The prisons inspections watchdog has warned that the availability of illicit drugs in Mountjoy Prison “continues to be a matter of serious concern” following the apparent accidental overdose of an inmate.
A report by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons into the circumstances of the death of an inmate in March last year found that “another prisoner witnessed the deceased in possession of illicit substances on the day of his death”.
Prisoner E was 28 when he died on March 25 last year. He had been committed to Mountjoy on January 16, 2017, and had been in prison on previous occasions. He could have been released as early as May 16, 2017, and was in a single cell at the time of his death.
Nurse records showed that on committal to the prison in January, he admitted to smoking and injecting heroin, had no thoughts of self-harm and had requested detox.
A doctor later prescribed a methadone detox programme, which began on January 19.
An officer reported that on the night he was asked by Prisoner E to pass in a book from another prisoner in the next cell.
The neighbouring prisoner told the inspector that he had seen the deceased on the day of his death “smoking heroin in another prisoner’s cell and that he had also taken tablets, upjohns”.
He also said that he knew the deceased was “smoking heroin in his cell after lockup”.
He said Prisoner E had asked him for tinfoil and that he heard Prisoner E tell the prison officer he wanted to catch up on schoolwork.
The neighbouring prisoner had placed tinfoil from a sweet wrapper between the pages of the health and safety book.
The neighbouring prisoner said: “He obviously just overdosed by accident. He didn’t mean to do it.”
Prisoner E’s family told the inspector of prisons that other prisoners had claimed to them that the deceased man was unwell in his cell between 8pm and 10.45pm that night and had asked an officer to take him to hospital but was told “there was no staff”.
However, the report said: “We found no evidence that the deceased sought or was refused medical assistance on the evening of March 25, 2017.”
It also found that the man was checked in his cell hourly in accordance with the standard operating procedures and that “the Prison staff responded promptly when the alarm was raised”.
The cause of death is a matter for the coroner but the report concluded: “The availability of drugs in Mountjoy Prison continues to be a matter of serious concern. Prison management must address this at every possible opportunity.”
It also recommended that those who complete detox programmes should be provided with immediate focussed follow-up support by the appropriate services for a specific duration as determined by the relevant professional services.
The Irish Prison Service said efforts were made on a continuous basis to prevent the flow of drugs into prisons.
A spokesman said that in addition to an Operational Screening Group at security screening areas, nets were installed over exercise yards, there was enhanced CCTV monitoring, stricter control of visits and the use of targeted and random cell searches on a daily basis, as well as drug detection dogs and airport-style security including scanners and X-ray machines.
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