AG proposes mental health court
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite is proposing the establishment of a mental health court to help prevent the substantial number of convicts with mental health problems falling through the cracks.
Speaking on health as part of the Estimates debate in Parliament Friday afternoon, Brathwaite sought to ground his case for such a court on the fact that half of those in prison suffer from mental health challenges because they were not treated before being incarcerated.
“From my experience, many of the young people who are coming in contact with the criminal justice system, if they had been caught before . . . if their challenges had been addressed outside of the criminality, they probably would not have come to us. So we should have a serious dialogue. We should have a mechanism where we can recognize these challenges from early,” Brathwaite said.
He recalled that he had championed the Drug Treatment Court which he said is working well.
“We had our first set of graduates last year. We now have the second set of cohorts . . . from what I’m told, there are 25 individuals . . . we are examining the challenges that they had, whether it was an abuse of marijuana, cocaine or whiskey or even rum that led them to the criminal justice system and try to wean them off whatever brought them to the criminal justice system. So hopefully they will be able to live life outside of being in contact with the criminal justice system,” the AG said.
He noted that in some jurisdictions there are courts whose only remit is to assess the mental capacity of individuals to be tried or to have committed the crime with which they are charged. These courts, he said, are supervised by judges, accompanied by mental health professional who can make that assessment.
“At some point in time as a country and maybe in the very near future, under my guidance, we may consider having such a court. From what I am being told, at least a third of the individuals who are now incarcerated at Dodds really have mental health challenges; and the reason for their criminality is because their mental health issues were not addressed,” the Government’s chief legal advisor said, adding that such individuals go before the courts and are tried like normal people who do not have any challenges.
“They are tried like normal individuals like you and myself . . . ‘you don’t have any challenges.’ And they are tried and sentenced . . . but their mental health challenges are not addressed,” Brathwaite said, adding that the prison is not structured to deal with such matters.
“So they go into prison and have limited attention for their mental health issues and come back out with the issues,” the AG added.
He drew reference to a man who was charged with rape and released on bail. But, according to the AG, the accused raped again within half hour of being granted bail. Brathwaite attributed this to the failure by authorities to treat his mental illness. (EJ)