Prison death 'tragic loss of life'

Last updated 11:50 14/11/2012

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A ten-time drink driver who killed himself in his cell, was let down by the Department of Corrections, a coroner has found.

Kerry Norman Joll was sentenced to 14 months in jail in March last year. He was found dead in his cell three months later.

In his finding released today, Wellington Coroner Ian Smith said Joll had a history of alcohol and drug abuse, was taking the drug moclobemide for depression, had hepatitis C, and was in the voluntary segregation section of Rimutaka Prison.

He had nine previous drink driving offences.

On entering prison he failed to disclose to prison staff he had tried to kill himself twice before.

Shortly after being admitted he was allowed to stop taking his medication on the understanding it could be restarted anytime.

He was found dead in his cell early on the morning of May 25.

In his finding, Mr Smith said it was a ''tragic loss of life'' for a man who had admitted to an alcohol problem.

''I would have expected that the prison authorities would have obtained a more extensive medical report from his general practitioner and any other medical professionals involved so that they would be enabled to have a better understanding as to how to manage a prisoner such as Mr Joll.

''Also, during that prison time I would have thought it would have been in society's and the prisoner's advantage that a rehabilitation system was undertaken, even if it involves that of a short-stay prisoner.''

The department said Mr Joll had not revealed previous suicide attempts to prison staff and prison systems relied on prisoners' honesty.

''Improving our current information systems is regarded as not worth the benefits it would bring because of cost, complexity and the proportionally few incidents it would benefit.''

Joll's GP released details to the prison he considered relevant.

''At the time Mr Joll was in prison we had no evidence to suggest there was any other information that would be relevant to the management of his health and well-being.''

Joll had refused to leave protective segregation to attend rehabilitation, which he was eligible for, Corrections said.

This issue had since been resolved.

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- The Dominion Post

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