509. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the increased number of prison deaths that have taken place in the past number of months; if she will bring forward an outcome of the investigation into these; if action needs to be taken by the prison service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20457/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): All deaths in custody are the subject of an internal investigation by the prison Governor, a Garda investigation, and a Coroners inquest is also held. In addition, all deaths in custody are also subject to an independent investigation by the Inspector of Prisons. The investigation by the Inspector of Prisons applies to prisoners who are in the custody of the Irish Prison Service, and includes those instances where the death of the prisoner has occurred outside the prison, or the prisoner in question was on temporary release at the time of death.
The Irish Prison Service has confirmed that the circumstances of each death in custody is subject to an internal review process by the suicide prevention group for the prison institution concerned. This group is chaired by the respective Prison Governors, and includes representatives from all the services across the prison estate, including medical, psychology, chaplaincy, probation, education, and prison staff. The internal review fully covers the background and circumstances of each death in custody, and its objective is to identify any possible measures which may be implemented which can contribute to a reduced risk of deaths in custody in future.
The Internal Review Reports are considered by the National Suicide and Harm Prevention Steering Group, which is chaired by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service. The Steering Group then ensures that the relevant findings of those reports are disseminated throughout the prison system.
The Inspector of Prisons has yet to report on the more recent deaths in custody. However, the Inspector will forward his reports into those deaths to me in my capacity as Minister for Justice and Equality, and these reports will be published by me in due course similar to previous death in custody reports. The Irish Prison Service has also confirmed that it will take any necessary actions identified on foot of the reports of the Inspector of Prisons and its Internal Review process.