Friday, June 19, 2009

Prison staff and self harm

Self-harm is now a major public-health concern. It is estimated to result in 200,000 hospital visits a year and the risk of suicide increases up to 100 times within the first year following self-harm. Self-harm among prisoners has increased by 37% in the last five years and, in women, rose by 48% between 2003 and 2007. Rates are higher among women than men and in 2005 56% of self-harm incidents occured in women's prisons. Researchers from the University of Manchester looked into the attitudes of prison staff towards female prisoners who self-harm. They interviewed eight prison officers and five healthcare staff from a women's prison in the North of England. They found that the staff made a distinction between what they saw as 'genuine' and 'non-genuine' self-harm with those who engaged in the latter being seen as 'rational manipulators' harming themselves to play the system. The staff felt resentful towards these women. The prison staff also found it hard to balance their roles contributing to the welfare of the prisoners and maintaining security and found the security part of the job easier. They felt untrained and unsupported in the welfare part of their role and pressurised due to a lack of time and staff. This combination of factors led to most of the prison staff feeling a lack of confidence in dealing with women who self-harm.

Short, Vicky ... [et al] - Custody vs care: attitudes of prison staff to self-harm in women prisoners - a qualitative study Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology June 2009, 20(3), 408-426

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