Mentally ill inmates are increasingly committing suicide
Suicides by mentally ill patients are on the increase at correctional centres.
This is according to the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services's (JICS) 2017-2018 annual report‚ released on Thursday.
Inspecting judge Johann Vincent van der Westhuizen said many mentally ill inmates ended up in prison as an interim facility because state mental facilities were overcrowded and had long waiting lists.
JICS emphasised that the situation of mentally ill inmates has become urgent. There are 1‚200 inmates with mental illnesses. According to the JICS a majority of these inmates are kept with the general inmate population without adequately trained mental care staff.
JICS said reports by Department of Correctional Services have not been satisfactory. “The non-compliance by DCS is a threat to JICS’s oversight effectiveness‚” Van der Westhuizen said.
According to the report, every time an inmate refused treatment‚ they were made to sign a consent form. However‚ according to the Health Care Policy and Procedure Manual‚ inmates with mental illness must be compelled to take medication. The Department of Correctional Services had also indicated that inmates were segregated at their own request.
But‚ the JICS says the Health Care Policy and Procedure Manual makes it clear that a mentally ill inmate should under no circumstances be placed in a single cell without a 24-hour guard.
“In this matter we found that DCS had breached its policy and procedure manual by not compelling mentally ill inmates to take medication and also by placing an inmate with a mental illness in a single cell without guarding him around the clock‚” Van der Westhuizen said.