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Hundreds of bodies found behind a Mississippi prison spark community-wide outrage 

Members of the Jackson, Mississippi community and national supporters are demanding answers and investigations after 215 bodies were found behind a Mississippi prison in late December.

The unmarked graves found in Mississippi arguably evoke a sense of dehumanization for the victims. (Photo courtesy of William Murphy)

Over 200 bodies were found alongside unmarked graves at a Hinds County Pauper’s Cemetery located behind a prison in Jackson, Mississippi, according to PBS. As new reports continue to surface and make regional and national headlines, family members of the deceased are seeking answers.

Activist Arthur Reed quickly pointed out the “inhumane” condition that the corpses were in by stating how many graves were only accompanied by a metal rod and a number, and a foul smell that attracted buzzards to the gravesite, according to Yahoo.

In addition to the conditions that the bodies were subjected to, another factor and element of this occurrence is the fact that the families of the deceased were not notified at the time of their death based on reports by PBS.

“People all across America are scratching their heads in disbelief about what’s happening in Jackson, Mississippi, with this pauper’s graveyard,” said civil rights attorney Ben Crump in a news conference.

Since 2008, approximately 330 people have been buried at the cemetery based on reports by Jackson’s WLBT3. With an extensive log that is 14 pages in length, the cemetery has 672 handwritten names listed and includes information such as birth and death dates, gender, age and race as well as the whereabouts of the fallen before they were buried as reported by Mississippi’s WAPT16.

“Mississippi is notorious for being a state with inhumane practices… As a fellow Mississippian, I was not surprised to hear that Mississippi had 215 unmarked graves,” Aja Rashid, a chemistry major and biology minor from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, said.

According to NBC, the beginning of this discovery came about due to Bettersten Wade, a determined mother who wanted to find her son, Dexter Wade, who had been killed by a Jackson police officer.

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“My mama told me, ‘They’re not going to do anything,’” but I had to do something to find Dexter, and I thought that was the best way,” Wade said in an interview with NBC.

Another mother and Mississippian who came forward to find justice for her son was Gretchen Hankins, who was only notified about the death of her son, David Hankins, a year and seven months after she filed a missing persons report for him, according to WPTV.

“I want them to lose their jobs because they didn’t do their job,” Hankins told CNN during an interview about the discovery and ongoing situation. 

Among the many families impacted, are six relatives of the deceased inmates who have come forward to seek justice for their departed loved ones with the help of Crump.

“There’s something seriously wrong with this backwards country,” Crump said via an Instagram post. 

While Crump’s call for an investigation is the beginning of what might be a long and complex process, this occurrence has tugged at the hearts of many people, especially Howard University students from the state of Mississippi.

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“I first learned about this situation on Tik Tok and like many many others I’m surprised it is not receiving [more] national attention,” Jashaylee Minor, a junior political science major from Pascagoula, Mississippi who interns on Capitol Hill said. 

“As a person from Mississippi this news is very devastating to me,” Minor continued. 

Jada Barnes, a freshman nursing major from Jackson, Mississippi, also commented on the tragedy. 

“The discovery of 215 bodies in unmarked graves in Mississippi is distressing and heartbreaking,” Barnes said. “It sends a range of emotions through my body, from shock and sadness to anger. These families deserve answers for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones.”

WLBT3 compiled a list and a searchable database of the individuals buried there. The 22-page list is available at the bottom of the webpage here

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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