Inmate dies at Rush City prison, possible homicide investigation underway

An inmate’s death at the state’s prison in Rush City is being investigated as a possible homicide.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) said Monday that 56-year-old James Francis Howard was found by corrections officers while they were doing their regular rounds at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Corrections officers took Howard’s 29-year-old cellmate into custody and then attempted life-saving measures until paramedics arrived but Howard was pronounced dead at 12:20 a.m., the DOC said. Staff noted Howard had injuries to his face and his head.

Howard was serving a homicide sentence that began in 2012. His release wasn’t scheduled until 2034. His cellmate is serving two sentences for assault. He was set to be released in May.

The DOC said the two men were cellmates in a temporary housing unit.

The last time an incarcerated person died after an altercation with another incarcerated person was in 2014 at the state’s Oak Park Heights facility, according to the DOC.

No other information is being released until the investigation is completed.