The mum of a young Aboriginal man who died in a Perth prison on Friday begged to help him due to welfare concerns weeks before he was found dead in his cell.
In an emotional press conference on Tuesday morning, Laura Cound revealed she contacted the Aboriginal Visitor’s Scheme two weeks before her son – 22-year-old Ricky Lee Cound – died because she was concerned for his welfare.
She further alleged prison officers ignored her son’s pleas to go into crisis care on the day of his death.
Ms Cound said the prison’s superintendent did not return her calls and previous calls for help had fallen on deaf ears.
“My boy died in custody and I was crying out for help,” she said.
“I am wild, I am angry, we need someone in the jails to look after our people.
“He was in their getting punished and nothing else.
“I already buried my eldest daughter, now I am burying my baby son and he could have been saved,” she said.
Ms Cound said she had last seen her son on news coverage of the Acacia Prison riot, where he was one of the prisoners who climbed on to the roof.
She said it was now up to WA Premier Mark McGowan to bring justice for her son.
“There was a lack of duty of care,” she said.
“He was in his cell pressing that button (for help) again and again.
“I want the Premier to answer us – we want him at this table to talk to us.”
Mr Cound’s partner, Bethany McShane, was the last person outside prison to speak with him before his death.
She said Mr Cound had been hurting himself and crying out for help following the Acacia Prison riot.
“All they did was put him in a dress, chain him up and make him sleep like that,” she said.
Ngalla Maya Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Mervyn Eades said Mr Cound’s death was preventable.
“They were aware that this boy was not travelling well,” he said.
“Listen to the Aboriginal members of the (suicide prevention) taskforce. You have blood on your hands as far as I am concerned.”
Mr Eades in early March wrote to Corrective Services urging action to reduce the risk of suicide in Western Australia’s prisons, particularly in Acacia.
On Saturday the Department of Justice issued a statement confirming the death of a young man.
A Department of Justice spokesperson told The West Australian “all of the circumstances of the recent death of a prisoner at Hakea Prison are being investigated by the WA Police Force and will be the subject of a Coronial Inquest, and as such it is not appropriate to comment further.”
More than 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody brought down its findings and recommendations in 1991.
- Lifeline 13 11 14