Another psychiatrist to be hired for correctional service
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is to hire an additional consultant forensic psychiatrist, Minister without Portfolio in the National Security Ministry Senator Matthew Samuda has announced.
Samuda, making his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate on Friday, said the psychiatrist will design and oversee a forensic mental healthcare programme.
At present there is only one full-time psychiatrist in the penal system with a total population of around 4,000.
According to Samuda, approximately 262 inmates have been diagnosed with mental disorders.
Of this number, 138 are unfit to plea – accounting for approximately seven per cent of the incarcerated population.
“This figure mostly represents those with psychotic disorders; we know that a greater proportion suffer from less apparent psychiatric conditions that go undiagnosed," the minister said.
He cited global studies that suggest that incarcerated people are two to three times more likely to have a mental disorder and 15 times more likely to have a psychotic disorder than the general public.
Samuda said the Ministry of National Security has initiated the planning process with the ministries of health and local government to rebuild and open a proper forensic ward.
The ward will house inmates in need of psychiatric care and is expected to be completed within this term of government.
But Samuda said there are major obstacles to delivering adequate care to inmates requiring psychiatric care.
He said those deemed unfit to plead have been essentially held in custody indefinitely, as they are unable to undergo trial and complete the judicial process.
The correctional system , however, does not have inadequate medical personnel, programmes, and physical infrastructure to ensure proper treatment, assessment and reintegration of inmates unfit to plead.
"The DCS is a creature of instruction. It must provide adequate care to those individuals who are convicted or remanded by the courts,” he noted.
Meanwhile Samuda said the DCS is following its legal and moral obligations to provide reports to the courts, while taking the steps to seek the release of the mentally ill where it is deemed appropriate.
He added that the DCS continues to work to improve the care within the system despite the resources deficit.
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