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Report on Prison Conditions in Jamaica


in one of the island’s high security penal institutions. Since the closure of the forensic wing of the Bellevue Mental Hospital in Kingston in the 1970s, there has been simply nowhere else for these detainees to go.


Te National Progress Report 2004-6 on Jamaica’s Social Policy Goals included as one of its ‘medium term goals’ to ‘Establish psychiatric wards in prisons to ensure that all inmates in need of medication and treatment have access to appropriate services.’24


However, this goal


fails to recognise that many of the mentally ill ‘inmates’ incarcerated at SCACC or TSACC have never been convicted of a crime, but were sent there for what can only euphemistically be described as ‘psychiatric care’, before ever standing trial. Once there, it is no exaggeration to say that, unless their condition improves or arrangements can be made for their care in residential facilities, they may never leave. Many never receive visits and have no access to legal representation. On touring the institutions, one is constantly aware of the wholly inappropriate environment they find themselves in. It is also of note that none of the provisions of the Correctional Institution Rules covers the provision of psychiatry at correctional centres.


Conditions


At the time of the visit – according to the muster board – there were 131 unfit to plead detainees being held at SCACC. A few of the most vulnerable of these detainees are removed to the dormitory at the medical centre for round the clock treatment. Te remainder are housed in Number 1 block.


Te inmates on the mentally ill section wear bright blue jumpsuits, identifying and stigmatising them (the general prison population wear their own clothes, in breach of the Prison Rules, because of a lack of resources at the Department of Correctional Services). During the times when they are not locked down in their cells, the inmates are allowed to walk freely round the bare compound, which faces the medical centre and can be easily seen from the Superintendent’s office and administrative buildings of the prison. Upon visiting the prison regularly, one becomes accustomed to the sight of the inmates standing at the fence rambling or shouting incoherently at the other inmates, or simply staring into space. On seeing someone approach the section’s fenced compound for the first time prisoners crowd at the fence inquisitively, some suspicious, some just interested in a new visitor. An extra correctional officer was commissioned as an escort for my visit to ensure safety while on the section. On entering the section the first thing that hits you is the smell. Te inmates, unable to care for themselves, and suffering from the same lack of facilities as the rest of the population, lack in personal hygiene and foul odours fill the block. Inmates are generally medicated twice a day. Some orally, some by injection. All apparently have a monthly review of their treatment. No prison psychiatrist was present, but the inmates apparently receive two psychiatric visits a week. Interestingly however,


24


See p. 394, National Progress Report 2004-2006 on Jamaica’s Social Policy Goals, March 2008, Jasper Technical Working Group with Nicole A. Brown, Jamaica Social Policy Evaluation.


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