Hope Coming for Cayman Mentally Ill Prisoners

In mental health, prison abuse on August 13, 2008 at 12:58 pm

The Cayman Islands government has recently committed $1 million in this year’s budget towards the expenses for a long-term mental health institution that could accommodate individuals who are held in prisons for their own or others’ safety. The facility is expected to cost $4 million to complete.

Such a facility comes in the wake of frequent calls from Magistrates for long-term care facilities and half-way houses for offenders with mental health issues who commit crimes, often when they fail to take their prescribed medication.

The issue was highlighted last month in a UK House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee report, which mentioned a mentally ill person who had been in prison “without charge and without review” for nine years!

Director of Prisons Bill Rattray acknowledged that there were “no facilities on Cayman in terms of people who may have mental health problems who are also charged with criminal offences or convicted of criminal offences or people might be concerned that they will commit criminal offences. As opposed to being held untried, they can be remanded to a place of safety.”

Under the Mental Health Act, Northwood Prison is designated as an institution in which individuals can be remanded under a place of safety order if they are considered a danger to themselves or others. However, mentally ill inmates are often treated with scant regard and become extremely vulnerable to prison sexual and physical assault from other inmates and staff.

Dr. Marc Lockhart, a psychiatrist who has been visiting Northward Prison once a month since 2004 to review inmates with mental health issues, said that there are more and more people incarcerated that require mental health services. He said the government is considering an institution that could house between 20 and 30 individuals, as well as a number of “community homes” to which they could go after receiving intensive treatment.

The Cayman authorities have also promised to give $1 million for a juvenile detention centre which is also lacking on island and which has also been requested repeatedly by magistrates.

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