Coast jail reviewing procedures after 2 inmates hanged themselves with sheets, sheriff says

A second inmate at the Jackson County jail has died within about a week, Sheriff Mike Ezell said Monday, and both were found hanging by a bed sheet.

Both inmates had been in custody a little more than six weeks, jail dockets show.

A corrections officer found Shaun Prive, 39, with a sheet around his neck Saturday afternoon and he died at a hospital about 3 a.m. Sunday, Ezell said. Gene Danley Jr., 35, was found hanging in his cell Dec. 28.

“We’re looking at all our procedures,” Ezell said Monday.

“If we need to make changes, we will.”

Both cases are unrelated, he said.

‘A certain amount of privacy’

Corrections officers are trained to deal with different types of situations and inmates, Ezell said.

“Prisoners do have a certain amount of privacy in their cells in order to use the bathroom and do things of that nature. We try to give them the respect they deserve.”

Ezell said the jail is fully staffed and the staff is in constant contact with most prisoners either in person or by security camera monitors. Corrections officers take headcounts three times a day and inmates are monitored in day rooms.

“The jail has a medical staff that issues medicines and deals with problems,” he said. There also is a chaplain on staff.

“We do have people out there with mental illness and we do have to deal with them on a regular basis.”

Prisoners would be better off getting mental health help in a treatment facility than in jail, Ezell said.

“It’s no secret that mental health is a challenge in our country,” he said.

“It’s no secret that hospitals are full and getting out of the mental health business. It’s no secret that Whitfield is one of the very few facilities we have in the state. There are some concerns that the mentally challenged end up in our facility and as they do in jails across the country. We do the best we can to try to take care of all of them that come in there.”

Whitfield, also known as the Mississippi State Hospital, is a psychiatric center operated by the Mississippi State Department of Mental Health. It’s about 15 miles southeast of Jackson.

Some jails are moving away from giving inmates bedsheets. The Spokane County jail in Washington in June 2018 announced inmates would get blankets instead of sheets after three of five inmate deaths in the past year were the result of hangings by bedsheets. Also, jailers were given bladed rescue hooks to use if needed in a hanging situation.

It’s unclear when a review of the Jackson County jail will be completed.

About the dead inmates

Ezell announced Prive’s death on Sunday.

Jail dockets show Prive had been in custody since his arrest on Nov. 21, when he was booked at the Harrison County jail on several warrants. He was held for a court appearance on a felony forgery charge — a charge involving $1,000 or more — and two misdemeanor counts of contempt of court on warrants from Pascagoula.

The forgery charge involved an arrest on May 20, 2018, from alleged offenses in Biloxi on March 2, 2017.

The contempt charges in Pascagoula involved his failure to pay old fines totaling $2,618, records show.

Prive was transferred to the Jackson County jail on Dec. 20.

Danley, 35, was being held before his transfer to a state prison on a probation violation after his Nov. 12 arrest on misdemeanor charges of public drunk and giving false identifying information.

Danley was a jail trustee. The probation violation was on his felony conviction of an assault charge involving his then live-in girlfriend. He had been on probation about four months when Pascagoula police arrested him.

Danley had received a three-year prison term on the assault charge and 12 years of probation on May 26, 2016, said Grace Fisher of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Danley was paroled Dec. 7, 2016, and was released to probation on July 9, 2018.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office are assisting the sheriff’s office in investigating the deaths.

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Robin Fitzgerald covers real-time news, such as crime, public safety and trending stories. In nearly 40 years as a journalist, her highest honors include investigative awards for covering the aftermath of the fatal beating of a Harrison County jail inmate in 2006 and related civil rights violations. She is a Troy University graduate.