Prisoner warned jail he would kill himself

A prisoner who repeatedly asked to be moved to a psychiatric facility so he would not kill himself was later found hanging in his cell.

The 25-year-old father of three from Co Cork died in Cork Prison on May 10 last year in an isolated unit which the Inspector of Prisons said should never house vulnerable prisoners.

The inspector, Judge Michael Reilly, said he had long had concerns about the unit. “On many of my visits over the years cells were filthy and cold,” he said. “Prisoners in this unit rarely interact with other prisoners and, for the most part, have nothing to do and are locked up for up to 23 hours a day. This is a forbidding place for vulnerable prisoners. It is not fit for purpose even for prisoners on punishment, but it should certainly not be used for vulnerable prisoners.”

Although a new prison was being built, alternative accommodation for vulnerable prisoners should be provided in the prison as a matter of urgency.

Judge Reilly’s review found the man was in the care of mental health services and had reported thoughts of hanging himself before he was committed to Cork Prison in October 2012 to serve a five-year sentence but there was no record of him being medically assessed on committal.

A week later, he was moved to Portlaoise Prison and, apart from six weeks in Cork from November to January, he stayed there until May 2013.

On April 10, his family visited him and voiced concerns about his mental state. The medical staff member who saw him later noted he frequently said: “I can’t do jail, I need to go the CMH.” The CMH is a reference to the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, Dublin.

The deceased also said a note was passed under his cell door saying “pack your kit and go on the rope” and there was evidence other prisoners bullied him.

Medical notes stated: “He has thought about it [suicide] and wants to go the CMH so that he doesn’t have to hang himself.” A CMH psychiatrist visited him two days later and said he was mildly depressed and not in need of hospitalisation.

By April 23, he was refusing his medication. On April 29, he was involved in an altercation with other inmates and on May 1 he was sent back to Cork Prison.

His family visited twice in the next few days and raised concerns about him.

He asked to be sent to the CMH on at least three other occasions. He was to be checked every 15 minutes but on May 10, he hanged himself between 2.10pm and 2.20pm.

Judge Reilly wrote: “In the case of the deceased’s journal, all of the times are appropriately ticked. However, the journals for all other prisoners in the unit for the time that the deceased was accommodated there have been similarly ticked for the exact same times. As there are no CCTV cameras in D Division I have been unable to verify the accuracy of the entries in the journal and if the necessary checks took place.”

He said that CCTV should be installed in all relevant areas in the prison.

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