JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi Department of Corrections is still working to figure out what sparked deadly riots within the prison system this week.
MDOC officials contribute four of the five deaths this week to violent "disturbances" that began Sunday.
A death at South Mississippi Correctional Institution, two at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, and one at Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility have all been linked to the riots.
A fifth death, also at Parchman, and a fire that came with it, are unrelated, according to MDOC officials.
“We are continuing to be vigilant and mindful of the situation,” Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall said. “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.”
MDOC said that some of the violence is gang-related. They are not going to release the names of the gangs involved. Hall said investigators are working aggressively to find out what caused the rest of the violence.
Commissioner Hall said cell phones have been “instrumental” in the escalation of violence.
Note: A number of cell phone videos have been sent to WLBT from people claiming the violence was happening inside Parchman. We have not been able to validate that these videos are legitimate, and we are not sharing the footage.
The prisons remain on lockdown as officials work to limit the violence. Movement at all three state prisons is limited to emergencies only. MDOC says open bay housing continues to be a challenge because inmates are not secured in single cells.
Inmates at Parchman have also been moved to more secure housing units.
“The MDOC, private prison operators and sheriffs of the regionals are working together to make sure that facilities are as safe as possible because of the different housing structures,” Commissioner Hall said. “Not everyone is locked in a cell.”
MDOC officials are still working to learn who the aggressors are. They say they will pursue criminal charges to the full extent of the law once they learn who it is.
Governor-elect Tate Reeves issued this statement on the violence: