Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Family neglect of mentally ill forces them to stay in prison

Published:Sunday | November 20, 2016 | 11:19 PMJason Cross

The unwillingness of many families to receive and care for their mentally ill relatives who have been arrested has pushed Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, to call for a forensic psychiatric facility to be built.

Faulkner was speaking with The Gleaner at a Justice sensitisation drive held at the Ministry of Justice's Constant Spring Road, St. Andrew complex earlier this month.

Because of "the unwillingness of many families to take these family members, we are in urgent need of a forensic, psychiatric facility," he said. "The court will not put you out on the street, (the) mentally ill, where there is no family support and there is no institution to take you. Our desire is for these persons to be shifted from a correctional facility to proper psychiatric care for their restoration. A prison offers no therapeutic environment for recovery. You might find that your chances for improvement are diminished within a punitive facility," Faulkner added.

"The dilemma that we find that we face (is that) if you are taken into the system and you are mentally ill, then you might find that after the psychiatric evaluation, you are remanded to a correctional facility, which in ordinary parlance is a prison. As long as you remain in that state and there is no family member to take you, you are in prison and that's the prejudice to the person who is mentally ill," he said.

Faulkner was of the opinion that for a society to bear any semblance of civility, proper representation must be provided for the vulnerable and the mentally ill.

"When you speak of mentally ill, there are those who will at some point be coherent in their thought processes and at another point they are unfit to give you proper representation of their thoughts. We at the Legal Aid Council and the Ministry of Justice, are of the view that mental illness is an illness. If there is any place that they are to be held it is a hospital," Faulkner said.