Reform essential following heroin death in prison: inquest

An inquest will hear today how the tragic death of a 41-year old woman from a heroin overdose in prison highlights the need for better systems to stop drugs getting into prisons, and more programs to treat people with drug addiction. 

Tracy-Lee Brannigan died in Dillwynia Correctional Centre in February 2013, just three months before she was eligible to be released. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is representing the family of Ms Brannigan at the inquest, which starts today.

‘Tragically, the system failed Tracy Brannigan,’ said PIAC Senior Solicitor, Jane Leibowitz.

‘Ms Brannigan’s heroin addiction was well known to staff at the correctional centre – she had overdosed in custody at least three times prior to her fatal overdose. 

‘She died during a lock-in period in a ‘high needs’ cell. We understand that prisoners are routinely left in these cells without monitoring from 3.30pm until 8.15am each day. Ms Brannigan’s body was found by her cellmate at 5am on 25 February 2013.

‘Ms Brannigan’s death has been devastating for her close-knit family.

‘Corrective Services NSW needs to make better efforts to stem the supply of drugs into prisons. In the meantime, jail staff need to monitor and supervise known drug-users more effectively.

‘This means better drug detection and anti-trafficking protocols, and more training for staff in identifying signs of intoxication.

‘More broadly, there needs to be a stronger focus on therapeutic programs for people with drug addiction, rather than custodial sentences.

‘Over 80% of the population entering adult custody have a history of drug or alcohol abuse,’ said PIAC’s CEO, Edward Santow.

‘More diversionary programs for people with drug addiction, as an alternative to prison, could save lives, and also have positive flow-on effects for the whole community in reduced crime.’

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