Manitoba

Inquest begins into prison suicides

A Stony Mountain Institution inmate expressed suicidal thoughts numerous times to prison officials before he was found dead in his cell, an inquest heard Tuesday.

Inmate Dwayne Flett frequently spoke of suicide

An inquest has begun into the suicide deaths of two inmates at Stony Mountain Institution.

Dwayne Flett expressed suicidal thoughts numerous times to Stony Mountain Institution officials before he was found dead in his cell, an inquest heard Tuesday. 

Flett was found during routine cell check, April 15, 2015. He appeared to have died by hanging. 

The 32 year-old had been in custody at Stony Mountain Institution since May 2011 on charges of sexual assault and sexual interference.

An inquest is mandatory in cases where someone dies in custody. The purpose of an inquest is to examine what, if anything, can be done to prevent similar deaths in the future.

Josh Beatty, Flett's parole officer, likened Flett's intellectual capacity to that of a five to 10-year-old and said he had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. He was housed in the supportive living range of the prison.

Beatty told the inquest Tuesday Flett's "coping skills were very limited."  

Talk of suicide taken '100 percent' seriously

"When he would become frustrated or emotionally upset, at times he would resort to self-harm, threats to others or threats to his own safety." 

Nevertheless Flett's claims of "suicidal ideation" were all treated as "100 per cent serious," resulting in him being transferred to a psychological observation unit on multiple occasions.

According to Beatty, Flett often owed money to other inmates, did not know how he could pay it back and feared he would be assaulted. "Many discussions I would have with him in observation … he would state he was suicidal because he wanted to get off the range," Beatty said. 

Suicide may have been a very viable alternative, from his point of view.- Judge Brian Corrin

"Even after hearing that, he would still have to meet regularly with the psychologist or mental health professional … and it would be up to them to determine if he was released from observation."

Flett's choices 'very slim'

"Mr. Flett was an individual who incurred a lot of debt on the range or when he wanted specific things, and was told no, he would say that he was going to self-harm or that he was going to hang himself," Beatty told the inquest.

Judge Brian Corrin suggested Flett may have felt cornered. "So the choices were pretty slim: either get [off the range] or be badly beaten, perhaps," Corrin said.

"Absolutely, that's very possible," Beatty agreed.

"So suicide may have been a very viable alternative, from his point of view, since he had a child-like mind," Corrin said. 

The inquest will also hear testimony in the death of Stony Mountain inmate Devon Sampson. Sampson, 34, was found dead in his cell on Nov. 23, 2013. Like Flett, Sampson also appeared to have died by hanging. 

The inquest resumes Wednesday.

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