According to the Handbook on Prisoners with Special Needs, which is part of the Criminal Justice Handbook Series, released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2009, all prisoners are vulnerable to a certain degree, since their freedom is restricted and placed under the authority of another one(s), while in many cases abuse of power is intense, which makes things worse (p.4). However, even when there is no abuse, “prison conditions themselves in a large majority of countries worldwide are harmful to the physical and mental well-being of prisoners, due to overcrowding, violence, poor physical conditions, isolation from the community, inadequate prison activities and health care” (United Nations Office, 2009 p.4). That being said, some particular groups of people are more susceptible to experiencing elevated suffering due to various reasons, such as lack of specialist care and mental health professionals to attend to their special needs while incarcerated; and the prison environment can as well become the magnifying glass for their mental health problems (United Nations Office, 2009 p.4).
Moreover, the suicide rates in prisons have dangerously increased within the last 30 years and range from approximately 18-40 per 100,000 (Ano, 1985), while the suicide rate in jails is “nine times that of the general population with a range of 107 to 187.5 per 100,000” (Winfree, 1988), which makes suicide the “third leading cause of death in U.S prisons and the second in jails” (Metzner, 2002). Also, about 15% of prisoners have a serious and persistent mental illness and many have multiple psychiatric disorders; however, depression is the major psychiatric illness that leads to suicide in prison (Anasseril, 2006).
Prisoners that are segregated are also more vulnerable to mental disorders, which is why correctional stuff must maintain a daily log, documenting the inmates’ behaviors, talk to the prisoners on a daily basis and perform mental health assessments (American Bar Association, Standard 23-2.5, 2.7, 2.8). Also, Corrections Care and Treatment managers face multiple difficulties, if they want to approach a suicide-prevention program from all aspects, since “A well-designed suicide-prevention program incorporates all aspects of identification, assessment, evaluation, treatment, preventive intervention, and training of all medical, mental health, and correctional staff” (American Psychiatric Association, 1999). Moreover, given that most prisoners that actually commit suicide communicate their intent to kill themselves both in verbal and written form, correctional officers are held responsible for reporting that communication to the mental health professional and the prison administration and make sure the prisoner is prevented from any self-harm acts (Anasseril, 2006). It becomes obvious that there is no place for anyone that lacks the flair and passion to help, cannot effectively communicate and evaluate any condition with determinacy and dedication. Also, individuals that aspire to become effective correctional counselors need not to allow their emotions get in the way blocking their judgment as correctional officers, and must remain calm under stress in order to perform their duties at the fullest.
For the aforementioned reasons, the Deputy Warden of Care and Treatment should employ the right counselors that will not only abide by the Division of Prisons policies and health care procedures manual, have considerable knowledge of psychological principals and psychometric theory but also learn to observe and evaluate the behavior of inmates at all times and be ready to intervene more intensively if necessary before mental stress develops even further (United Nations Office, 2009 p. 27). Councilors also need to be able to properly communicate both verbally and in written form, organize and prepare accurate various kinds of paperwork, such as records, charts, and reports, that would help them analyze all gathered information and become more effective in their work. Each inmate should take a screening test once they enter a prison facility and afterwards if needed, that will allow councilors and mental health care officers to early diagnose a mental illness and avoid potential self-harm or suicidal actions (United Nations Office, 2009 p28).
Kydra’s persistence to do the things as she perceives them correct could be judged as part of her passion for her work; however it could also back fire, as I consider her attitude a two-headed coin that nobody knows which side will toss. She might be an enthusiast that is full of energy and willingness to serve and help; however, she might not be able to abide by the policies she does not consider right, which might cause anarchy within the correctional facility staff and administration. For that reason, I think she is untrustworthy, because close and smooth communication is absolutely necessary not only between the correctional officers and inmates, but also with the managers of the prison.
Taking all the above into close consideration, a correctional counselor working with mental health inmates is vital that is communicative, knowledgeable, willing to serve and have an acute eye to spot any behavioral changes in inmates and intervene. Of course, that can come via sheer passion for their job. Furthermore, they need to be communicative, helpful and ready to help at all times, while being able to provide a decent written form of communication is also necessary, even though not the main criterion.
This is why, I consider Donna a qualified candidate that can handle the requirements of a correctional counselor. She has been in the hard spot herself and the fact that she decided to serve the community as an addictions counselor after her personal struggle with alcohol only demonstrates the love and genuine need of hers to give back to people and do good for them; therefore she can identify any worrying signs a prisoner might show and with the proper training, she is more likely to evaluate any situation early enough and act before a mental disorder turns into a more serious condition. The fact that she is a woman, might also help inmates open up to her easier and communicate with her, allowing her to properly evaluate every situation and further act upon necessity. Also, her sensitivity as a woman might also affect inmates and make them see her as their mother or a close, respected family member. What is more, she knows how to talk to people with problems, since it is part of her daily job.
Bob would be my second choice, had he been able to control himself under stress and not become emotional. I believe that his sentimentalism can affect his decisions crucially because stressing conditions will definitely occur and being too emotional might blur his evaluation. That, in turns can lead him to failed results, probably putting a prisoner’s mental health condition at risk. If he could find a way to cope with that, he would be my first choice, since he is a male, hence can understand men’s problems easier than a woman. Also, he is a passionate professional that has certainly lots to offer.
I could definitely use Mariella’s high motivation and passion, combined with the fact that she brings on good spirits to anyone she interacts with. She may have some difficulties in writing, yet, I believe that with proper guidance and given her determination to make things work, she could do well in that too. She is the ideal person to serve inmates and make them feel at ease and relaxed, releasing stress and worries from them, since she lightens up any place she walks into. Nevertheless, it is very important that she betters her writing skills as various forms of reports will need to be filed.
Being a correctional office manager is a difficult task and choosing the most qualified correctional officers to treat inmates to help prevent them from committing self-harm acts and ensure the prison’s smooth operation requires a lot of hard work. However, sorting out the correctional facilities faculty and placing the right people in the right position could be a good start to deal with the numerous problems that derive from prisoners with mental health problems.
American Bar Association, Standards on Treatment of Prisoners”. Criminal Justice Section Archive. Retrieved from: http://www.americanbar.org/publications/criminal_justice_section_archive/crimjust_standards_treatmentprisoners.html>
American Psychiatric Association: APA Guidelines: Psychiatric Services in Jails and Prisons. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1999
Anasseril E. Daniel, Preventing Suicide in Prison: A Collaborative Responsibility of Administrative, Custodial, and Clinical Staff”, Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Outline 34:2:165-175 (June 2006). Retrieved from: http://www.jaapl.org/content/34/2/165.full
Anno BJ, Patterns of suicide in the Texas Department of Corrections. J Prison Jail Health 5:82–93, 1985
Metzner JL, Class action litigation in correctional psychiatry. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 30:19–29, 2002
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Handbook on Prisoners with special needs: Criminal Justice Handbook Series, New York, 2009. Retrieved from: http://www.unodc.org/documents/justice-and-prison-reform/Prisoners-with-special-needs.pdf
Winfree LT, Rethinking American jail death rates. Policy Stud Rev 7:641–89, 1988