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Irish Examiner: 'Man crawled in cell while covered in own excrement'

10th June 2011

Writing in the Irish Examiner, Cormac O’Keeffe reports on a mentally-ill prisoner who was held in prison because there was no place for him in the Central Mental Hospital.

The prisoner, who was crawling in a safety observation cell, naked and covered in his own excrement, according to the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, who said the case was "not unique."

"The prisoner had been in the prison for six days prior to my visit. I was informed the prisoner had been in the same condition since admission to the prison."

The shortage of beds in the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) is a serious issue, and this case highlights the "urgency" of the problem. Judge Reilly was satisfied the prisoner received appropriate clinical care. He said prison staff were not trained to handle such a prisoner, adding:

"In cases ... where prisoners who should be in the CMH are detained in prisons ... it could not be said that Ireland is adhering to its obligations towards such prisoners."

Commenting, the Irish Penal Reform Trust said:

"That the inspector has found seriously mentally ill prisoners continuing to be accommodated in inappropriate settings is a national scandal of the gravest nature."

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