South Africa: State Patients Incarcerated in Prisons Instead of Being Treated in Psychiatric Hospitals


Two years after the Department of Health presented the Port Elizabeth High Court with plans to move state patients from prisons to psychiatric hospitals to prevent human rights violations and provide them with access to treatment, very little has changed.

In October, the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, said in an answer to a parliamentary question that 182 state patients were being held in prisons instead of psychiatric hospitals. By far the majority of these patients, 87, were incarcerated in the Eastern Cape. Gauteng only had four, KwaZulu-Natal 35, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West a combined 17 and the Free State and Northern Cape a combined 39.

At a recent seminar in East London, a decision was taken by correctional services officials to look into the constitutionality of the continuous incarceration of state patients in prisons.

In his annual report, the outgoing inspecting judge of prisons, Justice Johann van der Westhuizen, said the issue of state patients being held in prisons instead of psychiatric hospitals had essentially remained unchanged in the past year.

He explained that provision is made for state patients to be temporarily housed in a correctional health facility when a bed is not immediately available in...

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