India: Tele consultations to help mentally-ill inmates in jails

“A panel of eminent psychiatrists and psychologists available in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack can provide their service as consultants in an emergency situation in all jails. It will be tested on a pilot basis for at least six months and will have financial implication of Rs 1.5 lakh per month approximately,” a senior jail official said.

The prisons directorate has requested the health department to consider the proposal on a priority basis as the Orissa high court earlier asked the jail authorities to immediately address the issues of mental illness of prisoners.

Of the 20,260 prisoners lodged in the 87 jails, 792 have psychiatric problems. There may be even more undetected psychiatric prisoners, whose screening at an early stage is very much required by clinical psychologists. “In view of the acute shortage of psychiatrists, it is not possible to provide required care presently. The present system of sporadic visits by psychiatrists and psychologists to jails is highly inadequate,” the officer said.

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