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Correctional officer suicides in 2019 tied for most in single year: Union president

October 17, 2019 - 11:53 am
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(NEW YORK) -- Deaths by suicide among correctional officers so far in 2019 have tied the highest total ever recorded, according to the head of their union.

Year to date, 13 cases have been documented.

"We're on course for an all-time record of suicide of staff," Shane Fausey, the new CPL-33 Correctional Officers Union president, told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

Bureau of Prisons union officials for years have been calling for an increase in staffing to match skyrocketing incarceration rates.

Fausey said insufficient staffing and other job-related stressors could be contributing to the suicides, but the Bureau of Prisons doesn't have hard data on that.

"Unfortunately, the staffing crisis has lead into other issues for employees of the Bureau of Prisons," Fausey said. "There's a human factor to this staffing crisis."

According to a University of California, Berkeley Study in 2018, correctional officers are at a high risk for depression, PTSD and suicide.

The study, which focuses on California state prisons, and a survey conducted in 2017 showed that 10% of correctional officers said they'd considered taking their own life. Among adults in the U.S., about 3% reported having suicidal thoughts, while retired correctional officers, according to the study, reported a rate of 31%.

About 1 in 3 are dealing with PTSD, according to the study, with about half of the correctional officers surveyed reporting that they don't feel safe at work. Depression also affects about one-third of the officers.

Fausey said the Bureau of Prisons has no plan in place to track the deaths by suicide of correctional officers.

The Bureau of Prisons told ABC News the agency has an employee assistance program for staff and their immediate families. The bureau also said each facility around the country conducts training specific to preventing suicides, and if a location suffers one, more resources and support can be committed to that facility.

Suicides among those working in law enforcement have been dramatically increasing, with BLUE H.E.L.P., a group that tracks that data, reporting 2019 is on pace to be the deadliest year ever recorded.

New York City alone has lost 10 police officers in 2019.

"It's tragic that law enforcement suicides are on the rise, and it's important that officers know they aren't alone and there are resources available," said Don Mihalek, an ABC News contributor and former Secret Service Agent.

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