SUFJ welcomes release of Mental Health Inquiry Committee report

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SUFJ welcomes release of Mental Health Inquiry Committee report

Friday, October 30, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica— Human right rights group, Stand Up for Jamaica (SUFJ), says it welcomes the release of the report of the Mental Health (Offenders) Inquiry Committee.

The committee was established by Chief Justice Brian Sykes after the death of Noel Chambers came to public attention in June this year.

Chambers died in January at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre after being in prison for more than 40 years without trial, having been assessed as being unfit to plead.

The SUFJ said it is currently in the process of reviewing the report in order to assess its contents and recommendations.

“Changes are urgently needed and we seek to identify and support actions flowing from this report that would bring about needed changes in the right direction,” the group said in a statement.

“We repeat our call for a focus on preventing mentally ill people ending up in prisons. A prison environment has many characteristics that do not support recovery from mental illness, nor are prisons equipped to provide the medical, psychiatric and other care needed,” the statement added.

“People who come in conflict with the law need to be assessed quickly and the nature of any mental illness identified; they need to be diverted to other systems which are designed to give the care and support needed. This is particularly important in the case of children,” the group emphasised.

“Prevention at a national scale, especially among youngsters, needs to be set in place to allow early detection of pathologies while neglecting its screening will result in an escalation of the problem. Schools, families, too often minimise first symptoms and stigma is affecting the decision to take an immediate stand,” it said.

The SUFJ encouraged people with experiences of the existing systems to share their views and feedback.

“We continue to support measures that will improve the systems and help people who are or have been incarcerated and their families,” the SUFJ said.

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