What special problems and needs do jail detainees have? What problems do these needs pose to jail administrators?

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jfranczyk eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of many problems that detainees face is withdrawal from physical dependence on substances of abuse. Assume, for example, that a person with a physical dependence and addiction on heroin is detained for a property crime. Within days, if not hours, that detainee will begin to experience symptoms of physical withdrawal from the substance. Withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, chills, severe aches, and in more extreme circumstances, seizures and deaths. The war against drugs has treated substance abuse as a criminal problem and not a health problem, and that school of thought has forced jails and other criminal detention centers to act as detox facilities for addicts who are detained in them. A detainee who is in the throes of physical withdrawal will be vulnerable not only to his own symptoms, but to physical and psychological abuse from other individuals in the detention center.

This situation poses analogous problems for administrators of detention centers (i.e. the jailers) who are untrained and unequipped to handle a detainee who is going through withdrawal. Many detention centers resort to isolating and ignoring these detainees until the worst of the withdrawal symptoms subside. If the detainee harms himself or suffers serious injuries while going through withdrawal, the detention center and its personnel can face liability for those injuries. This is not an unlikely scenario. Physicians and addiction counselors routinely recommend, for example, that heroin addicts should be medically monitored during detox to prevent harm to themselves and others.

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