After a Friday announcement concerning the deaths of 15 inmates, the Mississippi Department of Corrections officially requested help from the FBI to find out what happened to the inmates, who all died in August under their watch. The MDOC Commissioner, Pelicia E. Hall, released a statement last week regarding their call for aid, according to The Root.
“While we believe that most of the reported deaths during the month of August are from illnesses or natural causes, such as cancer and heart disease, based on available information, we are seeking assistance from others outside the department in the interest of transparency.”
Though the MDOC has not expanded on their ideas of why the deaths occurred, NBC News has said that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has told the media that there would be full transparency during the investigation. He urged that the families of the deceased inmates, who were all between the ages of 24 and 75, to be patient with them as they conduct autopsies and complete their investigations, which could take months. At present, Mississippi’s medical examiner is backlogged.
Despite this, many families are angry with the MDOC and demand immediate answers. One such family is the Rathmanns, whose daughter, Nicole, was set to be released last week after serving her time for a drug conviction. The 33-year-old spent six years in prison. When she died on August 23rd at a hospital in Jackson, her family was barely given an explanation. Rathmann struggled with meth addiction before going to prison, and prison officials said that she died of a brain aneurysm as a result. However, a doctor at the hospital said an aneurysm was more likely caused by drugs she’d done more recently – while she was incarcerated at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl.
“I know my daughter was no angel, but she was the responsibility of the state. She was an addict. They didn’t help her,” said Kent in an interview with NBC News.
Though Hall says that the deaths were not “out of line with the number of deaths in previous months,” however the MDOC has not responded to any requests for information to support the claim. However, data from recent government polling, available on bjs.gov, has the number of deaths per year in the Mississippi prison system to be about 51, based on data collected between 2001 and 2014. However, the state also had an annual death rate of 324 per 100,000 prisoners, a number that is “higher than the national rate of 255 over the same period.”