The family of an Indigenous man who took his life at a Perth prison say their pleas for help fell on deaf ears as his mental health deteriorated.
Jomen Blanket, a Noongar and Torres Strait Islander man, was aged 30 when he was found dead in his cell at the privately-operated Acacia Prison in June 2019.
An inquest into the father-of-three’s death is set to begin in Perth on Tuesday, with his family desperate to learn what happened in his final hours.
Karen Blanket believes prison officials failed to take seriously their concerns about her son’s mental health after he told her he planned to harm himself.
“I rang up, I went out there, told them,” she told AAP.
“They said ‘he’s alright, he’s well looked after, there’s nothing to worry about’.
“He was in a care unit where it’s meant to be 24-hour care. They didn’t do their job.”
Ms Blanket said the family had only become aware during the inquest process of how many times her son had attempted to harm himself while at Acacia.
A request from Mr Blanket to spend time with his uncle, who was also incarcerated at Acacia, had been rejected, she said.
Ms Blanket described Jomen as being devoted to his two sons, now aged nine and five, and six-year-old daughter.
He had appeared in television ads for mental health services, worked for a youth support service and aspired to be a mental health worker.
“His children miss him dearly,” Ms Blanket said.
“Every day, every night they haven’t got their dad to put them into bed or wake up and go for walks to the park like they used to all the time.
“All we want is answers.”
Mr Blanket’s family is being represented at the inquest by the National Justice Project. Its principal solicitor George Newhouse said the hearing would provide an opportunity to look deeply at the issue of prisoner welfare.
“Mr Blanket’s family know how desperately he needed mental health care and treatment. They were talking to him regularly and that’s an area where they want to see change,” Mr Newhouse said.
Another Indigenous man, aged 19, took his life at Acacia in 2020.
Acacia’s private operator Serco subsequently reviewed its at-risk monitoring system and recruited additional Indigenous mental health support officers.
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