Mental Health Awareness Toolkits
People with mental illness are among the most vulnerable group of individuals in society. Their vulnerability is, unfortunately, seldom afforded the appropriate level of protection in the criminal justice system. All those who deal with prisoners with mental illness have a duty to ensure that vulnerable defendants are treated fairly and in accordance with domestic law and international obligations. Recognizing this complexity, the Supreme Court gave a landmark judgment in the case of Mst. Safia Bano vs Home Department, Government of Punjab [2021 PLD 488 Supreme Court], providing broad guidelines for managing offenders living with mental illness.
In June 2021, Justice Project Pakistan in collaboration with the Sindh Prisons and Corrections Services trained around 45 jail staffers on mental health, most of whom were first responders. The Inspector General also participated in the sessions and shared his experience with the staffers.
The interactive trainings were meant to enhance the capacity of prison staff to handle inmates with mental illnesses in line with the directions given by the Supreme Court earlier this year in the case of Safia Bano v. Home Department, Government of Punjab [2021 PLD 488 Supreme Court].
Prison Officials (Sindh & Punjab)
There are 96, central and district level, prisons across Pakistan which house a diverse mix of people. Some inmates may be dangerous and violent, many in need of medical attention and others who may be physically or mentally vulnerable for socioeconomic reasons. All those who deal with prisoners with mental illness do not have a duty to diagnose mental disorders or provide welfare services to defendants, they do have a duty to ensure that vulnerable defendants are treated fairly and in accordance with law. This toolkit seeks to help prison staff understand better and respond appropriately to the mental health needs of prisoners. It focuses on the steps the prison staff can take to promote and protect mental health and well-being of prisoners.
Prison Mental Health Professionals
Mental health professionals in prisons face the consequences of supervising people with mental ill-health on a daily basis, yet frequently do not receive the necessary training or support. This toolkit helps health professionals and mental health workers in prisons to imbibe this change which provides the requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes to understand the role of mental illness in the criminal justice system. It provides a series of questionnaires in order to aid prison medical and mental health professionals in prisons to know what, when and how to ask about issues pertaining to mental health. The aim of this toolkit and manual is to be a quick guide for clinical interactions with those at risk of or suffering from mental illness.
Mental health and the judicial system is closely linked. It is estimated that 40% of prisoners, globally, suffer from mental illness. Criminal justice systems, the world over, face substantial challenges when dealing with an offender with mental illness. Without treatment, mental illness can linger, become worse and increase the chances of future involvement in the justice system. To achieve better results for the system and for individuals, access to mental health services should be provided at various stages in the criminal justice system. This toolkit seeks to help key stakeholders in the judicial process to understand better and respond appropriately to the mental health needs of offenders with mental illness.