York County Prison board members approve policy change for suicide prevention
2011 standards allow for close observation at staggered intervals
By Ed Mahon
York Daily Record
YORK COUNTY, Pa. — Detainees on suicide watch at York County Prison, at a certain point, won’t require 24-hour supervision, because of changes York County Prison board members approved Tuesday.
The prison houses federal immigration detainees, and it generally follows the 2008 standards from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement standards for suicide prevention. Warden Mary Sabol said prison officials wanted to follow the 2011 standards.
She said the change was not influenced by the suicide of Tiombe Carlos in October. Sabol said Carlos was not on suicide watch at the time of her death.
Sabol discussed the differences between the 2008 and 2011 suicide prevention standards at a November meeting, calling the 2008 standards “too stringent.” From our earlier reporting:
She said the 2008 ICE standards require that any ICE detainee on suicide watch be watched constantly, 24-hours a day.
“That is excessive. That is above the national suicide watch policies,” Sabol said.
Sabol said said the new practices may go into effect in February. They would apply to both immigration detainees and county inmates.
Sabol said because of the changes, once inmates are dropped down from segregation and constant watch, they can go into more of a small group setting. Sabol said the changes were discussed during a regular ICE audit in October.
“It allows for more step downs,” said Clair Doll, deputy warden for treatment.
The 2008 standards required 24-hour supervision, while the 2011 standards, at a certain point, allow for close observation at staggered intervals, such as every five minutes, 10 minutes, and seven minutes. The intervals can’t be longer than 15 minutes.
Here’s what the 2011 standards say about suicide prevention:
F. Housing and Monitoring
A suicidal detainee requires close supervision in a setting that minimizes opportunities for self-harm. If a staff member identifies someone who is at risk of significant self-harm or suicide, the detainee is placed on suicide precautions and is
immediately referred to a qualified mental health professional.
The qualified mental health professional may place the detainee in a special isolation room designed for evaluation and treatment with continuous monitoring that must be documented every 15 minutes or more frequently if necessary.
Detainees receive continuous one-to-one monitoring, checks at least every 8 hours by clinical staff, and daily mental health treatment by a qualified clinician. The isolation room will be free of objects or structural elements that could facilitate a suicide attempt and security staff shall ensure that the area for suicide observation is initially inspected so that there are no objects that pose a threat to the detainee’s safety. If necessary the detainee may be placed in the Special Management Unit, provided space has been approved for this purpose by the medical staff and such space allows for unobstructed observation.
Detainees on suicide precautions who have not been placed in an isolated confinement setting by the qualified mental health
professional will receive documented close observation at staggered intervals not to exceed 15 minutes (e.g. 5, 10, 7 minutes), checks at least every 8 hours by clinical staff, and daily mental he
And here’s what the 2008 standards say:
F. Housing and Monitoring
Suicidal detainees should be housed in a room that has been made as suicide- resistant as possible. The area selected for suicide watch may be the Short Stay Unit, in specially designated cells in the Special Housing Unit, or in other appropriately designated locations.
Security staff shall ensure that the area for suicide observation is initially inspected so that there are no objects that pose a threat to the detainee’s safety.
When standard-issue clothing presents a security or medical risk, the detainee is to be provided an alternative garment that promotes detainee and staff safety, while preventing the humiliation and degradation of the detainee. The clinical medical authority or designee will determine appropriate clothing.
Suicidal detainees will be monitored by assigned security officers who maintain constant one-to-one visual observation, 24 hours a day, until the detainee is released from suicide watch. The assigned security officer makes a notation every 15 minutes on the behavioral observation checklist.