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Mississippi prison inmates are dying at an alarming rate — now the DOJ is investigating

What's going on?

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Sixteen inmates in Mississippi prisons have died since late December, and the Department of Justice announced last week it will investigate the deaths and the conditions that may be causing them, according to The Hill.

The 16th inmate death was a 54-year-old man named James Allen Brown, who had been in prison since 1993 serving a life sentence for murder and burglary.

Brown was being treated for a terminal illness at the time of his death, and no foul play is expected, although an official cause of death has not yet been released.

At least three of the 16 deaths have been the result of violence. Ten of the deaths, including Brown's, occurred at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

"The investigation will focus on whether the Mississippi Department of Corrections adequately protects prisoners from physical harm at the hands of other prisoners at the four prisons, as well as whether there is adequate suicide prevention, including adequate mental health care and appropriate use of isolation, at Parchman," a Department of Justice statement read.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced the closing of Parchman's Unit 29 due to the high rate of deaths. Nine people have recently died in Unit 29.

"The problems were infuriating," Reeves said. "There is no excuse. We can do better."

The issue has attracted some celebrity attention, increasing the scrutiny of the conditions in the Mississippi prison system. Music artists such as Jay-Z and Yo Gotti have gotten involved, supporting a lawsuit filed by Parchman inmates.

"Beyond that, [Gov. Tate] must implement broader safety measures to address similar issues in other units and urgently provide inmates with medical attention," Yo Gotti told CBS News. "In the interim, we're calling for the Department of Justice to step in, move the Parchman inmates to federal prisons and ensure their immediate well-being."

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