From Iceland — Poor Treatment Of Mentally Ill Convicts

Poor Treatment Of Mentally Ill Convicts

Published October 7, 2013

Handling of mentally ill convicts in Iceland may very well be violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, says the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

This is amongst the things mentioned in a draft of the Ombudsman’s report about Litla-Hraun, the maximum-security detention centre in South-Iceland.

The Director-General of Prison and Probation Administration told RÚV that authorities have been regularly notified that convicts who don’t belong in prison because of health reasons, are being kept in Icelandic prisons, where they don’t receive necessary treatment.

So this shouldn’t be news to Icelandic authorities, especially not since the National Audit Office pointed out that prisoners should be provided with adequate health care, especially those mentally ill.

In September, the office reiterated its motion, claiming that prisoners deserve the same medical care as others in Iceland, after news broke of mentally ill prisoners having taken their own lives.

Last spring, The Committee for the Prevention of Torture, of the Council of Europe, made serious remarks about Iceland’s medical care of mentally ill prisoners, especially at Litla-Hraun, deeming it unsatisfactory and criticising that despite the committee’s previous remarks, amends had not been made.

According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s draft, possibly 5-7 mentally ill convicts were imprisoned at Litla-Hraun in the last year, which is an increase from previous years. One of them was even too ill to be around other prisoners.

The Ombudsman reckons that part of the problem is that there’s no unity within the administration regarding who’s responsible for providing mental health care to prisoners, what sort of service they should receive and who should pay for it.

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