jail fatalities | 

Number of prison deaths this year almost double that in 2021, new figures show

Minister McEntee confirmed that since 2012, a total of 106 prisoners have died in prison with an additional 66 dying while on temporary release

Another high profile prison death this year was that of Sameer Syed

Gordon DeeganSunday World

The number of prisoners to die in Irish jails to date this year at 15 is almost double the total of eight prison deaths for the 12 months of 2021, new figures show.

The 15 to have died in prison so far this year include Robert O’Connor (34) of Snowdrop Walk, Darndale, north Dublin who passed away in hospital in early August, a number of days after he was attacked by other inmates at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin.

Mr O’Connor’s death is now the subject of a Garda murder investigation.

Another high profile prison death this year was that of Sameer Syed (38) of Grosvenor Lodge, Rathmines, Dublin 6 in June.

Mr Syed was found dead in his cell at the Midlands prison one week before he was due to stand trial for the murder of his wife, Seema Banu (37) and their children, Asfira Riza, (11), and Faizan Syed, (6) in October 2020.

All deaths in prison are the subject of investigations by the Inspector of Prisons, who publishes reports on its findings that also include recommendations.

In figures provided by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD (FG) to Deputy Peadar Tóibín (Aontú), the Minister confirmed that in addition to the 15 deaths to have occurred in prison this year, one other prisoner died on temporary release.

Minister McEntee confirmed that since 2012, a total of 106 prisoners have died in prison with an additional 66 dying while on temporary release. A further two deaths occurred of prisoners during that period who were unlawfully at large.

In the annual figures provided by Minister McEntee, there was only one other year where 15 deaths in custody were recorded and that was seven years ago, in 2015.

The total of 15 for the first eight and a half months this year compares to eight last year, eight in 2020, 14 in 2019, nine in 2018, 10 in 2017, five in 2016, 15 in 2015, eight in 2014, nine in 2013 and five in 2012.

Inquests are pending in 51 of the 106 prison deaths but where cause has been determined, the figures show that 15 deaths took place due to suicide.

Eighteen deaths occurred due to natural causes while misadventure was the cause of 11 deaths.

‘Unlawful killing’ was the cause of just one death while ‘open verdicts’ were recorded in six deaths with narrative verdicts recorded in four deaths.

In her written Dail reply to Deputy Tóibín, Minister McEntee stated that since April 2012, all deaths in custody are also subject to an independent investigation by the Inspector of Prisons.

Minister McEntee stated: “Further, the Prison Service has a robust, internal review mechanism which assesses the circumstances of a death in custody, highlights accountability and actions taken in relation to the incident, and outlines lessons learned.”

She added: “This outcome review is reported to the Irish Prison Service National Suicide and Harm Prevention Steering Group, which is chaired by the Director General.”

Minister McEntee also stated that the circumstances of each death in custody and incident of self-harm are also examined by a suicide prevention group in each institution.

She wrote: “The groups are chaired by the Prison Governor and include representatives from the various services including; Prison Doctor, Psychiatry, Psychology, Chaplaincy, Probation, Education, and Prison staff.

Minister McEnee said: “The Groups are required to meet quarterly, or more often if necessary. Their examinations fully cover the background and circumstances of each death.

"Their objective is to identify, where possible, measures which might be implemented to contribute to a reduction in the risk of deaths in the future.”

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