Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe says much more needs to be done to prevent the trading of drugs in the North’s jails.
She made the comments after publishing her report into the death of a Derry man who died of poisoning after taking a range of drugs in Maghaberry Prison in June last year.
Patrick Duffy (49), from Rosemount, was on a range of prescription drugs for medical problems during his time in prison.
It is believed he died after trading some of his tablets for other drugs.
The day before his death he was given 63 different tablets, but only two were found in his cell after his death.
Mr Duffy’s body was discovered in his Foyle House cell shortly after midnight on June 23, 2011, ahead of a court appearance that morning.
“His cellmate reported that Mr Duffy was looking forward to leaving the prison to be with his partner and family,” the Ombudsman added.
“No evidence was found that Mr Duffy intended to die.”
Mrs McCabe has criticised the management of prescription drugs within the prison service.
She said: “It is fundamental that prescription medication is supplied safely with careful and continuous monitoring of any risks of misuse or particular vulnerabilities associated with the individual.
“A failure to do so only serves to compound the problems associated with the availability and use of illicit drugs.”
The ombudsman also said she was concerned about the availability of illegal drugs within prisons.
“The Prison Service needs to be much more effective in dealing with drug trading and misuse, in addition to the associated culture of bullying created by such practices,” she said.
“Curbing the supply of drugs is highly dependent upon reducing demand and it is therefore essential that greater priority is given to purposeful regimes and therapeutic interventions.”
Mrs. McCabe’s report reveals that Mr. Duffy had been in prison before and had a long and complex medical history.
Prison medical records from 2008 state that he had suicidal thoughts, had deliberately injured himself on a number of occasions, and had a history of drug and alcohol abuse.
During his two months in Maghaberry, Mr Duffy had two episodes of self-harming, periods of supervised medication and failed a drugs test.
In spite of that history, he was assessed as suitable to have possession of his weekly supply of prescription medication.
In a statement, Justice Minister David Ford expressed his sympathy to Mr Duffy’s family.
“This tragic case underlines the importance of the effective management of the use of prescription drugs within a prison setting,” he said.
The minister said the report identified a number of areas of concern for both the South Eastern Trust, which has responsibility for health care within prisons, and the Prison Service.
He said a number of steps had been taken to address the concerns raised.