30 Apr, 09 | by Steven Reid, Evidence-Based Mental Health
If they are not mad when they go into these cursed Houses, they are soon made so by the barbarous Usage they there suffer.
Daniel Defoe, Augusta Triumphans (1728)
“Civil lunatics are people that the society doesn’t want to be roaming around causing problems, unfortunately they are dumped in our prisons”, comments the controller of Enugu Prison in Nigeria. In this article from the BBC Andrew Walker visits a prison where people with mental illness may be detained indeterminately by court order, often on spurious grounds. Given the level of overcrowding in Nigerian jails, the prison service itself is keen for ‘civil lunatics’ to be diverted elsewhere – sounds familiar?
Prison Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) is a human rights organisation lobbying for the discharge of the mentally ill from prisons. Since 2007 they have managed to get 54 people released from Enugu Prison, clearly an arduous task. And what happens in the community? You can read more about mental health care in Nigeria here.
Interesting fact: there are more Nigerians working as psychiatrists in the UK alone than in the whole of Nigeria.