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Prison authorities beef up suicide-watch project

Published:Wednesday | January 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

THE DEPARTMENT of Correctional Services has had to move swiftly in recent times to avert more than 10 suicide attempts in correctional facilities, particularly among juveniles.

In the last few months, 14 juveniles in custody attempted to take their own lives. At least three persons in the adult correctional facilities attempted to commit suicide.

In a presentation to the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament, Major General Stewart Saunders, permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security, said the Department of Correctional Services was being challenged by incidents of attempted suicide in both adult and juvenile institutions.

In the adult correctional centres, two females and one male attempted to take their own lives, while in the juvenile facilities, 11 males and three females tried to kill themselves.

The department said it recognised the need to build capacity to manage the psycho-social needs of inmates and wards.

Saunders said the last two intakes of correctional officers have been trained to deal with persons who have a tendency to commit suicide or to harm themselves.

Currently, mental-health services are provided to the correctional centres by three sessional psychiatrists and psychological services by one sessional and two full-time psychologists.

The Ministry of National Security reports that for the 2012-2013 period, an average of 63,000 prisoners are held in police custody on a monthly basis. It said a significant percentage of these prisoners are remanded for long periods and are accounted for daily.