Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans want men­tally ill re­moved from prison

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter

EN­RAGED PAR­LIA­MEN­TAR­I­ANS are de­mand­ing that the Govern­ment find the re­sources to im­me­di­ately re­move from Ja­maica’s max­i­mum se­cu­rity prisons 127 men­tally ill in­mates lan­guish­ing in cus­tody and un­fit to plead.

Yes­ter­day, mem­bers of Par­lia­ment’s Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee (PAAC) de­scribed as a dis­grace the dis­clo­sure from Ina Hunter, com­mis­sioner of cor­rec­tions, who also said that “sev­eral” have been in­car­cer­ated for more than a decade.

“Those that are un­fit to plea would not have got a de­ter­mi­nate sen­tence, and they would have had to at­tain a men­tal state where they can de­liver them­selves in the court,” Hunter said, not­ing that the

Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices (DCS) can­not re­lease in­mates, and the lack of fam­ily sup­port makes it even more dif­fi­cult.

“They would be taken back to court, and a de­ter­mi­na­tion could be made to send them home, but there’s no fam­ily sup­port in many in­stances,” she added.

The in­mates, who are housed separately at the Tower Street Adult Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre in Kingston and the St Cather­ine Adult Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre, are sep­a­rated from the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion of more than 3,000.

Hunter said that treat­ment has been limited and that the au­thor­i­ties have been look­ing for al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Mean­while, Dianne McIn­tosh, per­ma­nent sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Na­tional Se­cu­rity, who was ap­pointed three months ago, said she needed more time to get all the in­for­ma­tion on the sit­u­a­tion although she noted that re­forms were be­ing pur­sued.


“It is an ab­so­lute dis­grace! This can’t wait on re­form! It is an in­dict­ment against us. Yes, it has been there for years, and we know in the min­istry that this is how it has been, and yet it has al­ways been on the back burner and no­body has brought it for­ward,” said Marisa Dal­rym­ple Philib­ert, mem­ber of par­lia­ment for Trelawny South­ern.

“There are many of them with men­tal ill­ness, who, if they were able to ac­cess proper treat­ment and care, would be nor­mal and func­tional peo­ple in the so­ci­ety. The of­fi­cers in the cor­rec­tional ser­vices can­not pro­vide that. It is sad, and I hope that we can jump this for­ward and put the time, the ef­fort, and the money where it ought to be.”

Mikael Phillips, the Manch­ester North Western rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said at least a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion needs to be found now.

“They should not be in in­sti­tu­tions such as the two large ones – even if there is some­thing done tem­po­rar­ily – but they ought not to be in our prison sys­tems as is now. Even the re­sources just to deal with their men­tal state within the sys­tem are not be­ing dealt with as they ought to be,” he said.

Carla Gul­lota, the co­or­di­na­tor of rights group Stand Up Ja­maica, who has been work­ing in Ja­maica’s prisons for years, said the call for the im­me­di­ate re­moval of the in­mates from the prisons should have come a long time ago.


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