September 19, 2020

Dead bodies are stacking up in this Mississippi county, here’s why

The number of unclaimed bodies in Mississippi’s most populous county has more doubled in the last five years, according to officials.

Five years ago, Hinds County, which includes the state’s capital city of Jackson, averaged about a dozen requests a year to handle unclaimed bodies, according to records obtained by The Clarion Ledger. Such requests grew to more than 40 last year, and the county has already had 16 requests for burials in its common grave this year, the newspaper reported on Monday.

“The numbers appear to be increasing every year due to the rising cost of funerals and the family’s inability to pay for these services,” The Clarion Ledger quoted Hinds County Chancery Clerk Eddie Jean Carr as saying.

The county pays a maximum of $300 for the burial or cremation of unclaimed bodies.

Usually, a request is made to the Board of Supervisors for a burial in its paupers’ cemetery because an identity cannot be determined or family members cannot be located, the newspaper said. But in the past two years, county records show requests have been made more frequently because family members cannot afford burial or cremation.

“It’s sad to know families are financially unable to lay their family members to rest in a dignified manner,” Carr said.

The Hinds County Sheriff’s Department manages the cemetery, which was established in 1963 in Raymond. Inmates dig the number-marked gravesites.