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Prisons focus on convicts' mental health

By Cao Yin  (China Daily)

17:33, October 10, 2012

Increasing numbers of prison officers have been receiving psychological training with the aim of providing professional help to convicts, according to Beijing's prison administration.

More than 230 officers across the capital have already received national certificates.

However, the number of prison officers gaining these skills is still not enough to cope with demand, said Lu Yanyan, a senior officer responsible for correction of convicts at the administration, under the Beijing Justice Bureau.

Psychological education was introduced into eight prisons in the capital's correction system in 2001. Each prison has been also equipped with a mental health treatment room and equipment.

Nearly 80 police officers now take part in the psychological exams every year, while the administration invites experts to provide two-day psychological training to staff members every three months and cooperates with psychology departments at universities, she said.

"The psychological service has been taken on board as a key part of correction work in recent years, because it can make great contributions toward calming convicts down and helping police officers manage prisons," she said, citing Liangxiang prison in the city's southwest Fangshan district as an example.

Liangxiang, which houses up to 1,000 hardened criminals serving long-term sentences, has 14 prison officers specializing in psychological consultation and each can select a criminal in the section they are responsible for to be their assistant.

These police officers have national psychologist certificates and they develop classes or lectures for criminals every three months, said Chen Yongsheng, deputy director of psychological correction at the prison.

"We'll supply criminals with different psychological treatments, such as music therapy and mental analysis," he said.

Many criminals are not accustomed to the prison environment and feel anxious or depressed, he said, adding they are also impatient and nervous, especially in summer and at the start of their sentences.

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