Matthew Samuda says 262 inmates diagnosed with mental disorderSunday, September 26, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of National Security (MNS) Matthew Samuda, says that about seven per cent of the current prison population is made up of people who are not fit to plea in court.
Speaking in the Senate's annual State of the Nation Debate on Friday, Senator Samuda said that there is need for more attentive care for the 262 inmates who have been diagnosed with mental disorders.
However, he said that the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has been authorised to hire a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, who will design and oversee a Forensic Mental Healthcare Programme.
“Mental Health remains a major obstacle to delivering adequate care to these inmates. There are also those in custody who need a deeper, more attentive level of care. Approximately 262 inmates have been diagnosed with mental disorders, 138 of which are unfit to plea, accounting for approximately seven per cent of the incarcerated population,” he said.
“However, this figure mostly represents those with psychotic disorders; we know that a greater proportion suffer from less apparent psychiatric conditions that go undiagnosed. Global studies suggest that incarcerated people are 2-3 times more likely to have a mental disorder, and 15 times more likely to have a psychotic disorder than the general public,” he told the Senate.
Senator Samuda said that there remain major obstacles to delivering adequate care to these inmates, as those deemed unfit to plea have been essentially held in custody indefinitely, as they are unable to undergo trial and complete the judicial process.
“The Correctional System in Jamaica however, is not presently suited to the proper care of the mentally ill as it has inadequacies in personnel, programmes, and physical infrastructure to ensure adequate treatment of the medical conditions and the eventual assessment and reintegration of unfit to plea inmates and convicts into the society,” he noted.
“The DCS is a 'Creature of Instruction'. It must provide adequate care to those individuals who are convicted or remanded by the courts. I can assure the members of the Senate and, indeed, the public that DCS is following its legal and moral obligations to provide reports to the Courts, while taking the steps to seek the release of the mentally ill where deemed appropriate,” he said.
However he assured the Senate that the DCS will continue to work to improve the care within the system.
“DCS has been authorized to hire a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, who will design and oversee a Forensic Mental Healthcare Programme. But beyond that, we have started the process of reversing a tragic mistake made in the 1970s, when the then government closed a Forensic Ward that housed inmates in need of psychiatric care,” he said.
“Our Ministry has initiated the planning process with the Ministry of Health & Wellness and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to re-open a proper forensic ward, to be completed within this term of government,” he stated.