Inmate mortality rate on the rise in Miss.

Published 3:07 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mississippi’s inmate mortality rate was second in the nation two years ago and the executive director of a prison-reform group says the state is doing a poor job of looking after the chronic health needs of its prisoners.

Mississippi Department of Corrections officials say the high rate of in-custody deaths is the result of a number of factors: aging prisoners, drug and alcohol abuse prior to incarceration and generally unhealthy lifestyles.

But Patti Barber, executive director of the prison-reform group Mississippi CURE, says her group has been getting letters from inmates that point to inadequate medical care.

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Mississippi was second only to Tennessee in per-capita deaths among inmates in 2006, based on the latest data available. Five years earlier, Mississippi ranked 23rd.