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Checks on vulnerable prisoners must take place - Martin Kenny TD

19 July, 2019 - by Martin Kenny TD

Sinn Féin Justice spokesman, Martin Kenny TD has said that despite the best efforts of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons, vulnerable prisoners with mental health issues are not being checked every 15 minutes, as the Irish Prison Service “special observations” stipulate.

Some are also not being categorised as “vulnerable” when they should be.

Deputy Kenny was speaking after an inquest returned a verdict of suicide on 45-year-old Vytas Lemnickis in Cork prison.

The man, who lived in Kerry, died in January 2018 after spending less than four hours in prison, where he was for the first time.

Deputy Kenny said:

“Just last month, the Inspector of Prisons, Ms Patricia Gilheaney, had made a hard-hitting statement about her office’s recommendations being ignored in relation to the care of vulnerable prisons with mental health issues.

“On that occasion Ms Gilheaney was referring to the death of a man, known only as Prisoner G, in Limerick prison, who also had not been checked every 15 minutes and who had died by suicide in his cell in 2017.

“The Inspector called for zero tolerance for this occurrence and called for disciplinary action to be taken when the proper procedure is not followed. At that time, the Irish Prison Service pledged to ‘put in place an action plan to resolve all of the recommendations’ of the Inspector.

“Clearly this has not happened and now we have another vulnerable individual dying by suicide and leaving his family bereaved. While in the Cork case, it seems that prison staff were not aware of the fragile state of the prisoner’s mental health, evidence at the inquest was that when the day was busy, such checks were “overlooked.

“This attitude and lack of care for the vulnerable in circumstances that are so stressful and distressing for many first-time prisoners, must change and prison staff must be given the necessary resources to do what is right by these prisoners."

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