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Mentally ill mix with other inmates in Sharjah prison

An Interior Ministry report on Sharjah prison says all inmates, including those with contagious diseases and who are mentally unstable, mix freely.

Gulf News

Sharjah: An Interior Ministry report on Sharjah prison says all inmates, including those with contagious diseases and who are mentally unstable, mix freely, Gulf News has learnt.

The report says both the men's and women's sections are overcrowded.

Police are now investigating the death of a mentally disturbed inmate in his solitary confinement cell in Sharjah jail. Investigators are working to establish whether he committed suicide or was murdered. The Indian man was found dead on Friday morning. Police did not provide details.

The case has raised the issue of keeping the mentally disturbed in jail rather than in medical facilities.

Sharjah Prison officials declined to comment on the case when contacted by Gulf News. It was independently confirmed that mentally unstable people found roaming the streets of Sharjah are jailed if the authorities cannot trace their families. They are not placed under medical care in a hospital.

It was learnt that the federally-run Al Amal Hospital in Dubai caters to Dubai and the northern emirates, but it is handicapped by a shortage of beds. There is a dire need to expand the facilities. Abu Dhabi has its own hospital. Families sometimes send patients to the hospital or police bring them there.

Police find these people roaming the streets and they do not have identity papers. They are taken to the central prison from where they are transferred to the hospital.

The patients are admitted to the hospital if there is space. If not, they are put on the waiting list. There are 80 beds for mentally disturbed men and another 80 for women, besides 80 for drug addicts. The patients are sent back to prison after treatment.

Mentally disturbed people found roaming the streets of Dubai are either sent to Al Amal Hospital or to ward number 15 in Rashid Hospital by Dubai Police's Human Rights Department.

Mentally disturbed people should never be kept in jail and should not be treated like criminals, psychologists said. In fact, patients should not be transported in a police vehicle but in an ambulance.

Mentally disturbed patients must not be placed under police custody because they need constant supervised care, psychologists said. They said it is tragic that a mentally disturbed man was found dead in his cell, and hoped the authorities will react and take the issue up. It is imperative that these patients receive proper medical attention and are not kept in jail, they said.

Inspection team finds host of problems

A team was formed by the Ministry of Interior to inspect Sharjah Jail. The following are some of the points raised:

  • Overcrowding in male and female wards.
  • Inmates with dangerous and contagious diseases mix freely with those suffering mental disorders. The women's wards, which also house those with contagious diseases, has children as well.
  • Security concerns as the prison operates two gates at the same time.
  • The team also found that the jail does not abide by the Punitive Establishment law and its executive regulations regarding detention and its legal provisions.
  • Local authorities use the jail to detain those with mental disorders along with those pending trial and those who have violated labour laws.
  • The team recommends intervention to tackle the problem as soon as possible.