Cyprus Mail

Questions over latest prison suicide

By Peter Stevenson
AUTHORITIES yesterday promised an investigation into whether a mentally-disturbed convict who hanged himself in his cell on Thursday morning should have been incarcerated in prison at all.
The 27-year-old who beat his sister to death with a laptop at their Latsia home in January 2012, hitting her more than 50 times over the head during an argument, was jailed for 12 years for manslaughter.
The family – a quadriplegic mother, her daughter the victim who had a congenital condition limiting mobility to her lower limbs, and the killer son – were all under psychiatric observation and were receiving help from social services.
At the time, the Cyprus Mail learned that the brother had stopped seeing his psychiatrist and taking his medication six months previously.
The Justice Ministry was due to receive a report later yesterday on the 27-year-old’s suicide. The report will include the convict’s medical history from prison psychiatrist Louis Kariolou.
A second report is due on Monday regarding the mini-riot which erupted following the discovery of the 27-year-old’s body at around 7.30am by prison guards. He had used his bed sheets to hang himself.
“We cannot remain inactive when we see people ending their lives in prison,” Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said.
The minister said he had asked prison boss Giorgos Tryfonides to prepare a report about the suicide and the incident which followed.
“I have also asked for the report on the suicide to include a report from the prison doctor who was observing him [the prisoner] and the manner with which the prison psychiatrist was treating him. Generally I would like to see what kind of situation existed and what state of health the convict was in and if he was taking his medication,” Nicolaou said.
“If, for example, the doctor’s report says that he shouldn’t have been in jail because he might commit suicide then that means we need to look into the subject further,” Nicolaou said.
Speaking of the previous suicide less than a month ago, when a 42-year-old man awaiting trial for arson also hanged himself, Nicolaou said the authorities would look closely at both deaths.
Kariolou had remarked on local TV channel Sigma earlier yesterday that the prison system needed modernising to deal with the new circumstances people are going through like the economic crisis.
In response Nicolaou said the Cabinet had decided to put together a committee of specialists who would look into modernising the prisons.
Tryfonides said a disciplinary investigation would be carried out to establish if the latest suicide could have been prevented, and commenting on the ensuing incident, he added: “Troubles often flare up, especially after something like this but order was restored,” he said.
According to reports three prisoners and three prison guards were injured during the trouble. The prisoners had suffered burns and respiratory problems following the use of tear gas by guards, according to the governor.
“Whenever an incident occurs at the central prisons it gives the other prisoners an excuse to air their grievances but it is not the right time to solve any problems,” Tryfonides said.

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