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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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Suspected Small Pox Outbreak in Guyana Prison

In prison abuse on August 12, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Inmates on remand in Berbice, Guyana are complaining about an outbreak of small pox in the New Amsterdam jail. The situation has led them to clamour for early trials of their respective cases.

One prisoner who is charged with drug trafficking, appeared before Magistrate Chandra Sohan in New Amsterdam Court on Friday 8th August and claimed that he had been exposed to the disease.

Another prisoner who faces a similar drug charge was not allowed entry into the New Amsterdam courtroom as he was suspected of being afflicted. However, the inmate was kept in the holding area with other inmates.

Magistrate Sohan said the defendant’s presence would expose others to the affliction and he should not have been taken to the Court but physically isolated in order to break the chain of transmission.

Overcrowding in prisons often leads to the rampant spread of contagious illnesses among inmates, few of whom may be able to receive competent and timely medical treatment.

V.I. Prisons Improve To Comply With Court Orders

In prison abuse on August 12, 2008 at 1:00 pm

In the Virgin islands, government officials have been actively engaged in efforts to improve the state of the nation’s prisons mere months before the territory’s prison system breaks off from the V.I. Justice Department.

In October of next year, the Corrections Bureau will be severed from the Justice Department and will become an independent agency under the Office of the Governor.

Attorney General Vincent Frazer said that supervisors have been appointed temporarily at Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility on St. Croix and Farrelly Justice Complex and Alva Swan Annex jails on St. Thomas. Golden Grove and the St. Thomas jails both are operating under federal consent decrees.

The search continues for a new Corrections director to replace Elwood York who unexpectedly resigned last December. Frazer hopes by October he will announce the name of the new Bureau of Corrections director.

In 2006, a District Court magistrate appointed a special master in charge of rectifying conditions at Golden Grove, which has operated since 1986 under the federal consent decree requiring improvements in security, physical and mental health care, fire safety and sanitation.

The St. Thomas jail system is also undergoing court-mandated improvements, 14 years after the government reached a settlement with mentally ill inmates represented by the ACLU.

The failure of the previous prison administrators led to four contempt of court rulings in the last dozen years. In recent times, in an effort to satisfy the judge overseeing the mandated changes, the Justice Department has sent several mentally ill inmates to off-island institutions for treatment.

Second Guyanese Prisoner Dies In Suspicious Manner.

In prison abuse on August 3, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Mere weeks following the death in custody of prisoner Edward Niles, another Guyanese prisoner, Nolan Noble, was pronounced dead on arrival at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation on 26th July 2008.

Noble was an inmate at the Camp Street jail facility and despite claims by some sources that he died in his cell during his sleep, a post-mortem revealed that he died of blunt force trauma to the head.

There were reports that there was a suspicious mark on his forehead and another behind his head. Hospital sources reported that they were told that the man was epileptic and may have had an attack during which he fell and hit his head. When he arrived at the hospital, blood was oozing from his nose but according to reports there were no marks of violence on the body.

Noble had been suffering from mental illness induced by drug abuse for 11 years and had had several brushes with the law, the most recent being a charge of murder. However, his younger brother has stated that the deceased never suffered from epilepsy.

Noble’s relatives are calling for a full investigation into his death due to the conflicting reports they have so far received.

Guyanese Prisoner Dies During Interrogation.

In prison abuse on August 3, 2008 at 12:11 pm

In early July 2008 Guyanese prisoner, Edward Niles, succumbed to his injuries at hospital in Georgetown following a reported beating by prison officers.

Niles was allegedly found with a quantity of ammunition following a day of labour at army base Camp Ayanganna. He had been convicted for possession of cannabis on September 18, 2006, and sentenced to a three-year prison term, which would have expired on September 26 this year.

Niles had just returned from the army base when a routine search of his person prior to him re-entering the prison, turned up the ammunition. An investigation was launched to ascertain how Niles had acquired the ammunition.

It is alleged that during his interrogation by prison officers Niles was brutally assaulted. The prisoner’s body showed serious lacerations and he had a broken arm as well as burns on his back. A post-mortem examination revealed that he died from a clot in his lungs as a result of burns.

The death of Mr. Niles has raised concerns about torture of prisoners and there have been several calls for an independent inquiry into his demise.

Prison is not the place for the mentally ill.

In prison abuse, Uncategorized on August 3, 2008 at 11:54 am

Prison is not the place for the mentally ill, said Justice Rita Joseph Olivetti of the British Virgin islands as she sentenced Christian Callwood to a two-year suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to a wounding charge in the High Court recently.

Justice Olivetti, who with her staff recently visited Her Majesty’s Prison at Balsam Ghut, said, “At that visit, it was brought home to my mind how necessary, how pressing it is, for there to be facilities for someone who has suffered from mental illnesses.”

Mr. Callwood — who was charged with maliciously wounding a vacationing American tourist — has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He recently returned from Barbados, where he had been receiving
treatment at a long-term care facility.

The 25-year-old Callwood had a history of marijuana abuse, according to his mother, Tessa Callwood, who testified that drugs laced with other substances may have led to her son’s mental illness.

Worldwide, prisons have become the home for hundreds of persons with mental illnesses. Unfortunately, most such prisons are ill-equipped to accommodate and or rehabilitate persons suffering from mental illnesses who fail to integrate well with the inmate population.

For this and other reasons, mentally ill inmates often become the victims of various forms of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of both staff and other inmates.

Guyana Proposes Measures To Deal With Prison Overcrowding

In prison abuse on June 30, 2008 at 12:15 pm

In his feature address before the Association of Caribbean Heads of Corrections and Prison Services conference held in Guyana from June 9 to June 13, 2008 Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee stated that the matter of overcrowding is one of the greatest challenges for prisons administrations, not only in Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean but further afield.

Rohee noted that breaches in security, the fast spread of communicable diseases, high level of stress among the prison population as well as difficulties in effective management by prison administration were some of the results of overcrowding.

He told the gathering that some prisons in the United States had taken the initiative to release a few of a certain class of inmates as a means to reducing the prison population.

CURB is aware that, at present, the California prison system is being sued as a result of overcrowding and the collateral consequences to inmates. On Friday 27th June, 2008 judges hearing the case said they would go ahead with a trial to determine whether overcrowding is the primary cause of unconstitutionally poor medical and mental healthcare in the state’s 33 prisons.

International Research shows that both physical and sexual violence in prisons flourish in the atmosphere of over-crowding.

BVI Prison Crowding Update

In prison abuse on June 30, 2008 at 11:41 am

In mid-June High Court Justice Indra Harpirashad-Charles, along with her court staff and press toured Her Majesty’s Prison in Balsam Ghut, British Virgin islands to view the state of the facilities.

Journalists and the Judge were informed of the extensive work that was being conducted by the prison farm as well as some of the vocational activities open to prisoners. Farm produce was available for sale in the wider community and members of the public were said to be allowed to patronise some of the skilled prisoners to make clothing, artwork and furniture.

During a court sentencing in late May, 2008 Justice Charles had been informed that the prison was only three persons short of attaining its maximum capacity. It has now been faced with the additional challenges of accommodating juvenile offenders on remand and on conviction.

As in many Caribbean territories, the majority of the prison population is on remand. Here, the remand wing was so crowded that additional cots had to be set up in the hall. Moreover, during the day the prison facilities experiences an intense heat that beats down on the poorly ventilated buildings and crowded cellblocks, posing a hazard to the health of inmates.

Mystery Death in TT Prison Of Child-Killer.

In prison abuse on May 31, 2008 at 7:12 pm

In Trinidad and Tobago, there has been yet another prison inmate death, purportedly by suicide. The latest victim is 28 year old Sunil Ali who was recently charged with the brutal slaying of 8 year old Hope Arismandez.

Arrested shortly after the little girl’s disappearance on May 24, 2008 Sunil Ali allegedly confessed his crime of rape and murder to the police and led them to the body of young Hope in a cane field. While in police custody he had reportedly indicated an intention to take his own life.

Prison sources indicated to the media that Ali was on suicide watch while on the remand section of the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca and had been placed in a cell by himself to protect him from violent attack by other prisoners. Nonetheless, Ali managed to hang himself with his bed sheet some time before 7pm on Friday 30th May 2008.

It is believed that Ali was mocked by inmates in cells around him and consequently, he may have slipped into a state of depression leading to his suicide.

CURB is alarmed at the rate of self harm which has occurred in Trinidad and Tobago prisons in recent years. We urge the Ministry of National Security to develop safe cells for inmates believed to be at risk of suicide or other forms of self harm as has been done in the United Kingdom.

New BVI Prison To Maintain Human Rights

In prison abuse, restorative justice on May 31, 2008 at 6:39 pm

Just as the prison at Balsam Ghut approaches three inmates short of reaching its maximum of 120, the British Virgin Islands premier, Ralph O’Neal collected the keys to the Territory’s new female prison and immigration detention centre during an official ceremony on Friday 30th May 2008.

The Premier told the gathering that the modern trends towards a globalised community have increased pressures for governments to provide detention facilities that are capable of achieving world standards for safety and security.

Minister for Prisons Honourable Andrew Fahie stated that any person who is detained – including every sentenced prisoner, whether male or female, refugee, expatriate or local – has the right to conditions of detention that are consistent with human dignity, adequate accommodation, proper nutrition and medical treatment.

Minister Fahie pledged to do his utmost to continue to ensure that every effort is made to continue to upgrade and provide adequately for all individuals in this community, even those that are incarcerated.

The new female prison and immigration detention centre are housed in the same building. The Immigration Department is responsible for the top floor of the two-storey building, while Her Majesty’s Prison will utilise the ground floor as the new female prison and juvenile facility. All of the different sections are completely sealed off from one another.

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