Inmate told staff he could no longer handle prison before overdose

No negative findings against Irish Prison Service or its staff in relation to man’s death

The man was found ill in his cell at the Midlands prison in Portlaoise. Photograph:  Bryan O’Brien

The man was found ill in his cell at the Midlands prison in Portlaoise. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

An inmate told prison staff he could not handle prison anymore shortly before he died from an apparent overdose.

The 45-year-old man died in March 2016 after telling prison staff he had taken all his prescribed medication for the week in one go along with some illicit substances.

At the time the prisoner was trusted enough to possess a week’s worth of his heart and anti-depression medication following a risk assessment. Every week he was given new medication and the empty packets were taken back.

Details of the circumstances leading up to man’s death are contained in a report by the acting Inspector of Prisons Helen Casey. She made no negative findings against the Irish Prison Service or its staff in relation to the death.

The man was first committed to Cloverhill Prison in June 2016 before being transferred to the Midlands four months later. He had served a number of prison terms in the past.

The prisoner told staff he was on medication following a heart attack in 2015 but that he did not always take it.

According to his medical records, he also told staff he had a history of alcohol and depression. He said he had spent some time as a hospital in-patient but that he “feels okay at present, denying any thoughts of self harm”.

He had a good rapport with staff and fellow prisoners and was described as a “quiet man” who “attended school occasionally but didn’t engage with any services”.

Later in 2016, it was noted he was not taking his medication regularly and he promised doctors he would start taking it again.

In November, he told a doctor he was worried about his upcoming court case but denied thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

In January 2017, he appeared to get worse. He reported feeling “very stressed and agitated especially at night time” and was given medication to help him relax. His medical file showed his sister had died the previous week.

He said he felt paranoid that people were talking about him and his family and that he was worried about his sons. He again denied thoughts of self harm.

On the afternoon of March 6th, 2017 the man’s cellmate saw him with tablets. The cellmate later informed prison staff the man was ill.

The prison nurses found him sitting on the side of the bed “trembling”. The man told a nurse he “wanted to end his life” and that he couldn’t “cope with prison anymore.”

He admitted taking prescibed medicine and sleeping tablets. He was admitted to the Midlands Hospital where he died later that evening.

During the investigation into his death the deceased’s family members asked the inspector how he had access to the medication. Ms Casey replied: “According to Prison Medical Records the deceased was risk assessed by Prison Doctors and deemed suitable to be in possession of his medication.”

Ms Casey found prison staff reacted promptly after the alarm was raised. She also praised the man’s cellmate “for taking prompt action in alerting the Class Officer when he became aware that the deceased was unwell.”

*If you are affected by any of the issues raised, you can contact Pieta House at 1800-247247, or Samaritans by phoning 116123 for free, texting 087-2609090 or emailing jo@samaritans.ie