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The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has already taken steps to reduce the trend among the young detainees at the island’s correctional centres of inflicting self-harm and taking their own lives. However, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has pointed out in its report that a lot still needs to be done by the DCS in finding lasting solutions to the issue.
Vanessa Wint Suicide of 2012 Prompted the Investigation
The investigations by INDECOM were necessitated by the public outcry over the suicide of Venessa Wint, a 15-year old female inmate at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre in 2012. What prompted the government to handover the investigation to INDECOM in 2016 was the inquest into the case which revealed that in some ways, there may have been negligence from the side of the girl’s handlers, in making an assessment of her mental state.
INDECOM’s team has visited the correctional homes and interacted with the DCS staff as well as other stakeholders.
Training of Staff Central to the Issue
INDECOM’s latest report that covers the period April to June 2018, which was tabled in the House of Representatives, states that in the area of training offered to the DCS staff employed at the Juvenile Correctional Centres, more needs to be done. Secondly, it recommends that the steps followed for assessment of inmates who exhibit suicidal tendencies also need to be improved. INDECOM’s report makes it clear that DCS has definitely raised the awareness levels among its staff on this issue of self-harm and suicides by the juveniles. However, in order to deal directly with the issues and influence the teenagers positively so that they desist from such actions, it requires focused training, the report said.
The training sessions will have to be scheduled more frequently and more importantly; the staff will have to learn to handle the inmates with identified self-harming tendencies. The Carl Rattray Staff College, where the DCS staff receive training must include these aspects as part of the curriculum and teach their students accordingly.
Apart from this, INDECOM found that DCS has set in place an assessment procedure when the wards are taken into the correctional homes, which it has appreciated. However, it noted that the subsequent efforts to follow-through assessments, required improvement.
Statistics from the INDECOM report shows that after the Venessa Wint incident of 2012, there have been 62 suicide attempts by inmates, of which 2 were successful.