A series of suicide attempts reported by detainees and officials at a single New Mexico immigration detention facility are underscoring concerns about mental health treatment outcomes in the system.
Craig Haney, a social psychologist and an expert on the impacts of isolation in detention, said American prisons and detention centers often use isolation as a response to inmate depression, self-harm and suicide attempts.
“This is a way to solve a short-term problem: ‘What do we do with this mentally ill detainee?’ But in a way that is very likely to be damaging to [detainees] in the long run. And that’s just not an equation that [detention centers] pay much attention to,” Haney said.
According to a 2021 study published in AIMS Public Health, a journal for peer-reviewed papers, the overall suicide rate per every 100,000 people admitted into ICE detention was 0.3 from 2010 to 2019. In 2020, that rate skyrocketed to 3.4 suicides per 100,000 admissions.
That study, authored by academics from Harvard and Stanford universities, theorized that a possible cause for the spike was “increasing lapses in mental health care in ICE detention,” based on a 2020 congressional report that found “major issues in mental health care inside detention centers” which “may result from chronic staffing shortages, as vacancy rates of 37–50% for psychiatrists and social workers have been previously reported in immigration detention.”
ICE’s manual describes in detail “suicide-resistant cells,” prohibits excessive deprivations for detainees in those cells, and mandates one-to-one observation and a medical treatment plan. Advocates, however, say the ICE manual’s regulations are often not followed.
Read more at TheHill.com.
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