Prisons remove electric kettles, metal shower heads from cells following Topaz suicide

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
August 23, 2009 23:48
2 minute read.

 
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The probe set up by the Prisons Service to examine the circumstances surrounding the suicide of entertainer Dudu Topaz began in earnest on Sunday, amid increasing public criticism and leaks surrounding alleged instances of failures within the service. The investigation led by Lt.-Warden Ofra Klinger is not expected to draw personal conclusions regarding poor performance, but rather to focus on organizational failures that led to the one-time television star's hanging death on Thursday in the shower stall of his cell at the Nitzan Detention Facility. In response to criticism heard immediately after Topaz hanged himself using an electric kettle cord and the shower fixture, the Prisons Service replaced all similar electric kettles with cordless varieties, and metal shower heads are being replaced with plastic ones that officials hope will break should anyone try to hang themselves on them. Shortly after the service began an urgent effort to change protocols following Topaz's death, MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) mocked Chief Warden Benny Kaniak, accusing him of making hasty, illogical and insensitive decisions. "It is fortunate for prisoners that Topaz did not hang himself by his pants, because otherwise, the chief warden would have told prisoners that they are forbidden to wear pants," the lawmaker said. Ben-Ari complained that shower faucets had been removed even from cell blocks in which there was no likelihood of suicide among the prisoners, saying Kaniak had simply downgraded the basic living conditions of his prisoners. The MK requested an urgent hearing in the Knesset Interior Affairs Committee to discuss Kaniak's decisions. The Prisons Service probe is expected to focus not only on the officers on duty at the time, but also to the four prisoners who shared Topaz's cell. Although the diabetic Topaz had attempted to kill himself with an overdose of insulin shortly after his arrest, the psychiatrist who assessed him afterwards reportedly wrote that he did not believe that Topaz was likely to attempt suicide a second time. The probe is expected to include an overall review of procedures regarding prisoners who have expressed suicidal tendencies. The Prisons Service has already issued orders to have officials guard the shower stalls of suicidal prisoners, while psychologists will have to carry out more thorough probes to check whether prisoners have suicidal tendencies. Among criticisms leveled against the service in recent days were new allegations on Sunday that a door between the beds in Topaz's cell and the showers enabled him to carry out the suicide without being noticed.

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