LICKING, Mo. — A seventh inmate has died in one month at the men’s state prison in Licking.

The South Central Correctional Center won’t comment on the deadly trend until toxicology reports come back. The Texas County Coroner said that could take up to two months, as labs are backlogged and positive toxicology reports require a second set of eyes.

In the meantime, KOLR10 Investigates is digging into data on death rates at state prisons across the country to see how this one compares. KOLR10 Investigates found the monthly death rate at SCCC in Licking is several times higher than the national average for state penitentiaries.

The most recent numbers on mortality rates are from 2019. On a national scale, state prisons the size of SCCC report on average 1.5 prisoner deaths per month. The South Central Correctional Center just reported its seventh. Texas County Coroner Marie Lasater is conducting the autopsies and provided perspective on the death rate over the phone.

“Yes that does seem very high,” said Lasater. “Typically over the years there have been six deaths at the prison and that is consistent with the death rate in the general population. That changed in 2021 when everything was locked down and there were only two offender deaths last year. So it’s kind of surprising to see such an increase in offender deaths in 2022.”

Three of the prisoners who died were serving life sentences. The other four were sentenced 10 years or less.

If you have a story you’d like KOLR10 Investigates to look into, email lbarnas@kolr10.com.