Prevalence of Suicide in Correctional Settings
-Suicide common among the incarcerated offenders than among the common population (Tripodi & Bender, 2006).
– Range between 6-9 times more than common population
-As the prison population increased, the suicide rates also rose
– Local jail suicide rates higher than in state prisons
– Suicide assume several methods, such as gas inhalation, hanging, ingestion of solid materials and drug overdose.
Suicide can be defined to include a range of activities such as thoughts and planning, self-harming, suicide attempts and harm to self that results in death (Tripodi & Bender, 2006). According to the authors, the rates of suicide among the incarcerated individuals in the United States is higher than that among the general population. The increase in the population from 1978 towards the current population was followed by an increase in the suicide rates in prisons and jails. However, the authors point that the rates of suicide among the incarcerated offenders in higher in local jails than that in state prisons. Most of the suicide cases that are reported in the correctional facilities occur through hanging, gas inhalation, ingestion of solid materials and drug over dose.
Common Myths of Suicide
– Reducing suicidal rates are largely dependent on understanding the behavior (Jeglic, Spada, & Mercado, 2012).
-The following are common myths
- Suicidal statements are not serious
- Suicides happen suddenly
- They want to die
- It happens only in large prisons
- You should not ask them about suicide
The success of the correctional experts to reduce the rates of suicides among the offenders rests upon the use of appropriate evidence-based practices (Jeglic, Spada, & Mercado, 2012). Moreover, the correctional experts need to have a good understanding of the common myths of suicide. The myths that suicidal statements are not serious, that suicides happen suddenly, that those who commit suicide want to die, that it happens only in large prisons and that the correction experts should not ask the offenders about suicide are all wrong misconceptions. Research has shown that most suicides happen in small jails and that most people who commit suicide have previously made statements that clearly show their intentions. This shows that suicides do not happen suddenly but occur as impulsive acts. Moreover, by talking to the people about suicide, not only is one not putting the suicidal actions in their heads if it was not there, but it may act as a sign of relief to those considering it. Most people who commit suicide do so because they want to escape their emotional pain and not necessarily to die.
- Only those with mental health illness are prone to suicides
- Once they try, they will not repeat again
- You can easily spot manipulators
The other myths of suicide among the incarcerated offenders include the misconceptions that only individuals with mental illnesses are prone to suicides, that once someone tries to commit suicide they will not try again and that it is easy to tell if someone is manipulative when assessing for suicide risks. However, the truth is that suicide occurs across the mentally unstable and individuals with sound minds. In addition, those who have attempted suicide are more likely to commit suicide than those who have never attempted. Finally, even the most seasoned forensic mental expert in a correctional facility may find it hard to determine if the offender intends to harm himself or is just being manipulative to attain a selfish goal.
Signs of Increased Suicide Risks
- Several risk factors for suicide (Tripodi & Bender, 2006).
- Sentence length and feeling regarding the sentence
- Prior history of suicide attempt
- Personal experience to self-harm
- Family history
- The way inmates articulate their suicide thoughts
- Prisoners under influence of substances/addiction
- Poor social support
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According to (Tripodi & Bender, 2006) there are several risk signs for increased suicide among the prison offenders. The first sign is the feeling and length of the sentence. The author points that the newly sentenced and those prisoners serving long sentence are at greater risk of committing suicide. Prisoners who have prior experience of self-harm are prone to hopelessness, depression and suicidal ideation. Such prisoners with prior history of suicidal attempt have increased risks of suicide. Moreover, personal experiences to self-harm, for example inmates with families with histories of suicide, especially if it involved closer family members, have higher risks of suicide.
The author also points that the way inmates articulate their suicidal thoughts shows potential risks to suicides. Those who show anxiety and demonstrate problems with impulse control must be noted. In addition, those prisoners who are under substance abuse problems possess higher risks of suicide. Finally, the presence of poor social support in the correctional facility may place inmates at higher risks of suicide. Prisoners who have good social networks in the correctional facility have reduced hopelessness and this reduces their risks towards suicide.
How Forensic Mental Experts Can Assess for Suicide Risks
- Assessment done by mental experts
- Done during initial screening process
-Assessment typically done through 3 simple questions
- Are you currently thinking of suicide?
- Do you have plan to commit suicide?
- What is your plan to commit suicide?
- Other clinical assessments include
- Scale for suicide ideation (SSI)
- Suicide behaviors questionnaire (SBQ)
According to (Tripodi & Bender, 2006) the forensic experts can assess for suicide risks by ask the three simple questions: Are you currently thinking of suicide? Do you have plan to commit suicide? What is your plan to commit suicide? If the expert deems that the offender has a realistic plan to commit suicide, they are considered acutely suicidal and the appropriate suicidal protocols are followed.
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In addition to the simple questions, there are other instruments that can be used to assess risks to suicide by offenders. The Scale for suicide ideation is an interviewer-administered rating scales that has 21-items. The Suicide behaviors questionnaire is a self-report measure on the suicide behaviors and thoughts. These two tools can be used to assess the risk of suicide among the incarcerated offenders.
How Suicide Watch Procedures Should be Structured
- Offenders at risk of suicide placed on suicide watch
- Should facilitate communication
- Provide access to peer support scheme
The effective suicide watch should be structured in a way that it is efficient, safe and ethical. The suicide watch should encourage communication between the offender and the officer as this facilitates the stability of the offender. Before the offender is put in a suicide watch, they should be informed and a standard assessment carried out before and on a regular basis. Moreover, the should provide access to peer support since the development of relationships between the offender and other people will facilitate the recovery process of the offender. Also, the suicide watch should be done in a human manner with little use of force.
Community Resources to Assist Offenders Being Released
When released, offenders can access the following community resources:
The prisoners who reenter the community after finishing their prison sentences, can find a number of community based resources that can assist them in the reentry process. Some of the resources include employment programs which help the ex-offenders to find jobs. In addition, there are the educational service programs that help in providing training to ex-offenders so that they can get appropriate skills that will enable them to secure job opportunities. Moreover, there are supportive services, which provide guidance and counseling to the ex-offenders as well as the moral support that will help them from recidivism.
Chicago Community Reentry Programs
Chicago city has the following re-entry resources:
- City of Chicago ex-offenders program (Illinois Legal Aid Online, 2016)
- Community Re-Entry Support Centers
- Homeless outreach and prevention
- Supportive programs
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According to (Illinois Legal Aid Online, 2016), a number of community reentry programs are available for offenders that are being released. The City of Chicago ex-offenders program provides people with criminal records to access employment, housing and educational opportunities. The Community Re-Entry Support Centers provides liaison services, assisting those with problems finding job by providing them with job referrals. The homeless outreach and prevention provides a number of services that includes transitional employment, orientation, intake and retention. In addition to the above programs, the city also has supportive programs such as the anger management, family inclusive case management, addiction prevention and education.
A Comparison of the Available Services to Help Address Both General and Specialized Needs in Chicago
- Most available services are for general needs
- covers men and women
- Juveniles and young adults
- No services for special needs such as the ex-offenders with mental problems.
A review of the services offered by the city of Chicago reveals that most of the services for the ex-offenders serve the general needs. Most of the services provides housing, employment, training and support for general population of the ex-offenders (City of Chicago, 2010). The only services available for special needs are those for the veterans, which helps them in settlement and application for their benefits. The services for special populations such as the mentally ill ex-offenders released are not available. However, special population such as children, and young adults, as well as the veterans are catered.
A Case Scenario of An Offender Released to Live in Chicago
- Offender release plan made
- Offender released, provided with transportation, finance for food
- Reports to the Chicago Community Re-entry Center (CCRC).
- CCRC provides food, housing and arranges for training and job placement
A case scenario is that of an offender released after serving prison sentence for felony is released. On completing release plan requirements, the prison provides means of finance for food and housing and recommends the ex-offender to the Chicago Community Re-entry Center (CCRC). On reporting to the CCRC, the ex-offender is provided with food and housing. The CCRC offers orientation services to the ex-offender after which a training arrangements are made. Upon successful completion of the training, the CCRC refers the ex-offender for job placements. In addition, supportive services for example, family case re-unions and removal of criminal case files are done by CCRC together with the ex-offender to facilitate integration into the community.
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