Fresh call for better mental health treatment for prison inmates

The country's national prison
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By Orville Williams

On the heels of a recently-reported stabbing incident at Her Majesty’s Prison, Chairman of the Prison Board Visiting Committee, Bishop Charlesworth Browne, is calling for improved attention to the mental wellbeing of prison inmates.

The incident occurred on Monday when a prison officer was reportedly stabbed several times by an inmate with a makeshift weapon.

Speaking on Observer AM yesterday, Bishop Browne acknowledged that he was not comfortable speaking specifically on the incident as an investigation was likely ongoing. He did confirm though, that the alleged perpetrator was among a handful of inmates being treated for mental health issues.

“I think at this time we have about five of them, and we are seeking to have the courts review their cases.

“Some of them are known to Clarevue [Psychiatric Hospital], they have been on medication as the case may be, some are bordering schizophrenia – dissociation as we call it – [and] some of them are bipolar.”

Bishop Browne continued that mental health was one of the biggest challenges in his lane, referring to a case where authorities attempted to transfer an inmate to Clarevue, but were told that the inmate could not be accommodated as they were violent.

Similarly, he explained, prison officials said they also did not have the capacity to deal with the mental issues that particular inmate was facing.

Considering these challenges, the Bishop is urging some sort of prison reform which would see greater emphasis being placed on the mental health of incarcerated people. Perhaps, as far as Browne is concerned, these adjustments could be made with the construction of a long-touted new prison facility. 

“We need to be able to do something [so] that these persons can be duly treated for their conditions. If you do the research, you’d realise that in some prisons…and I know for sure, I worked in Curacao and the prison [there] has a psychiatric unit [which is] staffed as well. So, you are in prison, but you are not with the regular population.

“When in short order – and I’m saying short order because I’m pressing for it – we have a new prison, these are some of the facilities that must be included. We [must] have a wing for mentally-challenged inmates if they have to be there, especially those who may be of a violent nature,” he added.

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