Inquest into Wollongong mum's jail overdose

Tracy Brannigan, pictured alongside her son, died in prison in February 2013.
Tracy Brannigan, pictured alongside her son, died in prison in February 2013.

A former Sydney prisoner broke down while giving a harrowing account of finding her heroin-addicted cellmate dead against a wall.

Tracy Lee Brannigan, of Wollongong, died of an overdose inside her "high needs" cell at Dillwynia Women's Correctional Centre, on Sydney's outskirts.

The 41-year-old died between the afternoon of February 24, 2013, and the following morning - during a 17-hour lockdown period when officers had next to no contact with inmates.

An inquest is examining whether Corrective Services NSW and Justice Health breached their duty of care by putting her in the unsupervised cell.

It's also examining whether the long-term addict, who'd had at least three previous overdoses in custody, was given adequate treatment.

Former Dillwynia inmate Lauren Ironside told Downing Centre Local Court on Wednesday she'd witnessed Brannigan injecting heroin during the three weeks the pair shared the high-risk cell, and joined in once.

Brannigan had been moved to the cell after returning a "dirty urine" sample to authorities.

Ms Ironside said the morning before Brannigan's death the convicted Wollongong drug dealer took three Rivotril pills, which are used to treat epilepsy.

Brannigan was clearly "off her face" the entire day and when she returned to the cell for lockdown at 3.30pm, she said.

Ms Ironside also took two Rivotril pills that Brannigan gave her - but they made her drowsy, and she slept through the afternoon and evening.

Ms Ironside was adamant she had no heroin even though it was found in her system the next day.

She cried as she described how she woke around 4am and saw Brannigan slumped against the wall, her head between her legs.

"I tried to give her mouth to mouth, but she was cold and stiff," she said.

An autopsy found fresh track marks on Brannigan's left hand and officers discovered syringes hidden in a shampoo bottle inside the cell.

Earlier, director of Women in Prison Advocacy Network Kat Armstrong said Brannigan was "obviously intoxicated" on an opiate and perhaps prescription medication when she visited the afternoon before her death.

She begged her to stop, and was so worried she "alluded" to two officers that Brannigan was using.

The court heard Brannigan had repeatedly refused treatment from Justice Health since 2010, and came off her methadone program against advice. AAP