Mississippi prisons on lock down after inmate deaths

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PARCHMAN, Miss. — A Mississippi prison is on lock down after an inmate was violently killed and clashes between prisoners continue.

Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton confirmed that 36-year-old Dennoris Howell was pronounced dead before dawn Friday at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Burton said that Howell had been involved in an altercation with his cellmate.

While initial reports indicated that Howell had been stabbed, Burton said that Howell had not been stabbed, but sustained a neck injury. The blood on Howell’s body appears to have been from his cellmate.

Howell was convicted of manslaughter in Marshall County.

Howell is the fifth inmate to be killed by another inmate since Sunday, and the third at Parchman.

Another inmate was stabbed in the 3 a.m. Friday incident and taken to a Memphis hospital.

A video taken from inside of the prison appears to show an inmate stabbing his cellmate. The video does not show any guards in the area during the attack.

“There’s suppose to be some type of officer around to guard these people – to guard and protect these inmates. This man is trapped off in the cell and there’s nobody there to help him,” said Markeis Payne, a former inmate.

Payne says he knew Howell very well as they were both locked up together while at another Mississippi prison.

“You can get stabbed or better yet you can get killed and while all this is happening, people’s family be wanting to know what’s going on,” Payne said. “But they don’t have any answers.”

One family came all the way from Vicksburg demanding answers as to what’s taking place inside.

“You got a person in their burnt. My little brother stabbed, beat up,” said Angel Taylor. “Just in a cell and then they’re putting them in cells with the rivalry. How could you do that? He’s been in their two days stabbed.”

The Mississippi Department of Corrections says that some of the major disturbances that have taken place are gang-related. MDOC says that the identities of the gangs or security threat groups will not be released to the public for security purposes.

MDOC commissioner Pelicia Hall says investigators are working aggressively to determine what sparked the violence.

“We are continuing to be vigilant and mindful of the situation,” 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.”

Hall says while they understand the public’s need to know what’s going on, there is a lot of misinformation and the department will not rush to release information for the sake of perpetuating rumors.

“There is a lot of misinformation fanning the flames of fear in the community at large, especially on social media,” Hall said. “Cellphones are contraband and have been instrumental in escalating the violence.”

The MDOC says says all state prisons will remain on lock down as they are investigating the recent string of violence across the prison system.

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