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AP: Increased Mental Health Issues in Idaho Prisons Stress Inmates, Staff

"We really should not be asking ourselves why do we have so much turnover. That's a ridiculous question. We should be asking ourselves, 'How do we get people to stick around?"

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The State Board of the Idaho Department of Correction listened to a sobering report Thursday as IDOC Director Brent Reinke said his guards had found four inmates hanging from sheets at prisons and jails around the state. Three were found and rescued, but a fourth, housed at the Nez Perce County Jail, died before guards had discovered the body.

"We really need to pay attention from a mental health standpoint," Reinke told the board.

The Associated Press' Rebecca Boone reports that Reinke pointed to a so-called "105-form," a report that red-flags an inmate following a fight, suicide attempt or mental problem. In June, IDOC registered 78 105-forms, versus 56 in June 2012.

Additionally, IDOC officials said the increased number of mental health issues takes a significant toll on manpower and stress levels. For example, responding to each urgent mental health instance usually takes about six hours of a staffer's time and often leads to unexpected overtime.

"We really should not be asking ourselves why do we have so much turnover. That's a ridiculous question. We should be asking ourselves, 'How do we get people to stick around?'," said IDOC Chief of Prisons Kevin Kempf. "There are times when you have set plans to do something with your family that afternoon, and two hours before you leave, the shift commander comes and says you have to stay."