KOCHI: The government’s initiative to set up rehabilitation centres for mentally-challenged prisoners at three central jails in the State is expected to benefit scores of prisoners and under-trials suffering from mental illness.
Earlier, ‘Express’ had published a report on the plight of mentally challenged under-trials languishing in Kerala jails for several years.
Recently, the Kerala High Court had directed the State Government to hold a meeting of the stakeholders and file a report on the issue within six weeks from the date of the order.
Replying to a question posed by Manjalamkuzhi Ali MLA, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan informed the Cabinet that the government had initiated steps to set up rehabilitation centres in three central jails, depending on land availability. “Services of paramedical staff and doctors will be made available at the centres,” he said.
Speaking to ‘Express’, Prisons IG Gopakumar said there were around 89 mentally challenged under-trials lodged in various jails for long periods, quoting data compiled by the Prisons Department in 2014. “The number of mentally challenged prisoners might have increased slightly over the last two years. Since they require routine monitoring and treatment, treatment facilities would be set up in jails, rather than rehabilitation centres,” said Gopakumar.
Manjalamkuzhi Ali said, “I have received complaints from relatives of several prisoners alleging that the inmates had developed signs of mental illness due to prolonged jail stay. But, many of the cases go unreported as the relatives are reluctant to take them to mental hospitals due to the procedural complexities.”
“The fate of 15 under-trial prisoners who were declared mentally and physically fit to be released are yet to see of the light of the day due to apathy on the part of the Home Department is ratifying the secretary-level proposal to release them,” said Directorate of Social Justice director P Bala Kiran.
According to a report submitted by former Prisons DIG T P Senkumar, there are 88 mentally challenged under-trials lodged in various jails without trial, with some of them languishing since 1977.
Based on the report, the Social Justice Department and the Health Department constituted a special team, including psychiatrists, to assess the condition of the under-trials.
Following a preliminary inspection, the team declared that 19 of the 88 mentally challenged under-trials were physically and mentally fit to be released. Later, the list was pruned to 15.
Though the Prisons Department informed relatives of all the 15 under-trial prisoners, none of them was willing to take care of the inmates if released.
“The decision to set up rehabilitation facilities at central jails would bring relief to the many mentally challenged under-trials and prisoners lodged in jails and mental hospitals, denying care and natural justice,” said Orphanage Control Board former member secretary K K Mony.