Mentally ill inmates to receive special care, says SamudaFriday, May 14, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica— Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of National Security (MNS), Senator Matthew Samuda, says the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) will be seeking to employ a senior psychiatrist to ensure that inmates with mental illnesses are properly attended to while in state care
According to the ministry, this is part of steps being taken by to address the ''shortcomings in the country's penal institutions.''
He made the announcement during an update to the nation on the internal audit conducted by the ministry into the death of Noel Chambers, during this morning's sitting of the Senate.
Chambers was an incarcerated 81-year-old mentally ill inmate being who died in state care.
Samuda said it is important that he addresses the matter frontally given the deficiencies in the medical unit within the Human Resource Department of the DCS.
He noted that an organisational chart was prepared by the medical unit to provide a strategic roadmap to address staffing issues at the DCS.
The Ministry of Finance and the Public Service approved the organisational chart in December 2020.
“Colleagues should note that this is not necessarily an easy position to have filled but it is now on our establishment and we are seeking to have that happen,” said Samuda.
He noted that the ministry has taken steps to address some of the notable concerns previously highlighted. These include, ensuring that a master listing for the respective courts are prepared and submitted accordingly, which he said is crucial in ensuring that DCS meets its legal obligations in a timely manner.
He added that given the urgency of the situation, a Specialised Project is being undertaken in the interim and assistance from development partners to fund the project is being sought.
To treat with the issue of overcrowding, the minister said: “The MNS and DCS are currently seeking to provide for renovations, despite the lack of capital budget. An assessment of all facilities is being undertaken, to ensure a tiered approach in addressing a myriad of infrastructural concerns.”
He said in recognition of the fiscal constraint and the need to urgently address the issue, the MNS has led discourse with notable non-governmental organisations such as Missionaries of the Poor -- though those discussions are at the preliminary stage.
“I have provided updates, every time DCS has been brought in to focus for issues of national concern. I committed when this issue was raised, that we would not allow Mr Chambers' death to be a nine-day wonder or for his death to not bring about the changes so desperately required for those in our custody. That commitment still stands. I will provide a complete update on the work being done in our Correctional Facilities and indeed our programme of reform during my State of the Nation Address,” said Samuda.
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