Several parliamentarians of the Jamaican government are demanding that mentally ill prisoners be released as they call the act “an absolute disgrace”. Kept in custody, yet unfit to plead, there are currently 127 mentally ill inmates that have been held behind bars. The 127 who were separated from the general population of over 3,000, are said to be housed at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in Kingston, and also at an Adult Correctional Centre in St. Catherine.
The member of parliament for Trelawny Southern, Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, expressed: ”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.”
Prior to the report made by the commissioner of corrections, Ina Hunter, Philibert as one of the members of Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), expressed outrage when the report revealed that “several” mentally ill inmates had 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 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.”
In agreement with Philibert’s opinion that the mentally ill persons should taken from these prisons, Hunter said that the authorities have been looking for an alternative accommodation as treatment has been limited.