The Justice Department is sending two lawyers to investigate conditions at the Lucasville, Ohio, penitentiary where two inmates cut off the tips of their little fingers in a protest.
John Wilson, a Justice Department spokesman, said the FBI has been investigating the case for a month but he declined to disclose its findings.
The prisoners cut off their fingertips after after the federal government refused to permit 14 inmates to give up their U.S. citizenship and use a Helsinki agreement on human rights get out of jail.
The State Department, which received in the mail the fingertip of one of the inmates, Richard Armstrong, 37, has said that under U.S. law citizens can give up citizenship only at a U.S. consulate in a foreign country.
David Cattano, 28, also chopped off part of his little finger. Arnold Jago, the warden at Lucasville in southern Ohio, said Cattano's fingertip has not been discovered.
The lawyers who will be sent to the prison Tuesday are Paul Lawrence and Charles Pereyre-Suarez of the department'a Civil Rights Division.
Wilson said they would attempt to find out if the prisoners' civil rights have been violated and would seek to "persuade them against further mulitation."
Christopher D.Stanley, a Cleveland lawyer representing the prisoners, said the inmates' willingness to mutilate themselves was prompted by horrendous conditions at the prison.