Two deaths of inmates have occurred in the last 10 days in the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise.
Suicide is suspected as the cause of death in both instances, but investigations are ongoing. It is highly unusual for two deaths to occur in such a short time span in a single prison.
The first death in the 830-inmate prison occurred sometime between the evening of January 27 and the following morning when the man’s body was discovered in his cell. According to sources in the prison, the deceased was well-regarded by staff and presented no trouble. He was incarcerated after being convicted of a “one punch” offence that left his victim severely injured.
The second death was discovered on the afternoon of Tuesday last. The deceased was in protective custody which involves being locked up in a cell for 23 hours a day. Sources in the prison say he had asked the previous Friday to be put into protective custody because he felt his safety was under threat from a gang in another part of the prison.
Most prisoners in protective custody are under special observation which includes a duty of prison officers to check in on the prisoner every 15 minutes. In recent cases of deaths by suicide, there has been some controversy when it was retrospectively discovered that a deceased prisoner had not been checked for a matter of hours. The Inspector of Prisons has criticised staff for this failure.
A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service told the Irish Examiner that the two deaths will be investigated by the service, the inspector, and An Garda Síochána.
Last night, Virgin Media One showed the first part of a documentary on life in the Midlands Prison.