Correctional institutions as their name implies serve to correct. While the main measure used is punitive there exists many opportunities to develop skills and knowledge of individuals who for whatever reasons find themselves in prison.
This may be a formal education like basic litracy and numeric skills or spiritual and psychological learning and aquiring of new ways of anger management.
Fig: Me and Snr Chief Inpsector Frank Ito. Head of welfare services
In regards to health prisons while not being a place anyone want to be, can provide opportunities for diagnosis, disease management, education, counselling, and treatment of individuals that they may not have receive in the general community.
Not only do we have an opportunity to make these individuals become healthier but for society their acquired knowledge one their own and fellow inmates’ condition(s) whether it be TB or diabetes while in prison potentially make them good health educators, advocates and promoters when they return to join society.
I had an opportunity to meet Commander Commander Haraha Kiddy Keko who is in the man at the helm, making sure the biggest jail in PNG is operating as it should, not only as a place of punishment but rehabilitation and “correction”.
The Commander has about 40 years in the correctional services and has made his way up the ranks from the most junior level to now being the Commander of Bomana Jail.
His is a story that encapsulates the moto of the PNG Correctional Service of “loyalty, justice, industry and vigilance”
I had the honor of being dropped off to my home after my second visit and I heard his inspirational story.
A great wealth of experience and wisdom like many other Papua New Guinean who have lived on both sides of political independence.
They represent our country’s knowledge bank who we must as a society try to ensure their health and longevity.
I invited Commander Keko for coffee and we chatted for a good hour and a half about the need for the PNG Correctional Services to have their own fully funded medical services with government funded positions for doctors in all the main prisons.
As workers in one of the important institutions in the country they at least deserve access to primary GP care that is provided by a competent doctor.
Fig: Maximum security section of Bomana prison.
For the first half of my visit, I gave a health awareness and education about diabetes and also about health in general.
Prisoners act as a reservoirs of infections and chronic disease, and therefore if their health and well being are not addressed by our government they will only add an extra burden to our already struggling health system.
The health and well being of prisoners and the CIS staff is an investment into our society’s health and well being.
In this, my first of a series of planned visits to Bomana the focus was on the CIS officers whom from my observation are doing a mammoth and many time a thankless task under extremely limited resources.
It is planned that in the coming weeks the program will extend to involve the detainees too.
The second half of my visit today involved screening CIS officers for diabetes and other conditions and arranging appropriate referrals for those needing it.
Fig: More diabetes testing.
I want to make a special mention of the extraordinary mental stress that is being endured by both CIS staff and detainees.
Mental illness leads to great loss of productivity in the whole of society and I observed that with even greater acuteness amongst the CIS staff and the prisoners which in turn leads to high suicide rates in both groups.
For prisoners suicide rates are high both while in prison and after their release and importantly also it contributes to a higher rates of repeat offending.
Sadly in the week prior to my visit a CIS staff succumbed to depression and committed suicide. I personally send my condolences to his family.
I HOPE WE CAN SEE THE PNG Correctional Services HAVE THEIR OWN MEDICAL SERVICE IN THE FUTURE.