BY RUTENDO MATANHIKE
Close to half of mentally-ill inmates at Chikurubi Maximum Security and Mlondolozi prisons, who are due for release, are being detained longer than expected because the Health Tribunal Review Board has not been meeting to assess their incarceration.
Acting chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, Mathias Tongofa, revealed this yesterday during a meeting of the committee to discuss mental health issues.
“During our visit to the Chikurubi and Mlondolozi, we were told that there are outstanding cases of close to half mentally-ill inmates that required reviews from the board, but were on hold because the Health Tribunal Review Board had not met,” he said.
Proportional representation MP Jasmine Toffa (MDC Alliance) said the inmates’ mental health was deteriorating further because they were being over-detained.
“Of the few hundred inmates in prison, what is of concern is that most of those mental patients have been tried at Chikurubi because there are no mental health institutions where they can be tried,” she said.
“Some of the patients have been found not guilty of their offences, but because they are waiting for the board to sit, they remain detained. Can you imagine what this is doing to the people that are already mentally ill?”
Health permanent secretary Agnes Mahomva said there were indications that the Health Tribunal Review Board had met sometime last year.
She said she would look into the issue and find out what could be done to address the problem.
MPs also said there was need for government to attend to issues affecting mental health institutions, where standards have sharply dropped.