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Treatment of sick inmates in focus after death by heart attack of 65-year-old prisoner

Criticisms are contained in a report into the death of a 65-year-old man at the prison last year.

Image: prison cell image via Shutterstock

A REPORT HAS criticised the Irish Prison Service’s treatment of older or sick inmates after a number of men at Midlands Prison were reduced to standard regimes to meet targets.

The criticisms are contained in an Inspector of Prisons report into the death of a 65-year-old man at the prison last year.

He collapsed in his cell on the morning of 5 September and was attended to by prison medical staff before being taken to Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise. Here, he was pronounced dead a short time later.

The report by judge Michael Reilly found staff responded quickly and that, due to the severity of the man’s cardiac disease, he would have been “predisposed to the risk of sudden death at any time”.

However Reilly raised concerns about a complaint the man had made in May about losing his ’enhanced incentivised regime’ status in the prison, which is given to prisoners who participate in education, training and other activities.

The 65-year-old was reduced to a standard regime because he was deemed “unfit for work”.

He stated in the complaint that he was unwell and his walking was impaired. He said his lack of involvement was solely and completely due to his ill health. The man asked the prison service to reconsider his status because “the one thing that keeps me going are my two phone calls each day”.

“I have been informed that no investigation file exists, that no statements were taken and that no letters of findings issued to the complainant/deceased or to any other party,” Reilly in his report.

He said he understood management in many prisons, including Midlands Prison, had been advised to reduce numbers of inmates on enhanced regimes.

“It would seem that the reduction in status of the deceased and many more old and infirm prisoners on the same landing and at the same time had more to do with this advice from IPS Headquarters than from consideration of the deceased’s and other prisoners’ particular circumstances”.

The report said the man was entitled to have his complaint investigated and to be provided with “answers to his legitimate queries”.

“Old and infirm prisoners are, in many cases, unable to engage in the structured activities, education, work/training and or offender programmes as envisaged in the scheme referred to above. It is not their fault.

Therefore, it would appear to me that they are being discriminated against because of their age and/or infirmity.”

Read: Search begins for new officers with “tolerance and humanity” to work in Irish prisons>

Read: Prisoner left out in prison yard overnight alleges discrimination against Travellers>

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