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Gangs allegedly run Mississippi prison where three inmates were killed in three days

Calls for prison reform in Mississippi
Calls for prison reform in Mississippi after inmate murders and escapes 03:34

Calls for prison reform are rising after a spike in violence in correctional facilities in Mississippi. In the last 10 days, five inmates were killed in different state prisons.

Three inmates were murdered in three days at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, an all-male facility in Parchman, Mississippi known as Parchman Farm. Two inmates also escaped the facility last week amid a week of riots, but they have since been caught. 

Inmates at Parchman Farm claim gangs run the place, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

"My little brother stabbed, beat up, just in a cell, and then they're putting him in cells with the rivalry. How could you do that?" Angel Taylor asked. 

At least one lawsuit alleges "barbaric" conditions at the prison, including rats, open sewage, abusive guards and corruption. Yet since 2014, Mississippi has slashed funding and staffing, and gangs like the Vice Lords and Black Gangster Disciples have thrived inside.

"We are going to stop it. We have it under control as best we can," Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said.

But almost half of the roughly 1,300 corrections positions in three major facilities in Mississippi remain unfilled. Even with a degree, guards start around $26,000, which is around the national poverty level for a family of four.

Sixty-five percent of the state's corrections officers are women "because men don't want the jobs," said Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter who has looked into Mississippi's prison problems for years. 

The gangs are "in charge of where you sleep, where you eat, how much you get to eat," Mitchell said. "I mean you have towers that are empty, you know, that used to have guards that don't have guards now. And what do you do?"

State officials admit the gangs are a problem, but deny they're out of control. At Parchman, state police were working 12-hour shifts inside. Some said they're needed because many regular corrections officers stopped showing up for work because it's too dangerous.

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