Mentally challenged man stuck in prison

Raymond Khumalo, a mentally challenged man who was placed at Medium A section of the Johannesburg Correctional Centre while waiting for a bed at a psychiatric hospital, will have to wait another six weeks before he could know if the bed is available or not. Ananias Ndlovu and Miriam Mokoena write for Times Live.

Raymond has been a victim of prison violence. He was severely beaten for not paying for his cell bed. He has been waiting for four months for a bed to become available at a psychiatric hospital and he is among more than 140 Awaiting Trial Detainees waiting for beds at Sterkfontein – in a ward that can only accommodate 30 patients for 30 days.

Raymond made a brief appearance at the Orlando Magistrate Court last week on charges of assault and his case was remanded to 31 May. The court was told that the bed is not yet available at Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital. For the last four months, Raymond has been locked up without taking his medication.

His mother, Virginia Khumalo, 61, has been trying to make authorities aware that her 28-year-old son, Raymond, was in danger of getting into trouble with other prisoners and urgently needs to take his medication.

But all Khumalo’s efforts went in vain and one of the things that she feared would happen – has happened. She said every time she visits her son, he is full of bruises and this is because he cannot “pay” other inmates for his cell bed.

It is common that awaiting trial prisoners have to “pay” other prisoners – with cigarettes, phone cards or food – for the “privilege” of not having to sleep on the floor.

Khumalo, being a pensioner, cannot bring her son food, cigarettes or money every week and as a result he is unable to pay for a cell bed and also gets beaten up by other remand prisoners.

Now his fuming mother wants Raymond taken out of prison and transferred to Sterkfontein Hospital, as ordered by court in his original appearance. But still there is no bed available and there are more than 140 inmates waiting for a bed in a psychiatric institution.

Raymond was arrested in December after he allegedly hit someone. The man, 61, who was since been admitted at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, unfortunately died. This was not Raymond’s first violent act. In 2004, he was sent to Sterkfontein for observation after he assaulted his neighbour. Raymond has been receiving treatment at Orlando clinic since 2004. Every month he is given a variety of medication for mental illness and for mental stabilisation.

When Raymond first appeared in court, his mother highlighted his plight and the magistrate sent him for observation at Sterkfontein.

But during his second court appearance on 31 January, the court was told that there were no beds available at Sterkfontein and he must wait until one is. Officials at Sterkfontein said it could take months or even up to a year for Raymond to get a bed.

The ward that is utilised by ATDs can only accommodate 30 patients and it takes up to 30 days to treat one patient. Dr Eddie Pak from Sterkfontein said the hospital is doing everything in its power to deal with the backlog. He said Sterkfontein deals with inmates from all South Gauteng courts and inmates from the North West province as well.

“We receive lots of inmates but it is just unfortunate that we can only cater for 30 patients. We try by all means to speed up the process but we have a high number of inmates who need to be evaluated. We have a list and we take our patients from it,” said Dr Pak. But this is not good enough for Khumalo who does not know what will happen next to her son.

“He is a violent person and he walks out on me every time I am here. I don’t know what to do because his situation is getting worse and authorities are not doing anything. I am really scared that something bad might happen to him. I hope my son gets necessary help before is too late,” said Khumalo.

Read the original story here.

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The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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