The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) reports that the suicide rate among prisoners can reach 47 per 100,000 in jails, and 15 per 100,000 in prisons. Prisoner intake protocols often include screening for suicidal ideation, as well as physical monitoring of inmates in their cells. Now science has created an added method of suicide prevention. A non-contact monitor can measure an inmate’s heartbeat, breathing and limb movements alerting guards that a prisoner may be asphyxiating. The NIJ sent out the following announcement on January 9, 2014:
Through the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, NIJ has made available the following final technical report (this report is the result of an NIJ-funded project but was not published by the U.S. Department of Justice):
Title: Unobtrusive Suicide Warning System, Final Technical Report, Phase III
Authors: Jeffrey M. Ashe, Ghulam Baloch, Meena Ganesh, Catherine Graichen Nicholas Soldner, Vijay Lakamraju, Joe Zacchio, Mark Vogel
The rate of in-custody suicide is lower than that of the general public, largely due to comprehensive screening, assessment, treatment and surveillance programs for at-risk inmates. Despite the low rate of inmate suicide remains a problem for correctional institutions both as a fundamental tragedy with the loss of life as well as the failure of the corrections systems to protect those in custody. Even rare suicide incidents place large burdens on institutions that tarnish the reputation of law enforcement, increase litigation costs, and necessitate more continuous inmate monitoring.
The goal of this multiphase program was to develop a remote sensing system that captures and assesses vital signs. This phase contributes significantly to the development of a deployable system for monitoring inmates’ physical status in the prison environment.