Five Inmates Killed in One Week in Latest Burst of Violence at Mississippi Prisons

Traffic moves past the front of the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., on May 19, 2010.Rogelio V. Solis / AP file

A fifth inmate was killed early Friday at one of Mississippi’s state prisons, the latest burst of violence amid a series of fatal prisoner stabbings and attacks that have roiled the state prison system over the past week.

Denorris Howell, 36, was fatally stabbed multiple times following an altercation with his cellmate, Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton said. Howell had been serving a 17-year sentence for manslaughter. The condition of his cellmate was not immediately known.

Howell’s death is the third at Mississippi State Penitentiary this week and the fifth to occur at a state prison since Sunday, when a 40-year-old inmate’s killing prompted a statewide lockdown of facilities, which is continuing through the weekend.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections did not immediately return a request for comment about the incident at Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, the state’s only maximum-security prison for men and home to more than 3,500 inmate beds.

Experts say the string of deaths underscores the long-festering problems within Mississippi’s prison system, which has one of the nation’s highest incarceration rates and has been scrutinized over questionable inmate fatalities.

“Not to be dismissive of the seriousness of these events, but nobody should be surprised about what we’re seeing,” said Cliff Johnson, the director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law. “We’ve been predicting this and expecting this with widespread violence in facilities that are in many instances out of control.”

Johnson, who has clients in prison, pointed to multiple factors that have generally allowed the assaults behind bars to persist.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Erik Ortiz