A disturbing situation is unfolding in Jackson, Miss. Hundreds of unmarked graves were found, and the state is making families pay to get control of their loved ones' remains. Behind the Hinds County Penal Farm, in a "paupers' field," there are about 672 graves. Authorities bury unclaimed or unidentified bodies in paupers' cemeteries, and in this case, a 14-page record notes details like age, race, gender, birth, death dates, and where they were before being buried. This log goes back to at least 2008. Among those 672 bodies is a list of 215 burials from 2016 to 2023 for which the families of the deceased were never notified — information that came to light after an investigation by NBC News., Scripps News reports.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is advocating for justice on behalf of the relatives and friends of the individuals buried in the paupers' cemetery. He is representing six family members, and more pending, who were never informed of their relatives' deaths. "Obviously, we're seeing a pattern in practice, negligence, and worse, unconstitutional and criminal activities,” Crump said. “It’s just horrific that they put them in the ground in a bag in the first place, but it’s even worse when people are trying to ask you to assist and you won't assist them in locating their loved one even though they're in the back of your jail.” Last month, families of three men buried behind the detention center without their knowledge hired Crump, determined to find answers from those responsible. Gretchen Hankins found out about her son's death and burial a year and seven months after she reported him missing.