1 of 2 inmates who died recently at Mississippi prison ID’d

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Authorities on Saturday released the identity of one of two inmates who died earlier in the week at a Mississippi penitentiary that is under U.S. Justice Department investigation.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections said Timothy R. Sharpe, who was serving a 20-year-sentence for sexual battery and child molestation, died Friday at the prison hospital at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman. He was 61.

The statement said the name of another inmate who died Thursday at Parchman’s prison hospital hasn’t been released pending notification of relatives.

The statement didn’t give any details about the deaths.

In a news release Friday, Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton said there was “no evidence of foul play” in either death.”

Autopsies were planned in both cases.

With those included, at least 21 inmates have died in Mississippi prisons since late December. Some of the deaths happened during outbursts of violence. Some inmates were found hanging in their cells. Coroners said other deaths were from natural causes.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Feb. 5 that its civil rights division would investigate Parchman and other Mississippi prisons that have struggled with violence, tight budgets, short staffing and shoddy living conditions.

Mississippi prison officials have told state budget writers for years that the department has trouble hiring guards because the jobs are dangerous and the pay is low. Despite the requests, budgets were cut.

Two federal lawsuits have been filed on behalf of prisoners since January, saying Parchman is dangerous, vermin-infested and unfit for human habitation. Attorneys in both lawsuits are being paid by entertainment mogul Jay-Z, rapper Yo Gotti and Team Roc, the philanthropic arm of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.

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