Inmate found dead, hanging in cell at Mississippi prison; man was reportedly irate before death

Published 9:37 pm Sunday, January 19, 2020

An inmate at a 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.

Coroner Heather Burton said she was called Sunday to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman where inmate Gabriel Carmen was found hanging in his cell Saturday evening. She said corrections officials reported the inmate had been irate and throwing feces before his death.

The statement by the Sunflower County coroner said the inmate was last seen by corrections officers during a security check at 6:20 p.m. Saturday. It said officers noted Carmen was throwing feces against a wall in the hall at Unit 29, a cellblock at the heart of recent unrest in state prisons that claimed several lives.

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According to the statement, a person cleaning the hall then alerted two corrections officers at 6:40 p.m. Saturday that the inmate was hanging and the officials immediately ran to check on Carmen.

“They attempted to enter the cell, but the cell lock was jammed from the inside with a pipe the offender had removed from the toilet,” the statement said. “Maintenance had to respond to assist in opening the cell door” to let medical staff in.

Carmen was pronounced dead at 7:21 p.m. Saturday by a doctor and his body was removed from the unit by medical staff before the remains were taken to the state medical examiner’s office for a planned autopsy.

The coroner said the cause and manner of death are pending autopsy results.

Burton’s statement noted complaints from relatives of inmates that the state hasn’t done enough to explain why and how their loved ones died in recent disturbances.

The coroner said she spoke to the inmate’s parents, offering condolences and seeking to answer their questions.

Between Dec. 29 and Jan. 3, five inmates were killed and an undisclosed number of others were injured in violence inside the prisons.

More than two dozen inmates sued the state recently, saying understaffed state prisons are “plagued by violence” and inmates are forced to live in decrepit and dangerous conditions. All of the plaintiffs have been inmates at Parchman.

State prison officials for several years have been asking lawmakers for tens of millions of dollars to renovate Parchman’s Unit 29, citing decrepit conditions. After the unrest, Mississippi signed an emergency contract to move 375 of those inmates to a private prison nearby.