corrections Chairman Kevin Horan, I-Grenada, said.
A group of sheriffs proposed taking medium-threat prisoners to regional jails to take pressure off state facilities. They said the plan could save $22.5 million because it costs about $14 more to house each inmate daily in a state-run facility compared to a county-managed one.