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Part Two: St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre and Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre


on a timetable for medical visits for a previous week left on the wall in one of the reception offices, there were no scheduled psychiatrists’ visits. Even assuming that there are twice weekly visits, the fact that a single psychiatrist visiting twice a week was the only qualified practitioner available for 131 mentally ill prisoners gives an impression of the standard of treatment that the detainees receive.


An orderly without mental health problems serving a life sentence lives on the first floor section of the block and assists and helps care for the mentally ill inmates. He acted as a guide during the visit and displayed genuine concern for the inmates, asking if there was anything that could be done to improve their conditions or treatment. While he spoke, an argument broke out down the corridor where one inmate had lost his mattress and was accusing another of stealing it. Te argument threatened to turn violent as more mentally ill prisoners crowded round, drawn by the excitement. I had to be escorted to the lower floor of the block while the orderly attempted to retrieve the man’s mattress and restore calm.


Te inmates’ cells are identical to those on the homosexual block and similar to those throughout the institution. However, while the cells of prisoners in the general population at SCACC may contain a modicum of belongings and bedding, and are often decorated with impromptu graffiti or magazine pictures, the mentally ill inmates lack the comforts other prisoners are able to buy or are provided by their families. Te majority of their cells were entirely bare.


A few of the inmates possessed sponge mattresses on the floors of their cells; some had cardboard on which they lay. But these and their slop buckets were often the only objects to be seen. None of the cells had working electricity inside. Up to three inmates share a cell, and spend hours in near total darkness.


In the last cell, towards the end of the first floor section, two old mentally ill inmates lay prone on a bare stone floor in an entirely bare cell at right angles to each other, their eyes barely registering my presence. Once my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, I saw that they were surrounded by rotting food, which was covered in flies. Teir slop bucket was the only item in the cell, and stood in the corner. Te heat and the stench in the cell was overwhelming, and it was difficult to stand inside for any length of time without wretching. It was a truly shocking and horrific scene, even when viewed in the context of general Jamaican penal conditions, and the most egregious thing I saw on the island. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the history of the building, it more resembled a dungeon than a psychiatric institution.


35


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