The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has been authorised to hire an additional consultant forensic psychiatrist who will design and oversee a Forensic Mental Healthcare Programme.
This was stated by Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Hon. Matthew Samuda during his contribution to the 2021/22 State of the Nation Debate in the Upper House on Friday (Sept. 24).
He noted too that the Ministry of National Security has initiated the planning process with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to rebuild and open a proper forensic ward.
The ward will house inmates in need of psychiatric care and is expected to be completed within this term of government.
He said there are approximately 262 inmates who have been diagnosed with mental disorders. Of this figure, he said, 138 are unfit to plea – accounting for approximately seven per cent of the incarcerated population.
“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 two to three times more likely to have a mental disorder and 15 times more likely to have a psychotic disorder than the general public,” he stated.
He said there remain major obstacles to delivering adequate care to these inmates, noting that those deemed unfit to plea have been essentially held in custody indefinitely, as they are unable to undergo trial and complete the judicial process.
He explained that 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.
“The DCS is a “creature of instruction”: it must provide adequate care to those
individuals who are convicted or remanded by the courts,” he noted.
He said the 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 it is deemed appropriate.
He added, too, that the DCS continues to work to improve the care within the system with the resources allocated.