MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama inmate found dead in his cell apparently killed himself just weeks after testifying in a trial accusing the state of denying proper mental health care to prisoners, officials said Tuesday.
The Department of Corrections said Jamie Wallace, 24, was found dead in an apparent suicide five days earlier. He was found hanged in his cell at the Bullock County prison, about 45 miles southeast of Montgomery.
On Dec. 5, at the opening of a federal trial over mental health treatment in state prisons, Wallace described having multiple psychiatric disorders and claimed a prison officer once offered him a razor to use to kill himself. He also testified he had tried to hang himself at least once before.
Wallace, who pleaded guilty to killing his mother in 2009, told a prison attorney during cross-examination that he was only seen by mental health professionals after he had been put in a cell meant for inmates with acute problems.
"Until I come to that crisis cell (mental health professionals) ain't coming to see me worth a damn, sir," Wallace said, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
In a statement emailed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, attorney Maria Morris said, "The death of Jamie Wallace is a tragedy that could have been avoided." She added, "We brought this case, and are in court today, to try to protect people like Jamie Wallace who are enduring unconstitutional treatment and horrible indifference to their needs."
The state has denied during the trial that Alabama inmates receive inadequate mental health treatment, but spokesman Bob Horton said the agency could not comment on particulars of Wallace's death because of an investigation.
Prison officials didn't announce Wallace's death until Tuesday because it took time to notify his family, Horton said in an email.
Wallace was serving 25 years for murder in Jefferson County, where court records show he pleaded guilty in 2011 in the gunshot slaying of Michele Ann Wallace, his mother. Wallace initially pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness.