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U.S. Justice Department to probe conditions at Mississippi jail

By Emily Le Coz

JACKSON Miss. (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday it will investigate a Mississippi detention center's treatment of inmates after a riot in March killed one prisoner and injured several others.

The two facilities that make up the Hinds County Detention Center, located in the state capital of Jackson and the suburb of Raymond, are under investigation, the department said in a statement.

The dilapidated detention center was plagued with problems for years before the March 31 riot that prompted local officials to declare a state of emergency.

Among the reported issues are cell doors that do not properly lock, widespread gang activity and overcrowding.

"Our investigation will focus on whether Hinds County protects prisoners from the harm that can result from prisoner on prisoner violence and the improper use of force," said Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

Samuels said attorneys for the county and sheriff's office had agreed to cooperate with the probe.

"We don't have anything to hide," said Hinds County Board of Supervisors President Darrel McQuirter. "We kind of look forward to it."

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Doina Chiacu)