It can trigger mental illness, says renowned psychiatrist
Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, the three convicts on death row in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, have been subjected to solitary confinement for over a decade now, Selvaraj Murugaiyyan of the People’s Movement Against Death Penalty, said on Wednesday.
“The three convicts are being locked up in individual cells between 6 pm and 6 am ever since they were lodged in Vellore Central Prison in 1998. We are glad that the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled against solitary confinement of death prisoners,” Mr. Murugaiyyan said.
Parrying questions whether the movement would seek relief for the trio from solitary confinement, he said that with Perarivalan’s petition challenging the inordinate delay in disposing of the mercy petition was coming up for hearing in the apex court on January 29, there were larger issues to focus on.
Meanwhile, noted psychiatrist and State Nodal Officer of the District Mental Health Programme Dr. C. Ramasubramanian said keeping prisoners in solitary confinement was a severe punishment as they would not be able to ventilate their feelings by way of interacting with others. Considering the steep rise in the number of psychological problems among prisoners, the Tamil Nadu government had appointed qualified psychologists in all prisons. The State Health Department had directed all psychiatrists attached to the DMHP to visit prisons once in a fortnight and provide treatment to the needy. He said prisoners suffering separation from family, friends and the society and those subjected to solitary confinement were likely to develop mental illness.
According to Madurai District Psychiatrist Dr. S. Sivasangari, at least 40 prisoners with psychological problems were being treated in the Madurai Central Prison alone. Since 2009 when the treatment programme commenced, the number of cases has been on the rise.
“Since we have created awareness among the inmates, many are voluntarily complaining of psychological problems. If left untreated, such disorders could lead to other complications, including suicidal tendencies,” she said.