Nobody charged over prisoner's death

No charges will be laid against corrections staff over the death of a prisoner in an Otago facility three years ago, according to Radio New Zealand.

Jai Davis, 30, died in a cell at Otago Corrections Facility, near Milton, of a suspected drug overdose from drugs he was smuggling into the prison. His family say his death could have been prevented if prison staff had provided him with adequate care and attention.

A three year investigation, by both Corrections and police, has concluded there was not enough evidence to lay any charges in relation to his death, Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reported. Charges including duty of care, failing to provide the necessaries of life, and manslaughter were considered, it said.

Authorities knew he was carrying drugs into prison in February 2011, because they had intercepted a phone call. It is believed he had either swallowed a pack of drugs or hidden them inside his body, the broadcaster said.

He was then put in an at-risk cell, where he was left without specialist care for two days. He died overnight on Valentine's Day 2011.

The family told RNZ they were "appalled" by the outcome, and believe there was enough evidence to prosecute.

Mr Davis' mother, Victoria, cited CCTV footage from the prison which she said shows her son in his cell, and despite it being clear he was not moving on the night of his death, he was not checked on by guards or medical staff.

"I've seen the [footage], and he hadn't been checked for hours and hours and hours. There was a pool of fluid, I thought it was blood, by his bed ... ," she told the station's Morning Report programme.

"They didn't bother trying to revive him ... rigor mortis had set in, there was no point. That should never happen."

He was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes, she said, adding it was "absolutely shoddy treatment" by the prison.

Her son had been threatened into smuggling drugs into prison by gangs, she said, because he was trying to leave gang life behind.

Mr Davis' six children were still asking where their father was, and were struggling to cope with his death, she said.

The Corrections Department, which runs the prison, said police had told them of the decision not to lay charges, RNZ reported.

The department said it passed its condolences to Mr Davis' family but it would not comment until a coroner's inquest was complete.

The coroner would now investigate the circumstances of Mr Davis' death..

- Patrice Dougan

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