Prevention of Suicide in Jails and Prisons Essay

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[. . .] Often, when a prisoner is predisposed to two or more risk factors, they have higher risks of committing suicide. Prisoners are often more likely to commit suicide if they show the warning signs of suicide earlier discussed. Other situations that may lead them to commit suicide include receiving bad news about their family, friends or relatives, marital problems, conflict with inmates they are together with, or tension about their sentences or court hearings and sexual coercion Gunn, Maden, & Swinton, 1991.

Under these circumstances, inmates have often been known to cause suicide.

Why are prison officials obligated to address the problem of prisoner suicide?

Despite prisoners or inmates being stripped off their freedom, they are still entitled to other fundamental rights. They have the right to adequate medical care. It is the role of the prison officers to provide all inmates with adequate medical care despite their reason for incarceration duration of incarceration, or behavior during incarceration. This is dictated in the Eighth Amendment Adams, 1992()

Prison officials may also find themselves on the wrong side of the law as a result of deliberate indifference. This is defined as when a prison officer disregards risks to the inmate either deliberately or due to recklessness. However, provided the negligence can be attributed to an action that the prison official should have done, the prison official can be found guilty of deliberate indifference. It is important for the prison official to understand and identify any risks to the health and safety of the inmates Adams, 1992()

Circumstantial evidence can be used to prove the prison officer's knowledge of a certain risk even though they are not expected to know specific risks from specific sources. This inference can be made from the obvious nature of the risk, or other inferences such as direct evidence. Direct evidence is the situation where the prisoner requests a medical checkup or makes formal grievances that their request for medical assistance was denied.

Access to mental health care is also covered in the prisoners' rights. Prisoners or inmates have the same constitutional right of access of mental care and prison officials can be found guilty of deliberate indifference when they deny a prisoner access to this. For a prison to provide adequate mental health care, there is need for the prison to have a way of identifying inmates that require mental care, provide appropriate care, and ensure confidentiality of receiving mental care. The prison must also be able to provide prescriptions and administer medications for the mental health disorders that the inmates are facing.

Policy for prevention of inmate suicide

Policy

The Department of Corrections has stepped up their efforts in reducing suicide and suicide attempts in prisons. The Department requires all prison officials to respond to warning signs or suicide attempts appropriately with mental health and psychiatric care to prevent suicide. All inmates should also be assessed and any found having at least one warning sign for suicide or other predisposing factors should be referred for appropriate professional help immediately.

Applicability

All prison officials have a duty to play in preventing suicides in the prison.

Definitions

Assessment:

any official or unofficial judgments conducted by the chief, warden, supervisor, or other prison staff to determine risk of suicide for a particular inmate.

Staff:

any person paid or voluntary, working in the prison under specific terms of service.

Directives

Staff responsibilities

1. All prison officials must:

a. Conduct a person assessment of each prisoner's risk of suicide by identifying early warning signs. They must exhibit fairness, objectivity, and professionalism in dealing with the assessment.

b. Report immediately, through the official forms provided, any information they receive, assessment of warning signs, or through other knowledge, any issues that may cause prisoner suicide.

c. Ensure that any information about these reports and assessments made to determine the risk of prisoner suicide is kept confidential.

d. Cooperate with the medical staff in the prison to ensure the prisoner receives the appropriate psychological care and that information they provide to these staff is free of errors or malicious information.

e. Complete special training regarding to assessment of warning signs of prisoner suicide or other factors that may lead to prisoner suicide.

f. Follow up any deliberately false or malicious reports of suicide and ensure the appropriate disciplinary action is undertaken.

These rules apply to all members of staff within the correctional facility regardless of their rank, reason, or shifts. Any information that they receive, regardless of the source, should be evaluated with diligence to ensure that appropriate measures are taken before the inmate commits suicide.

2. No personnel within the correctional facility should exude fear towards inmates who have warning signs of suicide.

a. The personnel should ask the inmate if they have or are considering suicide.

b. They should assess the prisoner's acts to establish whether they are self-destructive.

c. They should be as direct as possible in asking about the prisoner's thoughts and try to assess the honesty in the answer they receive.

3. The prison administration should:

a. Ensure the availability of appropriate and quality-checked first aid and safety equipment. These include resuscitation masks, latex gloves, defibrillators, and tools that can be used to open cell doors that are jammed or for cutting a hanging inmate.

b. Ensure all prison staff are trained in recognition, assessment, and response to early warning and risks of suicide and first aid.

c. Ensure that isolation cells are used appropriately. Placing prisoners in isolation is often a risk factor for suicide. Therefore, isolation should also be used when the inmate reaches a point where all other available options have failed.

d. Ensure isolation cells are suicide protected. This means the cells should not have any items that the inmates could use to cause harm. Items that could be used for hanging such as bed sheets, rope, and furniture should also be removed.

e. Attempt to find professional associations and organizations that aim at suicide prevention in correctional facilities to work with to develop tools for assessing suicide risk in jails and prisons. These organizations should also be supported to provide training to prison staff and be involved in retraining staff members towards the success of the suicide prevention strategies.

Prisoner orientation and education

Prisoners should be educated and orientated on identifying early warning signs of suicide. The prisoners should also be educated on the confidentiality and anonymity in the process towards resolution of mental health issues and other issues causing suicidal behavior. Information provided to prisoners should include:

Methods for self-protection

Prevention strategies within the organization, and interventions available

Ways of reporting suicide attempt in a discrete manner including the locked box provided for such reports.

Protection against any form of retaliation by the inmate being reported,

Consequences of providing false or misleading information

That prisoners are not required to file written reports but prison officers receiving these reports have to file written reports to assess the risk of suicide.

Prevention

1. All prison staff and inmates should be alert to the signs of potential situations in which prisoner suicide may occur. Warning signs include:

a. Sadness or depression

b. Previous suicide attempt

c. Loss of rational thought

d. Sickness, especially mental illness

e. Lack of social support

f. Substance abuse issues

g. Isolation or loneliness

h. Loss of interest

i. Loss of appetite

j. Disturbed sleep

k. Fatigue

2. All prison officers and administrators should identify and assess any prisoners with special needs including those with potential vulnerabilities or increased risk of suicide.

Intervention

1. Prison officials receiving an initial report of prisoner suicide thoughts or attempts should separate the individual from any immediate stressors to protect the inmate from future suicide attempts.

2. This report should be promptly presented to the medical staff at the prison to ensure the prisoner received professional care as appropriate to their circumstance and needs. This is done through an assessment form for potential suicide risk that should be completed and submitted to the medical department.

3. All inmates who were with the inmate with suicidal thoughts or who attempted suicide, or who were friends or acquaintances with the suicidal inmate should also receive appropriate care for any psychological trauma they may have endured.

4. The shift supervisor at the prison should refer all suicidal inmates to a nearby facility for a formal assessment of their mental status where the facility does not have an in house medical team that can provide appropriate care.

5. All prison staff should be supported to communicate effectively about any concerns they may have regarding inmates and in conducting assessment of early warning signs of suicide.

6. Prevention attitudes and behaviors should be modeled according to the general behavior of prisoners within the facility to make them easier to implement and ensure confidentiality in providing professional care to inmate who need it.

Services to be provided

Prison administrators should ensure all suicidal inmates receive mental health intervention and treatment in addition to social, peer and family support to help… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Prevention of Suicide in Jails and Prisons.  (2014, March 16).  Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/prevention-suicide-jails-prisons/3286493

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"Prevention of Suicide in Jails and Prisons."  Essaytown.com.  March 16, 2014.  Accessed February 15, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/prevention-suicide-jails-prisons/3286493.