State prison inmates no longer will be disciplined for ‘self-harm’

Beginning Friday, inmates in Washington state prisons will no longer be disciplined for hurting themselves or attempting suicide, a news release from the state Department of Corrections said.

Attempts at self-harm in the past have resulted in inmates losing good–conduct time. In cases where offenders lost good-conduct time only for attempting to hurt themselves, that time will be restored, the release said.

“For too long, there has been a short–sighted practice of punishing or isolating those who are unable to control their impulses,” said Scott Frakes, deputy director for prisons, in the release. “This decision is consistent with current research on what works to prevent offenders from harming themselves.”

The agency made the decision while examining ways to be responsive to inmates’ mental health needs while keeping staff members safe. The corrections department has worked with Disability Rights Washington for the past year, examining issues surrounding segregation practices in state prisons. Frakes said prison officials have other tools, including treatment programs and behavior-management plans, that can reduce the risk of inmates hurting themselves.

Disability Rights Washington will continue to monitor this and other issues through its prison project, Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities, Executive Director Mark Stroh said.

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