CIG needs to consider prison mental health

| 10/04/2018 | 14 Comments
Cayman News Service

HMP Northward

(CNS): Before the government embarks on a new prison project it will need to consider the future mental health of inmates. The new prison director, Steven Barrett, said that thought will need to be given on how the prison service is going to deal with prisoners suffering from mental health conditions in the years to come. Both HMP Northward and Fairbanks are home to prisoners serving long sentences that also have severe mental illnesses and they will not be housed at the new facility being built in East End.

Speaking to CNS, the new director said that there needs to be a clear strategy at the national level on how Cayman will deal with the people it incarcerates that have serious mental health problems but also how it manages those with less severe problems that may fuel offending. He said that when people who are suffering from mental health problems are incarcerated it can present serious problems for the prison if it is not well managed. He explained that the prison must meet the needs of those who are suffering from what can sometimes be debilitating conditions.

Barrett said that before a new prison is built, consideration will need to be given to whether or not there should be a stand-alone mental health unit within the prison service that is properly resourced and caters for men, women and juvenile offenders.

He said the authorities and the community will need to ask what type of prison service the Cayman Islands wants in the future, what the community wants the prison to be and the amount of resources that need to be invested to ensure the new facility meets the needs of all its inmates.

For many years HM Cayman Islands Prison Service, like most jails, has had to deal with a significant percentage of inmates who suffer from a wide range of mental health problems that have often fuelled their criminality or drug misuse. And again, like many prisons around the world in developed as well as lesser developed countries, it has struggled to deal with the challenges that can present, given the lack of investment in this area.

While there are several inmates in the prison system who are suffering from very serious psychotic conditions there are many others that have lesser or intermittent mental health problems that may never have been diagnosed or treated but in many cases have contributed greatly to their offending and poor choices. As a result, in order to fulfill the rehabilitation obligations, the prison must deal with this issue as well.

Although the prison has access to psychiatrists and has a psychologist on site, it is often the prison staff that deal with the crises that can arise in the prison population when it comes to the well-being of prisoners. Barrett commended his staff for the work they do with prisoners who are suffering from mental illness. He noted that they have acquired significant experience dealing with them and have been trained to support inmates when it comes to dealing with what can be the most challenging part of the job.

The new boss said he has seen the “very caring approach” staff take in dealing with these inmates and have developed the necessary interpersonal skills to help them navigate the challenges that inmates in crisis can present.

Although the health ministry is now working on the development of a new residential mental health facility in East End, the centre will not house the criminally insane, Dr Marc Lockhart, the government psychiatrist, told CNS recently at a public meeting about the project in East End.

He said that the government needs to consider developing a mental health unit on the prison campus, where it can provide the necessary appropriate environment and treatment for those prisoners who can be dangerous because of their illness, as well as offer treatment for those who have mental health problems.

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Category: Crime, Health, Mental Health, Prison

Comments (14)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    we all need mental health to a lesser or more degree

  2. Anonymous says:

    It would be helpful if he would explain how many are criminally insane, how many are just nuts or burned out on drugs, and how many we have any remote chance of rehabilitating. Then we we could have an intelligent conversation about what might be done and how much money to throw at it. Judging from the east end facility, this could cost a gigantic amount of money even thogh you would think that building concrete rooms with no movable furniture would be simpler than what was done in the east.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am well aware that mental health is a huge issue in our community but may I ask if there has been any studies to determine if any inmates mental issues stemmed from drug included marijuana use or was negatively effected by such use.please only qualified persons need to response.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s pretty obvious that the criminally insane need need to be separated and treated, if there is a treatment. Probably need to separate the dangerously violent non-insane also, ie in solitary.

  4. West Bay Premier says:

    Hasn’t a few of those prisoners went into the Court House and defended themselves and fired Lawyers , and suddenly now they are a mental case now .

  5. West Bay Premier says:

    I think that most of them prisoners just get in that mental state just to manipulate the system without being professional evaluated . So let them stay in prison until they are professionally evaluated . They already cost the Taxpayers a big handful of money to keep them in prison , no need for them to cost no more .
    And make sure that the guy from DOG CITY or WEST BAY , is not the one that evaluate them .

  6. Anonymous says:

    We have one, its known locally as the Legislative Assembly.

  7. Anonymous says:

    No CIG doesn’t. Stop wasting cash on the worst criminals. Any extra money should be used to make sentences longer.

  8. Anonymous says:

    They were all mental before they got locked up. Leave them be.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like a great plan,
      and people wonder why prison is a revolving door of the same people
      We are not as far gone as the US we still have time to correct the inherent issues in the system but we can’t even bring ourselves to do that

      • Anonymous says:

        You are much further gone than most places in the US.

      • Anonymous says:

        There is an easy answer to the revolving door issue. Don’t let them out so quickly or at all. Society and good people need more protection from these criminals, whether they are as mental as the liberals say or not.

    • fairplay says:

      !0.29 You clearly have no understanding of mental health problems and must have a warped brain to comment as you have.

    • Anonymous says:

      Seriously? How ignorant!

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