Some correction officers are unfit to deal with the mentally ill or deeply troubled inmates who are increasingly their charge, says the Boston Globe in the last of a 3-part series. The result is an incendiary dynamic between inmates and officers, a climate ripe for abuse. The Globe describes one flagrant case of an officer’s abusing an inmate with a mental problem, calling it “hardly an isolated example.” A Globe investigation into a recent surge in prison suicides and suicide attempts found other cases in which correction officers, with scant training in how to handle the burgeoning number of mentally ill in prison, brutalized, mistreated, or neglected inmates.
As prisons increasingly become the asylum of last resort for the mentally ill – with the closure of state hospitals and the deinstitutionalization of their residents – desperation, frustration, and violence are rising on both sides of the cell door. About 50 times a month, staff members are assaulted by inmates. And, at the same time, the correction department has disciplined scores of officers for assault and other misconduct involving inmates.