INDECOM raises concerns about treatment of mentally ill in prison

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INDECOM raises concerns about treatment of mentally ill in prison

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is raising fresh concerns about the treatment of mentally ill persons in prison.

Using the case of Noel Chambers, who was incarcerated at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in February 1980, and who died recently after spending 40 years in prison without being tried, head of INDECOM Terrence Williams told a media briefing a short while ago that action must be taken immediately to address this issue.

Williams noted that the Department of Correctional Services is reporting that there are 146 mentally ill inmates who are now in prison without being convicted, with at least nine now fit to plead.

“The situation of mentally ill persons detained in prisons, and in particular those deemed unfit to plead, is a matter which should be concerning to all parties responsible for the care, detention and safeguarding of citizens in the custody of the State,” said Williams.

“The cases highlighted, and the wider situation, is indicative of a disregard for local legislation and human rights conventions which are unambiguous in the matter,” added Williams.

He said INDECOM is recommending several changes that are in keeping with local and international legislation on the matter, and to address the root causes of the issues.

Among the recommendations are:

  • The passing of legislation that persons held at the Governor General's pleasure be automatically held at the court's pleasure. The onus should not be on the detainee to apply for this change;
  • An examination by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of all the cases for those unfit to plead to determine whether or not there is still a viable prosecution available against these accused persons;
  • Putting systems in place to ensure the timely review of unfit to plead cases, such as the establishment of a review board, to ensure reenlisting by the court when the inmate may be fit to plead;
  • The reinstatement of the forensic psychiatric ward of Bellevue Hospital or the establishment of a similar type of facility to house those deemed unfit to plead. Such an institution should be properly staffed with varying specialists and areas for recreation designated, all of which will aid in the treatment provided;
  • The hiring of full-time psychiatrists and nurses to ensure adequate treatment is administered and the duty of care upheld; thorough training of correctional officers to lend support to the psychiatric staff;
  • Where there is no family forthcoming to assume responsibility, strict care ought to be taken by the correctional staff to ensure the correction rules are followed; and
  • Upon their release there should be a written apology by the State and compensation awarded for the breach of their constitutional rights. In the event of death these remedies should be awarded to the family.

Arthur Hall

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