Central Jail sans shrinks

Prisoners of Bangalore Central Jail in Parappana Agrahara are missing out on counselling sessions as the prison has had no psychiatrist for nearly four years now.

In 2011, a study conducted by National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans) about mental health and substance abuse at the Bangalore prison recommended that there should be at least one psychiatrist in a prison and one counselor for every 500 prisoners. But the post of a psychiatrist at Bangalore Central Jain is vacant since the previous psychiatrist left. At present, there are about 4,120 inmates in the Parappana Agrahara Central Jail.

In the absence of psychiatrists, sources say, mentally ill prisoners are cared for by other prisoners. Some women prisoners have been trained in basic nursing skills and they are each assigned some prisoners with mental ailments.  “Some prisoners get violent at night and at such times, these other prisoners handle the situation,” the source said. In instances, where the inmates exhibit extremely violent behaviour, they are taken to Nimhans. For others, they have to make do with whatever treatment they can get, when psychiatrists from Nimhans visit the jail.

“We have written to the health and family welfare asking them to fill up the post, but nothing has been done so far,” said DIG (Prisons) S Ravi. The office of DIG Prisons said the post of a psychiatrist is vacant at Belgaum Jail too.

 Dr  Prathima Murthy, Professor of Psychiatry and Head of De-addiction Centre at Nimhans, who was part of the study said the presence of a psychiatrist is crucial. “When we conducted the study we found that two out of every hundred prisoners had suffered from suicidal tendencies earlier and seven out of every hundred showed signs of having inflicted wounds upon themselves. Most prisoners suffer from severe depression and need regular counselling sessions.”

The Nimhans report says there are about 1,389 prisoners (around 28 per cent) who suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder like depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder.  She went on to add that with most prisoners testing positive for substance abuse it was a cause for major concern. “They need somebody to talk to and regular care,” she said.

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