A French inmate has mailed part of his own severed finger to the justice minister hoping the desperate gesture would help his plea to be moved to another prison, officials said on Thursday.

An envelope containing the chunk of finger was delivered on Thursday to the offices of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, accompanied by a letter arguing for a transfer to a jail nearer to the inmate’s family, a police official said.

A Justice Ministry spokesman confirmed a piece of finger had been delivered. “It’s a sad affair, there are many inmates asking for transfers,” said spokesman Olivier Pedro-Jose.

French jails are plagued by overcrowding, with the prison population hitting a record 67,000 this year compared to around 50,000 a decade ago, according to Justice Ministry figures.

Taubira, a Socialist, says she wants to tackle overcrowding but has been accused by center-right political opponents of adopting laxist stances on sentencing and other law-and-order issues.

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