Psychiatric nurse hospitalised after alleged assault by mental health patient at Hu‘atolitoli prison   

A Tongan mental health nurse is fighting for his life at Vaiola hospital after he had been allegedly knocked out and beaten by a mental health patient.  

Huʻatolitoli Prison and Correctional Facility

Hu’atolitoli Prison Chaplain Rev Sēmisi Kava has confirmed the incident happened on Saturday evening but provided no other details.

The incident comes in the wake of grave concerns about the country’s biggest prison’s severe overcrowding problem.

The Prison Commissioner told reporters at the time there were 51 cells, which should each hold one person each, however he said sometimes the prison roster was as high as 180.

Reports said that inmates with psychiatric issues were transferred from the main clinic at Vaiola Hospital to the prison and dramatic increase in the prison population made it hard to control them.

The reports mentioned a number of reasons for the overcrowding.

This included people who’d committed drug offences and juveniles.

In another report by the US Department of State in 2021, it said Hu’atolitoli Prison and its psychiatric facility were overcrowded as societal substance abuse and mental illness continued to generate pressure for space in the prison system.

“In 2021 Hu’atolitoli Prison cells built for one individual were holding up to four persons and the prison lacked a facility to house women psychiatric patients separately from other prisoners”.

It’s unclear if these circumstances remained throughout the years.

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