SUICIDE AND SELF-INJURIOUS PREVENTION IN JAILS
Suicide in custody represents a double tragedy. There is both the loss of a human life, as well as the failure by the criminal justice system to protect those whose behavior has brought them into the custody of the state. This is especially important given the large numbers of persons with mental illness who are currently incarcerated. To better understand the phenomenon of jail/custody suicide, an examination of its extent and impact is in order. In a more recent discussion of jail suicide, Hayes (2003) estimates there are close to 200 prison suicides per year and between 400 and 600 jail suicides per year. Jails and prisons must have a suicide prevention program that has written protocols. Jail programs must have specific procedures for early assessments. Suicide is a leading cause of death among persons confined to correctional facilities even though it is largely preventable through a well functioning mental health program. Prisoners are especially at risk for suicide when first admitted to a jail. For example, 50% of jail suicides occur in the first 24 hours and 27% occur during the first 3 hours after admission. Health and custody staff must be trained to recognize warning signs of suicidal intent and devise appropriate plans to safeguard life (world health organization). There are many manuals written for the signs and prevention of suicide, but most inmates are not prepared for what they are getting ready to endure. First off, they are being punished, so anything that they get other than three meals, toilet paper, small toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, 2 sheets, one towel, one washcloth, one comb, one bar of soap and a mat is a privilege. If you don’t have a phone card, you have no contact with your family members. If your family members don’t know how to set the phone up to accept your calls, you can tell them on visiting day which is a grand total of 15 minutes a week. The...
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