Jail and prison guards working with the Bureau of Correction and allied health professionals are learning the aspects of dealing with mentally ill prisoners at a Correctional Behavioral Health Certification and Training Program that began Monday at the Buccaneer Hotel on St. Croix.
The training is sponsored by a national organization that promotes effectiveness in the corrections system.
According to the American Correctional Association website, the certification program prepares corrections professionals to sit for a certification test.
Facing the challenges of handling mentally ill inmates is a nationwide issue; the U.S. Justice Bureau released figures in 2006, showing 64 percent of jail inmates, 56 percent of state prisoners and 45 percent of federal prisoners display symptoms associated with serious mental illness.
Areas covered in the training include inmate care and treatment, special health needs and services, medical and legal Issues relative to behavioral health, identifying signs and symptoms of mental disorders during intake screening before entry into the facility, identifying signs and symptoms during high risk periods of incarceration, and Identifying suicidal offenders and understanding suicide assessments.
Prison and jail guards also will be trained to watch for signs of inmates suffering from more than one mental illness.
The class is a first for the Bureau of Corrections. Attempts to contact BOC officials to determine how many personnel are taking part in training were unsuccessful.
Classes are set to conclude Friday.
The training coincides with a week’s worth of behavioral health activity sponsored by the Department of Health. Health Department spokeswoman Janestra Ritter said some of the week’s activities include those that promote mental wellness among front line workers, caring for the mentally ill.