Noel Chambers died after spending 40 years in prison without ever standing trial. He was deemed “unfit to plead” – meaning the Court found that he was not mentally fit to stand trial. He was detained “at the Governor General’s pleasure” until he died in his cell. As harrowing as this sounds, this is legal in Jamaica.
For decades, our justice system has locked hundreds of mentally ill persons in prisons without a trial. The public came to anavar comprar learn of Noel Chambers because he died while incarcerated and the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) published a report highlighting his death. The findings shocked the nation. But the circumstances surrounding his imprisonment are not new.
A familiar story
It is still legal in Jamaica to imprison someone indefinitely at the “pleasure” of the Court or Governor-General. INDECOM reports that it is aware of 146 mentally ill persons in prisons who have never been tried. Last year, the Legal Aid Council reported that it was aware of 313 such persons. Human rights organizations and legal aid attorneys have worked on dozens of cases over the years. The true number is likely unknown.
Do you remember Walter Blackstock who was imprisoned for over 30 years without trial only for it to be discovered that the prosecution had no case to bring against him? He was released last year.
Do you remember Alfred Nettleford (a.k.a. “Ivan Barrows”) who was imprisoned for 28 years without trial for allegedly breaking a window (a maximum sentence of 5 years)? The government (using our taxpayer dollars) had to pay him $9 million in compensation.
Imprisonment is not the only option under law
Jamaica’s Criminal Justice (Administration) Act establishes four options for Courts in handling persons who are mentally ill and “unfit to plead.” Locking them away in prison is just one option. Under Section 25(C)(2), if a person is not mentally fit to plead, the Court may: (a) remand the person in custody “at the Court’s pleasure”; (b) commit the person to a psychiatric facility; (c) make a supervision and treatment order; or (d) make a guardianship order.
Prisons are usually meant for persons co