The Irish Prison Service (ISP) has been criticised over the accuracy of record keeping of checks by prison officers on vulnerable prisoners in two separate investigations into the deaths of prison inmates.
The Inspector of Prisons has expressed concern that official logs kept by the prison authorities in Wheatfield and Cloverhill recorded the two prisoners being checked every 15 minutes as required when they had gone unchecked for longer periods.
“Public officials must realise that it is a serious matter to create inaccurate public records,” said Judge Michael Reilly.
The inspector said individuals or bodies who had oversight of prisons must have confidence that they can rely on the accuracy of official records.
In his first report, Judge Reilly found the IPS had failed to conduct proper medical assessments of a prisoner who died within 24 hours of being seen by prison officers to swallow a package suspected of containing illegal drugs.
He criticised the prison authorities in Wheatfield for failing in their duty of care to the inmate who died in a close supervision cell in the prison on Christmas Eve last year.
Judge Reilly also found that the prisoner was not monitored in the period before his death every 15 minutes as required, despite being classified as a special observation prisoner as he was suspected of having ingested a prohibited substance.
In a recommendation, Judge Reilly stated that “all prison personnel must appreciate that official documents must reflect the truth of actions taken by officers”. He described official documents which supposedly logged all checks on the prisoner as “incorrect, misleading and do not accord with the facts.”
Although he was not identified in the report, the victim was Kevin Byrne, 23, a single man who came originally from Ballymun but who had been living homeless prior to being committed to prison in August 2012.
Judge Reilly said there were seven occasions when such inspections were not carried out as required under standard operation procedures, including periods of 64, 53, and 41 minutes when he went unchecked.
The prisoner was found in an unresponsive state at approximately 8.10am on December 24 and pronounced dead a short time later.
Toxicology reports on the victim’s body indicated the presence of heroin and diazepam.
In a second report, into the death of Marius Sarzynski, a 37-year-old Polish national who died by suicide in his cell in Cloverhill on August 26 last year, Judge Reilly said the official prison journal detailing the times he was checked did not accord with the facts.
He died by suicide in his prison cell on the day he was discharged from hospital after treatment for a broken hip and returned to Cloverhill.
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