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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 158324 Find in a Library
Title: Use of Inmates to Conduct Suicide Watch and Other Controversial Issues in Jail Suicide Prevention
Journal: Jail Suicide/Mental Health Update  Volume:6  Issue:1  Dated:(Fall 1995)  Pages:1-6
Corporate Author: National Ctr on Institutions and Alternatives
United States of America
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 6
Sponsoring Agency: National Ctr on Institutions and Alternatives
Alexandria, VA 22305
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Controversial approaches to jail suicide prevention are described, such as requiring no suicide contracts, stripping potentially suicidal inmates naked, using closed circuit television monitoring as an alternative to staff observation, and using inmates to conduct suicide watches.
Abstract: Various mental health agencies develop contracts with potentially suicidal inmates, seeking assurances that their clients will not engage in self-injurious behavior between therapy sessions. Correctional agencies may also request that inmates sign a no suicide contract as an apparent shield against liability. While no suicide contracts have many positive therapeutic aspects, most clinicians agree that, once an inmate becomes acutely suicidal, written or verbal assurances are no longer sufficient to counter suicidal impulses. Regardless of an inmate's suicidal lethality, some jails automatically strip potentially suicidal inmates of all their clothes and house them in an isolation cell. This process is very degrading and tends to exacerbate depression. More appropriate measures should include constant observation or closed supervision, placement in a "suicide-resistant" room or cell, and prompt intervention by mental health staff. Used primarily in small jail facilities that lack adequate staffing, closed circuit television (CCTV) is a popular yet deadly form of inmate supervision. If utilized, CCTV should only serve as a supplement to and not as a substitute for staff observation. In some cases, inmate observation aides have been trained to monitor inmates identified as potential suicide risks and to recognize warning signs of suicidal behavior. Because of the limited use of inmate observation aides, however, there is scant liability case law. The issue of whether a jail suicide "profile" exists is considered, and guidelines on how to deal with unmanageable or suicidal inmates are offered. 11 references
Main Term(s): Corrections
Index Term(s): Closed circuit television (CCTV); Inmate monitoring; Inmate segregation; Inmate suicide; Jails; Suicide prevention
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