The Judiciary, on October 29, announced findings from the Mental Health (Offenders) Inquiry Committee Report, including the main recommendation to effect the statutory revocation of indefinite detention.
The Mental Health (Offenders) Inquiry Committee was commissioned in June to assess how the court treats with the mentally ill or disordered in conflict with the law, being detained in correctional institutions for protracted periods of time.
The Committee, which concluded its findings in August, aimed to probe the reasons for those failures and to craft a principle-based report that would recommend workable solutions.
Chair of the Committee, Puisne Judge, Hon. Mrs. Justice Georgiana Fraser, in her presentation, listed a number of challenges found within the system.
“The committee has identified that transportation issues, the timely submission of psychiatric review reports, the failure to implement and or maintain review registers and difficulty locating family members are some of the reasons why persons who are mentally disordered end up spending this long period of time in custody,” Judge Fraser said.
She was speaking at the Court Administration Division (CAD) Conversation with the Judiciary, held at the Supreme Court.
Mrs. Fraser presented a list of recommendations aimed at improving the process of detainment for the mentally disordered as well as preventing the occurrence of inordinately long periods of detainment.
“The committee has made a number of recommendations as to the way forward and we have found that there is a clear and pressing need for statutory revocation of indefinite detention, meaning, the need to do away with indefinite detention,” she said.
“The mentally disordered defendants that are currently housed in correctional facilities, they need to be moved to a designated psychiatric facility. I wish to point out that the designated psychiatric facility for the mentally disordered remains, by law, the Bellevue Hospital, but they are not being housed there,” she explained.
Meanwhile, the Judge also mentioned the sometimes lengthy process detained persons experience when before the courts.
“When the person is taken before the court, the parish court judge who more than likely is the first judicial personnel who will interact with the defendants, they are not brought necessarily in a timely manner, because the law indicates that there should be no more than a five-day period between the time that they are charged by the police until they are brought before the court,” she noted.
“When they are brought before the court, then the parish court judge will have to make a determination as to whether or not the person is, in fact, mentally disordered and in order to do so, the parish court judge is required to have evidence, including evidence from a psychiatrist to arrive at that conclusion. There is not an overabundance of psychiatrists within the public sector who are to perform these tasks and this can lead to delays in the process of even determining whether the person is, in fact, mentally disordered,” Mrs. Fraser said.
The 11-member committee comprised other puisne judges, parish court judges and representatives from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Legal Aid Council, Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights, Bellevue Hospital, Department of Correctional Services and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
The full report can be accessed on the Court Administration Division’s website at cad.gov.jm.