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The Detail.TV: Concerns raised over scale of prison deaths across the island of Ireland

19th December 2016

Articles by Claire Smyth today on TheDetail.TV and in the Irish Times raise concern over the scale of prison deaths across the island of Ireland.

A total of 173 prisoners died while serving sentences across the island of Ireland during the last decade.

There were 129 deaths in the Republic, where nearly one-third of inmates died while finishing their sentences in the community on temporary release.

Northern Ireland prisons recorded 44 deaths.

In an interview recorded recently by TheDetail.TV with the the late Republic of Ireland Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, which his family has agreed should be published, he said:

Prisoners only forfeit their right to freedom.

"They don’t forfeit all of the rest of the rights members of society have – these rights are human rights which have been guaranteed by the international community.

"It’s very difficult to be dogmatic on how you can reduce deaths in custody, but obviously prison managers and personnel in prisons must be vigilant and there must be a sharing of information in prisons about vulnerable people.”

TheDetail.TV article 'Temporary release inmates account for nearly a third of all prison deaths in the Republic of Ireland' finds a third of the prisoners who died in the Republic of Ireland over the past 10 years were finishing their sentences in the community at the time of their death. Of the 129 inmates who died south of the Irish border since January 2007, 42 were on temporary release.

Fíona Ní Chinnéide, acting Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, was quoted in the article as saying:

One death in the care of the state is one too many, and a death in prison is traumatic to staff and other prisoners, along with the prisoner’s family and friends.

"There should be supports in place for families, prison staff and other prisoners affected by the death, and greater awareness among media of the impact of news reports on grieving families who have lost their family member”.

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