Justice system’s continued inaction leads to another death
THE EDITOR, Madam:
We at Stand Up For Jamaica mourn the death of Leroy Bailey, another person who was imprisoned at the governor general’s pleasure awaiting trial for decades. It is another example of the State’s failure to protect the lives of the mentally ill who have been incriminated and indefinitely detained – just lost in the system. Additionally, it has been reported in the media that Mr Bailey was serving time for murder. This cannot be the case, since he was detained under the governor general’s pleasure, which means he did not have access to a trial and, therefore, has not been convicted of anything.
Stand Up For Jamaica has been coordinating a campaign for the release of prisoners trapped in the system awaiting trial for many years. We advocate for the mentally ill not to end up in a penal institution. They should be in an institution where they can receive the appropriate treatment, with regular medical and legal reviews of their case.
We have been asking for a legislative change against punishing persons who are not able to understand what they do.
After the INDECOM report on Noel Chambers’ death was released in June 2020, there were promises of legislative and policy changes which have not been implemented. Since then, we have been asking the various government bodies, the Ministry of National Security primarily, to release information under the Access to Information Act on the condition of persons deemed to be mentally ill in prison, and they have failed to answer.
We are calling for the following:
1) INDECOM to conduct a full and thorough investigation that goes beyond the immediate events surrounding Mr Bailey’s death, but also investigates the history and context of circumstances leading up to his death. One of the things that need to be remembered is that the initial report by the State and its agencies often does not hold up under a thorough investigation.
2) A commission of enquiry into the situation of the mentally ill being kept in prisons, and people being held at the governor general’s pleasure and the court’s pleasure.
3) A joint and transparent process involving both State and non-government stakeholders to immediately review each case of prisoners held at the court’s pleasure, with the goal of releasing people from custody. The necessary resources must be dedicated to this process, including housing and care for those released.
MARIA CARLA GULLOTTA
Stand Up for Jamaica