“The job made me do it”: Study sheds light on prison guard suicides

“The job made me do it”: Study sheds light on prison guard suicides

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Correctional Officer Scott Jones kissed his spouse goodbye on July eight, 2011, and headed off to a maximum-security jail within the distant excessive desert of northeastern California. He by no means got here house. Jones’ physique was discovered a day later, together with a word explaining why the 36-year-old took his personal life: “The job made me do it.”    Suicide is distressingly frequent amongst present and former California jail staff. The guards’ union counts 96 confirmed or suspected suicides amongst present and retired members between 1999 and 2015.    The annual suicide price amongst union members exceeded California’s general suicide price of 10.three per 100,000 folks in 13 of these 17 years, in keeping with an Related Press evaluation of union knowledge. The quantity peaked at 13 in 2012, a price greater than 4 instances that of the state’s normal inhabitants.    Now, a first-in-the-nation examine coordinated among the many union, California’s corrections company and College of California, Berkeley researchers is making an attempt to determine why and what to do about it.    Inmate suicides have been intensively studied, however till now there was restricted analysis on how the job impacts correctional staff, Berkeley researcher Amy Lerman stated – and just about none on packages which may assist officers cope.    “I believe it displays a rising recognition throughout the nation that correctional workers and legislation enforcement are experiencing all these points and it must be taken severely,” Lerman stated.    About 10 p.c of jail guards say they’ve thought of or tried suicide, a price practically 3 times that of the final U.S. inhabitants, in keeping with knowledge offered to the AP from a survey accomplished by eight,300 of California’s 30,000 correctional and parole officers.
It is even greater amongst retired guards – about 14 p.c, much like the suicide danger amongst army veterans.    Half of correctional officers expressed a minimum of one symptom of post-traumatic stress dysfunction.    Researchers cited officers’ frequent publicity to violence and damage, their notion of fixed hazard, and their reluctance to share traumatic experiences with relations or counselors.    In response, the union is asking Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration to rent a social employee for every of the state’s 35 prisons subsequent 12 months and is in search of stronger confidentiality protections for staff who search assist.    California Corrections Secretary Scott Kernan stated presently accessible help packages should not used sufficient. He promised to seek the advice of with consultants to see what the division can do higher.    One hurdle to serving to troubled officers is the stigma or notion of weak point amongst such staff.    The very best answer appears to be having a extremely educated peer help program that may join troubled officers with psychological well being professionals, stated Daniel Beaman, a correctional officer and California Correctional Peace Officers Affiliation official.    That method has helped cut back suicides amongst legislation enforcement officers, in keeping with The Badge of Life, a broadly cited prevention program that makes an attempt an annual nationwide tally of police suicides. The quantity fell 14 p.c between 2012 and 2016, persevering with a decline since 2008 and dropping the speed under that of the final inhabitants, though there was a reported improve final 12 months.    The group attributed the lower to extra aggressive psychological well being and peer help packages, and a rising willingness amongst troubled law enforcement officials to get assist.    Like law enforcement officials, jail guards go to work every day realizing they may face violence. It is a actuality softened by the monetary rewards – California guards can earn greater than $100,000 with wage and extra time and have top-notch well being care and retirement plans.    Beaman equates being a jail guard to the time he spent as a Marine in Iraq in 2005. Battles there have been alarmingly much like what he skilled throughout a struggle amongst about 300 Kern Valley State Jail inmates in 2010.    “The odor, the sounds have been means too acquainted,” he stated. “Bam – I went from one conflict proper to a different one.”    Stephen Walker remembers sleepless nights through the 16 years he spent as a California youth correctional officer in suburban Los Angeles, and in the end sitting on his sofa “debating on whether or not to only finish all of it.”    Walker, now the union’s chief lobbyist, will attempt once more to go a state legislation defending public security staff’ confidentiality in the event that they search assist. The union is also lining up California congressional help for requiring the federal authorities to review and fund psychological well being packages for legislation enforcement officers.    The Berkeley examine comes too late for Jones and his household – and for a minimum of three different Excessive Desert State Jail guards who the Lassen County coroner’s workplace says died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds between 2008 and 2013.    In a last three-day span, Janelle Jones stated her husband threatened to kill himself, felt fast aid when he stop his jail job, then was on his means in to reclaim his job when he killed himself. She sued the state alleging her husband basically was harassed to demise by different guards who feared he would possibly rat them out over a bogus employee’s compensation declare after he injured his knee throughout horseplay with one other officer.    She ultimately settled for $73,000.    “We hugged and kissed goodbye. Every part was completely regular,” she stated. “Then we found the gun was lacking, and you understand the remainder of the story.”

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