herald

Friday 15 December 2017

86 prisoners died in custody in last 10 years

Frances Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald

EIGHTY-SIX prisoners have died while in the custody of the Irish Prison Service (IPS) over the past 10 years, it has been revealed.

Of these, 15 have been determined as death by suicide, according to records held by the Department of Justice and Equality.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has pointed to systemic issues in prisons and called for the recommendations of a report on deaths in prison custody to be implemented.

The figures were released this week by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald in response to a parliamentary question from Galway West TD Brian Walsh.

Since 2012, the death of any prisoner in custody or on temporary release is subject to independent investigation by the Inspector of Prisons.

Each prison also has a Local Suicide Prevention Group that examines the circumstances of each death with a view to preventing the recurrence of such incidents.

Ms Fitzgerald said these groups meet quarterly and their examinations cover fully the background and circumstances of each death.

However, Fiona Ni Chinneide, the IPRT's deputy executive director, said systemic issues had been identified that contributed to the number of prison deaths.

Risk

Operating procedures dictate that prisoners considered to be at risk of suicide should be placed under special observation and checked every 15 to 20 minutes.

"It is crucial that the Inspector of Prison's recommendations are implemented in full across the prison system, and not only in those prisons where individual deaths occurred, so that potential future deaths can be avoided," said Ms Ni Chinneide.

hnews@herald.ie

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