28 Jun 2009

Prisoner's suicide was preventable, says coroner

10:37 am on 28 June 2009

A coroner has recommended that prisoners identified as being at risk should be assessed immediately, in the wake of a preventable suicide at Wanganui Prison.

The inmate, Yiyu Zhang, had served about a third of his 10-and-a-half year sentence for kidnapping and aggravated robbery when he died in April 2007.

A prison officer became concerned when she found a letter in which Zhang described his 'last wish' and arranged for him to see a nurse. When she went back to his cell some time later, he had hanged himself.

Wellington Coroner Gary Evans recommended that prisoners identified to be at risk should be assessed immediately, or held in a safe place until that can be done.

Corrections Department spokesperson Leeanne Field says generally that already happens, however in this case Zhang was not deemed to be at risk at the time of his death.

She says a review of issues regarding at-risk prisoners that began about six months ago will address the issues raised by the coroner.

The department has apologised to Zhang's family.