Coronial inquest: Lake Macquarie man takes his own life at Parklea Correctional Centre

Parklea Correctional Centre.
Parklea Correctional Centre.

A CORNER has recommended Parklea Correctional Centre remove all “hanging points” after a Lake Macquarie man died by suicide in his cell in 2014.

The inmate, who can only be referred to as P, was found dead in his cell at 3.15pm on February 25, 2014, a few hours after a distressing phone call to his partner, during which he threatened to take his own life and said he “couldn’t deal with it”, according to findings published on Friday. 

A coronial inquest held in Glebe Coroner’s Court last month explored a number of significant issues relating to P’s death, including whether he should have been considered a suicide risk upon entry into the prison and what steps were still necessary to remove or reduce the risk of inmates taking their own lives. 

P, who was 42 at the time of his death and grew up in Toronto, appeared in Newcastle Local Court on February 14, 2014, charged with a number of property offences. He was granted bail, but was unable to meet one of the conditions and remained in custody.

He was moved to cells at another courthouse and then a correctional centre before being transferred to Parklea Correctional Centre on February 20, 2014.

Upon arrival, P told a registered nurse he had no history of mental health issues, self-harm or suicide. 

But after a distressing phone call to his partner at 12.40pm on February 25, 2014, P went back to his cell and ended his own life. 

Deputy State Coroner Magistrate Harriet Grahame found P’s death was self-inflicted, but found correctional staff could not have known his intentions. 

“P’s death was unforeseen by those entrusted with his care,” Ms Grahame said. 

“I accept that his decision to take his own life was sudden and unexpected. 

“Sitting alone in his cell, ruminating on the breakdown of his relationship appears to have caused him profound despair.”

Ms Grahame said had P not been able to take his own life “so easily”, he may have survived until he was released back into the common area later that day. 

“P is not the only prisoner to have died in these circumstances,” Ms Grahame said. “Urgent action must be taken to improve conditions at Parklea and elsewhere.” 

Ms Grahame recommended urgent funding be provided to redesign the cells at Parklea Correctional Centre, which is privately operated by GEO Group. 

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