Inmate Self-Mutilation Grows, Especially Among Women


New York state inmate Tanisha (Tee-Jay) Jackson, 26, estimates that she has mutilated her body close to 100 times, says the Village Voice. Tee-Jay, who is about to mark her 11th year at Bedford Hills, says she injured herself for the same reason many prisoners do, because it seemed an effective way to release her anxiety. The job of prison wardens and guards has become much more difficult as the number of mentally ill inmates has grown. Psychotic inmates, suicidal inmates, and self-mutilating inmates make the jobs of people who work in prisons infinitely more challenging. At Bedford Hills, about 50 percent of the 820 inmates receive mental health services.

Tee-Jay Jackson is an extreme example, but she is hardly the only inmate with scars crisscrossing her arms. Inmate self-mutilation is not unusual, especially in women’s prisons. The story has attracted virtually no media attention, in part because the Department of Justice does not collect numbers about inmate self-mutilation. In its 2004 “Unusual Incident” report, New York’s prison officials counted 58 acts of self-injury (and 14 suicide attempts) among the state’s 64,000 male and female inmates. One glance at Tee-Jay’s arms–and the bodies of other women in Bedford Hills–suggests these numbers greatly underestimate the problem.


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