Sheriff’s office says Orleans Parish inmate hanged himself

An inmate who had recently been on suicide watch hanged himself early Saturday morning at the Orleans Parish jail, according to the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Clifton Morgan, 28, who was facing charges of simple burglary and violating his probation, was pronounced dead at 12:08 a.m. of apparent self-inflicted asphyxiation, the sheriff’s office said.

One of the major reasons federal authorities insisted on a consent decree mandating a slew of reforms at the jail is that the sheriff’s office has been unable to prevent suicides by some inmates who had openly expressed suicidal thoughts. In perhaps the most infamous case, William Goetzee, an employee of the U.S. Coast Guard and a commander in the agency’s reserves, committed suicide in 2011 by swallowing toilet paper. Goetzee — who had made it clear that he wanted to take his own life — was supposed to be under constant supervision, but the deputy who was assigned to watch him left his post. The deputy later pleaded guilty to malfeasance in office.

In the most recent case, authorities said Morgan had been sent to a psychiatric tier and put on suicide watch after his initial mental health screening on Sept. 17. He was transported to LSU Interim Hospital for evaluation on Sept. 25 and was returned the same day to the prison’s psychiatric ward. He was later transferred to the general population.

Morgan had asked to be removed from his assigned tier, the sheriff’s office said, during which time he was placed in a holding cell across from the watch commander’s office. The watch commander was in frequent contact with him, according to authorities.

It was there that he was found unresponsive and pronounced dead after efforts to resuscitate him failed. An autopsy will be conducted by the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office.

“Although it is infrequent, the death of an inmate is an unfortunate reality that all jails face, and one we continuously strive to prevent,” Sheriff Marlin Gusman said in a prepared statement.

The consent decree mandating reforms at the jail, which was approved by a federal judge in June, requires the Sheriff’s Office to set up a suicide prevention training regimen and provide proper equipment for deputies.