Several Department of Correctional Services’ Engagements Being Revamped

Several Department of Correctional Services’ Engagements Being Revamped

Fifteen bedridden and infirmed inmates are now receiving specialised care at the Department of Correctional Services’ (DCS) recently opened Medical Centre and Infirmary, located at the Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre in St. Catherine.

The inmates were transferred from the St. Catherine and Tower Street Adult Correctional Centres to the 25-bed facility, the first of its kind, which caters to inmates in need of special care and medical treatment.

This was disclosed by Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of National Security, Senator the Hon. Matthew Samuda, who noted that the facility’s establishment is consistent with the Government’s “commitment to improving the ‘duty of care’ observed in the provision of treatment to bedridden and infirmed inmates as well as the wards within our care”.

The Minister, who was making a statement in the Upper House on Friday (December 10), noted that this arrangement resulted from corrective actions undertaken by the Administration in response to two special investigation reports by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).

These related to the death of 81-year-old Noel Chambers, a former inmate at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, which resulted from challenges experienced by the DCS to adequately provide for the healthcare needs of bedridden and infirmed inmates.

Mr. Chambers died while in the care of the DCS after being incarcerated for 40 years without trial, having been deemed unfit to plead.

Senator Samuda noted that the report shed light on notable systemic weaknesses, such as human resource constraints and infrastructural deficiencies within the DCS, particularly in relation to the care of such vulnerable groups.

The second INDECOM report related to the treatment and care of the wards at the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre.

“While the report highlighted several best practices in relation to the administration and treatment of the wards, these were overshadowed by allegations of breaches against the rights of the wards and contravention of key provisions of international conventions,” the Minister explained.

Subsequently, following a comprehensive audit undertaken in relation to Mr. Chambers’ death, and an in-depth review undertaken by the Correctional Services Technical Working Group (CSTWG) commissioned by Minister Samuda, in relation to the care of wards, an Action Plan was devised to address the deficiencies identified.

He informed that among the key the issues evolving from the reviews, was the unavailability of sufficient human resources, including inadequate medical practitioners to meet the demands of the current population of inmates with special healthcare needs.

“Since undertaking this review, the DCS has expanded its cadre of medical doctors to include five medical doctors and six health aides, the latter have been assigned to the infirmary,” he said.

Senator Samuda informed that approval has been granted by the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to recruit 12 psychiatrists and 10 psychologists to join the two psychologists currently on staff, noting that “these additions will bring significant improvements in meeting the needs of these vulnerable groups”.

“Additionally, the Ministry of National Security is at an advanced stage in the procurement of a specialist Psychiatrist who will be tasked with ensuring the timely assessment of all unfit to plead inmates, with a view to [having] their matters relisted before the Courts for a final determination,” the Minister said.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica, a member of the CSTWG, has committed to partner with the National Security Ministry to provide training for correctional officers in the areas of child rights and justice, and support in developing standard operating procedures.

“This, we believe, will help to change the culture, will help to change the training and will, ultimately, change the outcomes for the juveniles who are in the Correctional Services’ [care],” Senator Samuda said.






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