Simply put, there are many mad prisoners inside the nation’s prisons.
Some come in mad, others become mad while incarcerated, and some leave the prison mad.
Some become so mad they are sent to St Ann’s Hospital for treatment. But what really is the treatment. Do the prison authorities take this madness seriously? Call it what you want, it is a ticking time bomb if the madness is not dealt with.
On Friday at a JSC hearing, Psychiatrists’ Association’s Dr Dominic Nwokolo, warned that prison overcrowding is a likely cause of depression, agitation and violence among inmates.”
He said foreign data showed that 25 per cent of inmates have mental illness. But the prison authorities are sharply divided on how to detect and treat mental illness in our nation’s prisons.
Prisons Supervisor John Lopez said 4.03 per cent of inmates are under psychiatric care.
Ex-prisoner Wayne Chance, President of Vision on Mission, described the Remand Yard as an oven for creating mental illness and depression.
Acting Commissioner of Prisons William Alexander said on entry to jail, inmates were not assessed mentally, so no baseline data exists to track their state throughout their stay. Vision on Mission CEO, Gordon Husbands, urged that all prisoners should be screened upon entry.
Nwokolo pointed out that assessing an inmate is a long-term act, unless he is withdrawn, refusing to eat and self-harming.
Alexander said the Prisons Service had psychologists and psychiatrists but an inmate’s usual contact was with prison officers. He said officers went beyond the call of duty to sit down and counsel inmates and to reunite them with their families.
Nwokolo said a layman could usually detect significant mental illness, especially with scant resources stopping mass screening.
Chance likened the remand system to an oven that provoked mental ill-health, but Nwokolo said Remand Yard conditions were ten times better than St Ann’s. Alexander said Remand Yard offered schooling, music and sport, with 41 men doing CSEC exams. With a $54 million allocation to renovate Remand, he said a purpose-built prison could make a big difference.
Williams added, “We’ve seen some hard nuts change and get baptized and are now living a different life. Love is still the greatest healer.”
He said inmates were sent from Remand Yard to the Maximum Security Prison so as to increase their airing time from one hour to three to four hours daily.
Husbands revealed the dire effect that imprisonment had on an inmate’s children. “The impact is very grievous. A lot go through grief and loss and being secretive because they don’t want people to know where their mother or father is.”
Inmates’ children are at risk of becoming school bullies, delinquents, and targets of domestic abuse and human trafficking, and running away.