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Mental Health in Prison - The African Perspective

NCJ Number
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Volume: 30 Issue: 1 Dated: (1986) Pages: 1-9
T Asuni
Date Published
9 pages
After describing the general conditions and services for mentally ill inmates in African prisons, this article suggests ways to improve their treatment.
Severely mentally ill persons are customarily imprisoned even if they have committed no offense, since African countries have few psychiatric facilities. The deprivations and regimentation of prisons tend to aggravate mental illnesses, but the prison structure and supportive network often constitute a more therapeutic environment than the mentally ill inmate would experience on the outside. Prison mental health services suffer due to a severe shortage of mental health professionals, drugs, and equipment. An improvement, particularly in large African countries, would be to have regional psychiatric hospitals to serve both civil and criminal patients. Prison staff should also be instructed in the therapeutic treatment of inmates in the context of the various staff functions. Prison medical officers and nurses must receive mental health training from psychiatrists. Prison conditions and services should be tested by research to determine their effects and provide data for program development. Prison policymakers in developing African countries can use the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners to support requests for additional funding of inmate mental health services.