Jamaican government to address mental illness among prison inmates


Senator Pearnel Charles Jr

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, State Minister for National Security,  says the Jamaican Government will be putting measures in place to deal with mentally ill people in lock-ups.

“There are plans to allocate budgetary and manpower resources to meet the treatment needs of the mentally ill who are incarcerated. We also hope to amend legislation to address the criminal justice process to determine how to refer mentally ill arrestees and offenders to various treatment programmes,” he noted.

He said the objective is to give inmates access to a standard of treatment that is consistent with their rights as human beings and get them rehabilitated.

Senator Charles Jr was speaking to JIS News on March 27, following a meeting to look at the varying circumstances of people who would fall in the category of unfit to plead if they are in a correctional facility, and the establishment of a system to divert such people to the appropriate treatment centres.

The meeting involved representatives from the national security, justice, and health ministries, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), and mental health stakeholders.

Senator Charles Jr. said the ministry is looking to engage all the relevant partners in order to ensure “that persons won’t get caught in a situation where they commit crimes because of irrationality; and for those who are incarcerated with mental health conditions, we want to ensure that they are able to get assessed”.

The state minister said that a proposal has been made to develop psychiatric units in correctional departments with help from the health ministry, in order to provide acute care to for the mentally ill.

Senator Charles Jr also told JIS News that research has shown a critical link between mental illness, and crime and violence.

He noted that a number of crimes have been committed by people of unsound mind, who have been untreated, or by others with unrecognised mental health issues.

He made an appeal to relatives of the mentally ill to “take the time to show some love and care to their relatives, to aid in the recovery process”.