February 18, 2020

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Inmate Suicide Prevention

Gordon Graham
Category: Corrections

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for my friends in corrections and it’s about the important role you play in inmate suicide prevention. 

We should pay attention to inmate behavior and to what inmates say that suggest suicidal thoughts.

It’s no secret that you deal with individuals with significant life challenges. The mere fact that they’re in your facility means things aren’t going too well for them.  

So, couple the life challenges of inmates, along with the mental illness that many of them have, and we have a recipe for disaster.  

But there are some things we can do to help reduce the risk of inmate suicide.  

Risk identification may come through your facility’s initial screening of inmates. Oftentimes though, it comes from being alert and paying attention. We should pay attention to inmate behavior and to what inmates say that suggest suicidal thoughts.  

When you suspect that an inmate may be having suicidal thoughts, you should take precautions. If your facility has a Suicide Prevention Plan, follow it.  These plans generally include the ability to put an inmate on suicide watch. This extra monitoring and intervention can help mitigate the risk of inmate suicide.  

But suicide watch is only part of a comprehensive suicide prevention plan. The plan should also include staff working closely with mental health professionals and local public health agencies, when appropriate. 

It’s often possible to avoid a tragic in-custody suicide death. Remember, if it’s predictable, it’s preventable. However, it takes being attentive and following a pre-developed plan of intervention. And don’t forget, if you transfer an inmate with a history or risk of suicide, be sure to clearly communicate that risk to the receiving facility. 

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off. 

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