While there are sensational media reports on the minor misdeeds of criminals on parole after serving years of imprisonment, no attention is focused on the cruel, inhumane practice of keeping hundreds of prisoners in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, for months on end, in Australian jails .
Many of these out-of-sight, out-of-mind prison inmates who are being punished for violating prison rules suffer from a mental illness for which they receive inadequate treatment. Forensic psychiatrists say the prison system is no place for them and being placed in a single cell, deprived of natural light, space and contact with others, will exacerbate their psychosis leading, in some cases, to insanity and suicide.
The need for special psychiatric hospitals to treat those mentally disturbed (often due to drug abuse) law-breakers, by providing a secure, clinical environment rather than the strict controlling measures practised in prisons, with medical staff trained to deal with such complex disorders, will continue to be ignored as vote-seeking politicians rush to respond to shrill ‘law and order’ catch-cries emanating from some sections of the media.
Meanwhile, rehabilitation is denied to the voiceless ones who sit alone in their solitary cells.
Keith McEwan, CLA Member