457. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice the number of deaths that have occurred among prisoners in the Midlands prison in each of the years from 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021; the cause of death in each case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55602/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): The information relating to the number of deaths that have occurred among prisoners in the Midlands Prison from 2016 to date is set out in the table below.
All deaths in custody are the subject to a Garda investigation and an inquest held in a Coroner's Court. The cause of death is determined by a jury on the basis of the information presented to the Coroner’s Court. As the Deputy can see from the table in the majority of cases listed below the inquest is still pending.
The Deputy will also be aware that since April 2012 all deaths in custody are subject to an independent investigation by the Inspector of Prisons.
The Irish Prison Service also 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. This outcome review is reported to the Irish Prison Service National Suicide and Harm Prevention Steering Group, which is chaired by the Director General.
The circumstances of each death in custody and incident of self-harm are also examined by a suicide prevention group in each institution. The groups are chaired by the Prison Governor, and include representatives from the various services: Doctor, Psychiatry, Psychology, Chaplaincy, Probation, Education, and Prison staff. 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.
I believe that it is important to note that the age profile of those in custody in the Midlands prison is higher than the average prisoner population profile.
In their most recent State report, the Council of Europe Committee on the Prevention of Torture acknowledged the progress that has been made in the delivery of health care in Irish prisons since the 2014 visit. The delegation found very good access to health care in prisons and noted that the carers employed at Midlands Prison to assist the older population of prisoners were very good, displaying genuine warmth and affection towards their charges.
Table 1. Deaths in custody, Midlands Prison, 2016 - 2021

Year No. of Deaths in Custody Cause of Death - as determined by Coroner
2021 to date 2 Inquest pending in both cases
2020 0 N/A
2019 4 Inquest pending in all cases
2018 3 Inquest pending in all cases
2017 2 Natural Causes Inquest pending
2016 1 Natural Causes
Total 12