Under the project started by the Legal Aid Council in late 2017, a team of 24 lawyers and six administrative staff were trained and dispatched to the prisons to kick-start the legal process for the removal of 313 mentally ill persons incarcerated largely for minor infractions at the Tower Street and St Catherine adult correctional centres and Fort Augusta prison.
“He was wrongly listed [in prison records] as being held at the governor general’s pleasure,” Faulkner said of the sentence imposed by the courts up to 1975, following the conviction of a mentally ill person.
Just over half of the mentally ill persons who make up the 4,000-plus prison population are incarcerated for minor crimes such as assault and damage to property, offences that are prosecuted in the parish courts, the project found.
Four other detainees with mental illnesses were freed under a precursor project undertaken by the Legal Aid Council between 2015 and 2017 to have about 30 cases that had fallen off the list restored in the parish courts.
Faulkner disclosed that dozens of court-ready case files are now in the Legal Aid Council’s database, but pointed out that where a mentally ill person is declared unfit to plead, the courts will only release them to an institution or individual.