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Suicide Prevention Program

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Bureau of Prisons, Justice.


Final rule.


In this document, the Bureau of Prisons (Bureau) revises its regulations on the suicide prevention program for clarity and to remove agency management procedures which do not need to be stated in regulations. We intend the revised regulations to provide for the health and safety of inmates.


March 15, 2007.


Rules Unit, Office of General Counsel, Bureau of Prisons, HOLC Room 977, 320 First Street, NW., Washington, DC 20534.

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Sarah Qureshi, Office of General Counsel, Bureau of Prisons, phone (202) 207-2105.

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The Bureau is revising its regulations on the suicide prevention program (28 CFR part 552, subpart E). We published a proposed rule on November 13, 2000 (65 FR 67670). We received one comment.

What change is the Bureau making?

We are revising the regulations generally for clarity and to remove procedures relating to agency management. The revised regulations more clearly describe for the inmate how we identify and protect inmates at risk for suicide.

Procedures relating to agency management are exempt from the rulemaking provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 553). Removing these procedures from the regulations allows us to speak more directly to inmates.

Revised § 552.40 more precisely states the purpose of our suicide prevention program and summarizes how we place inmates in and remove them from the program. Former §§ 552.41 through 552.43 are combined in a new § 552.41 which details the specific procedures we use to identify, refer, assess, and treat potentially suicidal inmates.

We combined provisions for the conditions of a suicide watch in former §§ 552.44, 552.46, and 552.48 in the new § 552.42. The revised regulations are more objective based. For example, the revised regulations require that rooms designated for housing an inmate on suicide watch must allow staff to maintain adequate control of the inmate without compromising the ability to observe and protect the inmate.

Previously, the regulations relied upon a more prescriptive approach of describing the location of the room (“* * * a non-administrative detention/segregation cell ordinarily in the health services area”). This prescriptive approach does not take into account recent developments in correctional facility design and construction, and has become unnecessarily restrictive.

Former §§ 552.45 and 552.49 addressed agency management procedures, and former § 552.47 affirms that a previously imposed sanction remains in effect for an inmate when that inmate is removed from a suicide watch. Because our regulations on inmate discipline sufficiently support that statement, we removed these three sections.

Response to Comment

We received one comment on our proposed rulemaking. The commenter had three main areas of concern, which we address below:

Section 552.40: The commenter stated that “there should be a brief explanation of what a suicide watch is” in the rules.

We present just such a brief explanation of “suicide watch” in § 552.42. In this section, we explain in detail the housing arrangements and conditions under which the suicidal inmate is constantly observed. Therefore, it is not necessary to define the term suicide watch in § 552.40.

Section 552.41: The commenter recommended the use of a “buddy system” to prevent suicide, suggesting that highly-regarded inmates might be chosen to “look after” or “befriend” the suicidal inmate. The commenter also suggested that we have a “small team working together” so that the suicidal inmate would “get to know and associate and even depend on that team.”

Each new inmate who enters a Bureau facility receives written material and an orientation that explains what to expect and how to get help from staff. Additionally, all new inmates receive a confidential medical and mental health screening by a medical professional to identify those who need assistance or have the potential for becoming suicidal. These inmates are immediately referred to a mental health professional for individual assessment and appropriate treatment. Therefore, an Start Printed Page 12086inmate “Buddy System” is not necessary.

Section 552.42: Finally, the commenter stated that the “Warden should not have so much power.” Particularly, the commenter referred to § 552.42(b)(2), which states that “[o]nly the Warden may authorize the use of inmate observers.” The commenter suggests that inmates instead go through training to become suicide watch observers.

In fact, the commenter's suggestion is our current practice. The Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator selects, trains, and evaluates inmate observers. A great responsibility rests with those assigned to observe the inmate and immediately report any attempt to do self-harm.

For that reason, the decision to use Bureau staff or inmates is a critical decision which the Warden must make after input from the Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator. Elevating this decision to the Warden level ensures that all staff understand the importance of properly observing the inmate and providing appropriate care.

For the reasons stated above, we do not change the final rule in light of the comment we received.

Executive Order 12866

This regulation has been drafted and reviewed in accordance with Executive Order 12866, “Regulatory Planning and Review”, section 1(b), Principles of Regulation. The Director, Bureau of Prisons has determined that this rule is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866, section 3(f), and accordingly this rule has not been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.

Executive Order 13132

This regulation will not have substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship between the national government and the States, or on distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. Therefore, under Executive Order 13132, we determine that this rule does not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a federalism assessment.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

The Director of the Bureau of Prisons, under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 605(b)), reviewed this regulation and by approving it certifies that it will not have a significant economic impact upon a substantial number of small entities for the following reasons: This rule pertains to the correctional management of offenders committed to the custody of the Attorney General or the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, and its economic impact is limited to the Bureau's appropriated funds.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995

This rule will not result in the expenditure by State, local and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100,000,000 or more in any one year, and it will not significantly or uniquely affect small governments. Therefore, no actions were deemed necessary under the provisions of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996

This rule is not a major rule as defined by § 804 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. This rule will not result in an annual effect on the economy of $100,000,000 or more; a major increase in costs or prices; or significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or on the ability of United States-based companies to compete with foreign-based companies in domestic and export markets.

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List of Subjects in 28 CFR Part 552

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Harley G. Lappin,

Director, Bureau of Prisons.

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Under the rulemaking authority vested in the Attorney General in

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1. Revise the authority citation for

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Authority: 5 U.S.C. 301; 18 U.S.C. 3621, 3622, 3624, 4001, 4042, 4081, 4082 (Repealed in part as to offenses committed on or after November 1, 1987), 5006-5024 (Repealed October 12, 1984, as to offenses committed after that date), 5039; 28 U.S.C. 509, 510.

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2. Revise subpart E to read as follows:

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Subpart E—Suicide Prevention Program
Purpose and scope.
Program procedures.
Suicide watch conditions.

Subpart E—Suicide Prevention Program

Purpose and scope.

The Bureau of Prisons (Bureau) operates a suicide prevention program to assist staff in identifying and managing potentially suicidal inmates. When staff identify an inmate as being at risk for suicide, staff will place the inmate on suicide watch. Based upon clinical findings, staff will either terminate the suicide watch when the inmate is no longer at imminent risk for suicide or arrange for the inmate's transfer to a medical referral center or contract health care facility.

Program procedures.

(a) Program Coordinator. Each institution must have a Program Coordinator for the institution's suicide prevention program.

(b) Training. The Program Coordinator is responsible for ensuring that appropriate training is available to staff and to inmates selected as inmate observers.

(c) Identification of at risk inmates. (1) Medical staff are to screen a newly admitted inmate for signs that the inmate is at risk for suicide. Ordinarily, this screening is to take place within twenty-four hours of the inmate's admission to the institution.

(2) Staff (whether medical or non-medical) may make an identification at any time based upon the inmate's observed behavior.

(d) Referral. Staff who identify an inmate to be at risk for suicide will have the inmate placed on suicide watch.

(e) Assessment. A psychologist will clinically assess each inmate placed on suicide watch.

(f) Intervention. Upon completion of the clinical assessment, the Program Coordinator or designee will determine the appropriate intervention that best meets the needs of the inmate.

Suicide watch conditions.

(a) Housing. Each institution must have one or more rooms designated specifically for housing an inmate on suicide watch. The designated room must allow staff to maintain adequate control of the inmate without compromising the ability to observe and protect the inmate.

(b) Observation. (1) Staff or trained inmate observers operating in scheduled shifts are responsible for keeping the inmate under constant observation.

(2) Only the Warden may authorize the use of inmate observers.

(3) Inmate observers are considered to be on an institution work assignment when they are on their scheduled shift. Start Printed Page 12087

(c) Suicide watch log. Observers are to document significant observed behavior in a log book.

(d) Termination. Based upon clinical findings, the Program Coordinator or designee will:

(1) Remove the inmate from suicide watch when the inmate is no longer at imminent risk for suicide, or

(2) Arrange for the inmate's transfer to a medical referral center or

contract health care facility.
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[FR Doc. E7-4684 Filed 3-14-07; 8:45 am]