Rights group seeks release of two elderly inmates

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Rights group seeks release of two elderly inmates

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Stand Up for Jamaica (SUFJ) says, in keeping with its commitment to identify and advocate for inmates who have been deemed unfit to plead, it has singled out two inmates whose cases require urgent attention.

This comes after a report from the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) revealed that 81-year-old Noel Chambers died in custody after 40 years without a trial.

According to the organisation, the first inmate is a 68-year-old man who was charged for murder on October 28, 1970 when he was 22 years old.

SUFJ said the inmate, who has been behind bars for 48 years, is currently not receiving treatment and is not scheduled for court. It also noted that the inmate is not being assessed for his fitness to plea.

The second inmate was deemed unfit to plead in 1976 after being charged for two counts of murder. He is currently 61 years old.

In a statement, the organisation said, “SUFJ has sought the services of human rights attorney Isat Buchanan to file the necessary applications to have the two inmates transferred to the jurisdiction of the court; as well as to write to the Director of Public Prosecutions as it regards the intention of the office to continue a case against them.”

“Mr Buchannan will also ask the court to order an immediate psychiatric evaluation of the men and make requests for their compassionate release,” the statement added.

SUFJ said it welcomes the establishment of the Mental Health Task Force by the Chief Justice Brian Sykes.

The organisation urged the Chief Justice to give the cases priority review in light of the age of the men and the period of time which they have been behind bars without any action from the courts.

“SUFJ will seek a meeting with the Chief Justice to discuss the specifics of these and other cases. We will also share with the Chief Justice our research report “Through the Cracks”, launched in October of last year, which addresses the issue of mental illness behind bars. One of the key recommendations of the report was for the establishment of mental health courts and we will strongly advocate for this in our meeting with Justice Sykes,” the statement read.

SUFJ said the names have been withheld to protect the privacy of the inmates and their families.

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