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Responding to Mentally Ill Inmates


We have all had to deal with mentally ill inmates within our correctional institutions. This is getting to be an every day occurrence. Text inmate  A recent article highlighted the growing number of mentally ill inmates that are being held in local jails.

In the short term, there is little that jail administrators, supervisors, or individual staff members can do about this exploding problem with the exception of providing the best possible crisis intervention training for their staff. As most of you know, my law enforcement background consists of both police and correctional assignments.

One of my last assignments was as a Special Needs Captain supervising the management of 350 inmates with diagnosed mental health issues in a population of between 900 to 1200 inmates in a modern direct supervision institution. Do the math. In Wisconsin, at the time, we were the largest mental health institution in the state. Our Special Management Team consisted of psychiatrists, psychiatric social workers, and security staff and dealt with the full range of mental health issues.

What is interesting about these statistics is that if you factor in all the emotionally disturbed persons into the mix, i. e. persons with mental illnesses, persons under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and persons in current personal crisis; at some point in time, every inmate in the jail is in need of at least short term mental health care. These numbers indicate why all correctional staff members need to receive what we refer to as Point of Impact Crisis Intervention Training for Persons with Special Needs.

Since we can’t, in the short term, change the type of inmate arriving at our jails and prisons, we need to prepare to keep both them and staff members physically, legally, and psychologically safe. The way you do this is to properly train your staff for these types of emotional, medical and psychological emergencies.

Crisis intervention tactic

In the State of Wisconsin, we have developed a crisis Intervention Tactic that combines the best of Dr. Thompson’s Verbal Judo Training program and Jane Dresser’s Crisis Intervention Tactics. Dr. Thompson was an English professor turned police officer who developed a worldwide Tactical Communication training network while Jane Dresser is a psychiatric nurse who developed a point of impact crisis intervention program that allows staff to intervene with the most severe crisis situations.

This crisis intervention programs builds on the Verbal Judo Program’s non escalative approach to conflict resolution and begins with how a professional prepares for an encounter with a person in crisis and then follows through with street and institutionally tested crisis management strategies.

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