How Anti-Suicide Blankets and Smocks Can Combat Suicide in Prisons
Steps Facilities Take to Stop Prisoner Suicides
Suicide attempt rates are significantly high among the incarcerated. That’s why prisons and similar facilities should take every step possible to protect the mental health of those in their possession. There are plenty of strategies to be taken that can prevent suicides, and having suicide prevention gear on hand is one of these steps.
Suicide prevention gear can exist in many forms, and is often relied upon by prisons and other facilities to stop inmates or patients from harming themselves. Read below to learn more about this gear and how it works.
Prison Suicide Rates in the United States: Stats and More
Data shows that suicide rates are significantly high in prisons, and the problem may be getting worse. This chart, for example, shows that suicide rates in U.S. state prisons have increased gradually over the last decade.
Additionally, suicide attempt rates are higher among the incarcerated than the full U.S. population. In a study done in 24 countries around the world, suicide rates were 3-8 times higher among male prisoners compared to the general population. Suicide rates among female prisoners, meanwhile, were more than 10 percent higher than those in the general population.
Being that suicide rates among prisoners are disproportionate to the rest of society, it is clear that facilities like prisons have a lot of work to do to ensure the protection of those they hold.
Problems involving mental health among prisoners could be attributed to the multiple risk factors that research points to in the atmosphere of these facilities: isolation, fear, separation from society or family, difficulty adjusting, and lack of purposeful activity being among them.
How Facilities Combat Prison Suicides
Mental Health Resources
In order to offset the environmental challenges that prisoners bring to the mental health of inmates, prisons should provide access to mental health care services. Prison staff members are usually not trained to specialize in monitoring the mental health of inmates – that’s why bringing actual professionals on board can make a huge difference.
Training Corrections Officers
The way that prison staff operate can dramatically affect those held in prisons. By training staff in a way that makes sure they are diligent in the way they interact with inmates and carry out their duties, a safer environment can be cultivated.
Most prisons have surveillance measures to catch inmates who are planning or starting a suicide attempt. This technology offers prisons away of stopping attempts before they happen, allowing the suicide rate number to remain low.
Inmates have a certain amount of equipment in their cell or on their person – this can include clothing, bedding, and furniture. Since inmates don’t have many resources at hand, if they are determined to attempt suicide or self-harm, they might try to use the limited equipment they have in creative ways.
Most anti-suicide products are made to address this concern. They are usually designed to be difficult to use in these attempts – this is often reflected in these products’ structural design or base material.
How Do Anti-Suicide Smocks and Blankets Work?
Prison and jail cells are equipped with blankets for inmates to use while they rest. However, an inmate may try to incorporate their blanket into a suicide attempt or harmful incident, either by smothering or tearing it into a rope.
Anti-suicide blankets are designed to be particularly difficult to tear. They are usually made from a flat nylon material that cannot be bent or torn.
Smocks and Tear-Resistant Clothing
Under normal circumstances, a prisoner may wear their regular jumpsuit or uniform. However, a prisoner may try to tear their clothing to be used as part of a self-harm or suicide attempt.
Many facilities have rules stating that these patients must wear tear-resistant clothing until they are deemed no longer a risk to themselves.
Smocks are one of the most popular types of clothing for this purpose. They were invented in 1989 by Lonna Speer, a nurse working in a California jail who wanted to change the fact that suicidal inmates were regularly stripped down and placed in a padded cell with no clothing.
These smocks are hard to fold or bend, and cannot be torn to be used as a rope.
Some prison or jail cells and similar facilities offer furniture to inmates. These may include desks, chairs, or shelves.
There are plenty of ways that these pieces of furniture could be used in a suicide attempt or act of self-harm. For that reason, facilities may choose to fill cells with furniture that negates these problems.
An example of anti-suicide furniture would be a chair that is designed with no spaces to attached wires or cords – this limits the possibilities of hangings or similar suicides.
Ultimately, suicide rates are a complex problem, and prisons should be dedicated to fostering positive mental health among patients. To keep the suicide rates down, anti-suicide gear can make a significant difference.