A MOUNTJOY prisoner was found hanging in his cell less than 24 hours after making an escape attempt.
The man, named by a source as Christopher White, died last night, hours after he was returned to prison after trying to flee from the Mater Hospital where he had undergone treatment for a number of days.
An investigation into his death has been launched, amid reports that overcrowding is at its worst ever level at the country's biggest jail. Last night, 709 people were incarcerated there -- 169 more than the jail officially accommodates.
A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service (IPS) confirmed this morning that the inmate died in tragic circumstances at the Mater Hospital last night. White had been on life support throughout yesterday, the Herald understands.
"An investigation into the death will be conducted by the Prison Service and the gardai will be notified. There will also be an inquest into the man's death, as is standard practice," the IPS spokesman added.
White was an in-patient at the Mater Hospital last week and made an attempt to flee from the hospital on Saturday morning, but was apprehended by staff.
He was returned to Mountjoy but at 2.30am on Sunday morning, he was discovered by prison officers hanging from a ligature. They managed to cut him down within seconds -- but he had already sustained critical injuries.
White was then taken from his cell on the A3 wing and rushed to the hospital where he died from his injuries at 6pm yesterday.
The population of Mountjoy was 709 last night, despite assertions made by the Inspector of Prisons that to operate in safety it should not exceed 540.
The numbers at Mountjoy exceeded 700 throughout last week, the Herald understands.
A source told the Herald that the "chronic overcrowding" was contributing to heightened tensions and increased desperation at Ireland's busiest prison.
"Prisoner numbers are out of control and it's leading to anxiety and desperation among prisoners," a source said.
"The situation needs to change and fast.
"Prison officers had this man under observation following the incident on Saturday morning and came agonisingly close to saving his life, their actions were all the more impressive given their complete lack of resources."
Anecdotal stories of prisoners sleeping on the floor of the processing area of the prison are becoming more and more frequent as prisoner numbers continue to escalate.
Sources in Mountjoy have said that many inmates are sleeping on benches in large communal cells, in offices and the reception area at the jail and in shower areas in the basement of the prison.
"In some cases there have been so many in a cell that there is not even room for them all to lie on the floor so some prisoners have had to sleep sitting up," said one source.
Prisoners still suffer the indignity of having to slop out each morning because there are no toilet facilities in cells.
The Herald revealed on Saturday that preparatory work would begin this month on the new 'super prison' at Thornton Hall in Swords, which will replace Mountjoy with a capacity of 2,200.
The facility is not expected to open until the beginning of 2015 at the very earliest.