Gov’t reviews treatment of mental illness in prison system


With numerous cases of mentally ill persons being placed before the courts, the Government is taking steps to improve its approach to this prevailing issue in the legal justice and prison systems.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams disclosed that the government has already engaged a consultant to make recommendations on how to proceed.

Only recently, a 26-year-old woman was placed before the court for allegedly killing her three-year-old son. She was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

A few months ago, the Attorney representing a former Guyana Defence Force Captain who was charged with the murder of his wife, requested his client undergo a psychiatric examination. He was later deemed mentally fit to stand trial.

About a month before that, ranks of the City Constabulary came under fire for the violent arrest and subsequent killing of a man who is said to be of unsound mind.

These are just a few of many cases of mental illness in the legal justice system which the Williams says need to be addressed.

“You’ve seen some really heinous acts and the ordinary person may think that that person must be crazy and some people might say they are invoking the defence of insanity. So we need to address those issues,” he stated.

He told reporters that the Government is engaging a consultant under an Inter-American Development Bank project and a report will be submitted shortly.

Prison Director, Gladwin Samuels announced earlier this year that there are 75 mentally ill inmates in the prison system.

The Attorney General indicated that such persons should not be treated in the same manner as mentally stable prisoners.

“It doesn’t help that you take them and you throw them in the general prisons with everyone else,” Williams expressed.

The James Patterson Report had noted the difficulties in dealing with not just mentally ill prisoners but those with disabilities and other forms of sickness like HIV.

Under a British funded programme earlier this year, a group of prison officers and other support staff underwent training on how to deal with mentally ill and vulnerable inmates.

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