By Colin James -
August 27, 2007 -
Article from: The Advertiser
MENTALLY ill people are being held within South Australian prisons in conditions unfit for animals, a legal inspection team says.
Adelaide Remand Center
Adelaide Women's prison
The SA Law Society's Human Rights committee has described the treatment of mentally ill prisoners as a "scandal which must be seen to be believed".
It has told a government committee that none of the prison facilities in SA "is able to provide adequate psychological or other longer term counselling and treatment for the mentally ill".
"The absolute failure in the treatment of the mentally ill in the prison system has now reached the stage of being an unmitigated disaster and crisis," its report says.
The report was written for the Correctional Services Advisory Council by five senior lawyers who last month visited the Adelaide Remand Centre, Yatala Labour Prison, Northfield Women's Prison and City Watch House amid widespread concerns about chronic overcrowding.
It calls for the urgent upgrade of Yatala's maximum-security G-Division and its medical infirmary, describing them as unfit for humans.
"To say that you would not place an animal in such conditions would be to demean all animals," it says.
"It would probably constitute animal cruelty to keep a pet or a horse stabled in such horrific conditions as exist in that facility (G-Division)."
The report says the large increase in the number of prisoners being sentenced for longer periods combined with an escalation in the number of mentally people being held in custody - was creating unsustainable pressure.
The report blames the Government's "tough on crime" agenda for many of the problems, describing its criminal justice policies as "haphazard" and "ill-thought out".
It says forensic psychiatric facilities at James Nash House and Glenside were "stretched to the limit and not available for use by prison services".
"The remedy lies in the hands of the Government which should act urgently and before any more lives are needlessly lost (through deaths in custody)," it says.