Mississippi inmate tries to hang self in cell, attorney says

FILE - In this July 21, 2010, photo, employees leave the front gate of the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss. An inmate at the Mississippi prison that was a focus of recent deadly unrest was found hanging in his cell by two corrections officers over the weekend and pronounced dead, a coroner said Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File) (Copyright 2010. The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSON, Miss. – An inmate tried to hang himself at a troubled Mississippi prison and was taken down by a state trooper, an attorney said in court papers filed Saturday.

Casey L. Austin is one of the attorneys representing inmates in a federal lawsuit against Mississippi over conditions in the state's prisons. The lawsuit over prison conditions is funded by Team Roc, a philanthropic group connected to entertainment mogul Jay-Z's company, Roc Nation.

Austin wrote that he was inside the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman to interview inmates Friday when the incident occurred.

“At approximately 2:00 p.m., I heard a Mississippi State Trooper tell the Unit 29 lobby Correctional Officer that he had just ‘cut one down,’” Austin wrote. “He then explained to Correctional Officer that he had cut down an inmate who had tried to hang himself in his cell.”

The trooper also said he had taken pictures of the incident and sent them to a captain, Austin wrote. An ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later, the attorney wrote.

The Associated Press on Saturday sent questions about the inmate's condition to the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Spokeswoman Grace Simmons Fisher responded that the department is “investigating those statements” by Austin.

Austin did not identify the inmate who tried to hang himself and did not give information about the man's condition.

At least 14 inmates have died in Mississippi prisons since late December, most of them at Parchman. Many of them were killed in outbursts of violence. Two inmates died by hanging, and prison officials said one of those was alone in a cell with the lock jammed from the inside. A Department of Corrections statement said the other hanging appeared to be a suicide.