JIS News

The Jamaican Justice System Reform Task Force has recommended that the government establish a mental health court for offenders, who commit crimes because of a mental disorder.
As contained in the final report from the Task Force, which was presented to Justice Minister Senator A.J Nicholson at his Oxford Road offices recently, the court, which would deal with “less serious offences” committed by the mentally ill, should be established on a pilot project basis subject to monitoring and a full evaluation. “Evaluation of this pilot court experience would provide a sound basis for decisions concerning how best to serve this segment of the population,” the report said.
The document, which contains more than 180 recommendations on reforms to meet the needs of the 21st Century, was the outcome of nine months of research and consultation, and contains findings from an extensive survey on the state of the justice system.
According to the report, during the consultation phase, numerous concerns were expressed by the public about the treatment of mentally ill offenders, when they come into contact with the criminal justice system.
Among these concerns were the lack of proper facilities at police and courthouse lock-ups to hold mentally ill persons in detention; the lack of proper medical care, including medication, for those being held; the length of time mentally ill offenders are required to remain in detention until they are assessed and dealt with by the courts; and the lack of proper training for police, judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers, probation officers, and prison officials on appropriate ways to deal with the mentally ill.
Additionally, the report recommended that mentally ill persons, who are found by the courts, to being unfit to plead or not criminally responsible, should be assessed as to whether they are a danger to themselves or to others.
“Those who constitute a danger should be held in a secure forensic ward of a psychiatric hospital or in a special “hospital like” unit of a prison with appropriate services for their care and treatment. Those who are not a danger should be supervised and cared for in the community,” the report put forward.
The report also noted that the appropriate policies, programmes and legislation should be put in place to ensure that mentally ill offenders are dealt with in a caring and sensitive manner.

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