Watchdog hits out at lack of checks on vulnerable prisoner

The prison watchdog has criticised prison officers at Cork Prison for not carrying out regular checks on a vulnerable prisoner who was found dead in his cell last year.

Acting inspector of prisons, Helen Casey also found official prison records of times of checks on the inmate were “incorrect and misleading.”

Ms Casey reviewed CCTV footage which proved records that claimed staff checked on the man four times an hour were inaccurate.

She has subsequently warned that “prison staff must understand that it is a serious matter to generate official documents that are misleading and/or inaccurate”.

The 52-year-old married father, who was serving a six-month prison sentence, had received medical and psychiatric attention while in Cork Prison.

He died in the early hours of January 3, 2017, after he was placed under special observation in a designated Vulnerable Prisons Unit during the previous evening.

He was found unresponsive in the VPU at 23.38pm on January 2, and while the report stated staff “acted promptly when the deceased was found to be unresponsive”, he was pronounced dead at 1.20am on January 3.

However, Ms Casey reviewed CCTV footage which showed that the deceased inmate was twice left unattended for over an hour and a half on the night in question — despite standard operating procedures dictating he should have been checked on every 15 minutes.

Upon viewing the CCTV footage, Ms Casey found six intervals wherein the prisoner was left unattended for more than 15 minutes on the night he died.

The inspectors said the cause of death was a matter for a coroner.

The dead man’s family claim prison had contributed to his untimely death and said the authorities appeared to be confused over whether he was suffering from physical or mental illness.

In her recommendations arising from her investigation into the man’s death, Ms Casey found that “All prison personnel must appreciate that official documents must reflect the truth of actions taken by officers.”


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