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J Correct Health Care. 2009 Apr;15(2):129-41; quiz 159-60. doi: 10.1177/1078345809331444.

Institutional responses to self-injurious behavior among inmates.

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Center for Child and Family Studies, College of Social Work, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.


To date, little research has systematically investigated perceptions of mental health professionals regarding motivations for self-injury among prison inmates. To help fill this gap, the authors used descriptive techniques to examine self-injurious behavior among inmates from the perspective of correctional mental health professionals. A quantitative survey assessed perceptions of mental health staff regarding etiology, motivations, and manifestations of self-injury. A qualitative interview component was used to explicate responses from the survey. Inmate cutting, scratching, opening old wounds, and inserting objects were the most commonly witnessed behaviors. Findings suggest that self-injury occurred regularly and that a subset of inmates are responsible for recurrent events. Mental health professionals perceived the motivation for inmate self-injury to be both manipulative and a coping mechanism. They described current management strategies and corresponding needs for training and resources.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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