Prison service is dysfunctional, report suggests

Opinion: Maybe it was a mistake for the British parliament to promise us home rule

‘A report by  Gráinne McMorrow SC, published earlier this month on the killing of a prisoner, Gary Douch, in Mountjoy jail suggests the prison system is  dysfunctional.’ Photograph: David Sleator

‘A report by Gráinne McMorrow SC, published earlier this month on the killing of a prisoner, Gary Douch, in Mountjoy jail suggests the prison system is dysfunctional.’ Photograph: David Sleator

Wed, May 21, 2014, 12:01

An Garda Síochána is not the only agency of the State that is dysfunctional.

A report published earlier this month by senior counsel Gráinne McMorrow on the killing of a prisoner, Gary Douch, in Mountjoy jail, suggests the prison system is also dysfunctional.

Gary Douch was serving a three-year sentence on conviction for assault causing harm. He was transferred from the Midlands Prison to Mountjoy on July 24th, 2006, and placed in cell 17 on “C” wing. A week later he asked to be moved from “C” wing because he feared he was going to be attacked by other prisoners.

Because of overcrowding in Mountjoy, Gary Douch was transferred to a holding cell in what is known as “B Base” on the evening of Monday, July 31st, 2006. Seven prisoners, including Gary Douch, ended up spending the night in the holding cell, which was never intended as an overnight accommodation facility.

Among the other prisoners in the holding cell was Stephen Egan, who had been transferred from Cloverhill Prison two days previously. He could not be accommodated otherwise in Mountjoy because he too was in danger of being attacked by other prisoners.

Stephen Egan had a history of extreme violence and mental disturbance. Over a period of 2½ years he was moved on 17 occasions from one prison to another. In November 2005, as he was being transferred between prisons, he placed his rigid metal handcuffs over the head and around the throat of a woman prison officer. In December 2005 he set fire to his cell, claiming he had visual and auditory hallucinations. There were several other such incidents and in July 2006 he was moved to the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, Dublin.

He was diagnosed there as “acutely psychotic” and he was kept in a seclusion cell because of a perceived risk of serious violence based on his prison disciplinary record.


Discharged
He was discharged from the Central Mental Hospital on July 14th, 2006, and sent to Cloverhill. There was no documented evidence that Stephen Egan was seen by any member of the psychiatric service while he was in Cloverhill, nor did he undergo the usual medical procedures on his arrival there.

A psychologist who examined him at that time, at the request of Stephen Egan’s solicitor (this had to do with an imminent court hearing on sentencing), described him as “manic”, “completely deluded” and “very unwell”. This psychological assessment was unknown to the prison authorities until many years later.

Stephen Egan’s move to Mountjoy on July 29th, 2006, was for purely operational reasons, and no consideration was given at any stage to his mental state or the threat he posed to others.

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