Forensic Nursing within the Criminal Justice System


Death occurring while in the custody of the police are more common than I thought. I also found it interesting that in general, there is not standardization for many terms and conditions particular to the area of forensic medicine. In regards to death in custody, it seems unlikely that there is not a universal definition for what this is, yet there is not.

The forensic nurse is in a vital role in the initial and ongoing examination of the detainee. The nurse may be the first contact the prisoner has whether it be in the local emergency department of the hospital or in the prison.

In Minnesota nurses staffed the county jail, but I don’t believe it is customary for most jails to have a nurse on duty. Irregardless of the site of examination, it is the nurses’ obligation to ensure the health and safety of the prisoner is being attended to.

The assessment and ongoing care of each person who are detained by the police can prevent miscarriages of justice as well as harm to the detainee. Communication and documentation is imperative in order to prevent potential harm to the prisoner, and in the case of infectious diseases, to the police and staff who have contact with that prisoner.

Early intervention by a trained healthcare professional to determine fitness for detention and questioning may provide the diagnosis for any natural disease processes present, drug or alcohol use, and any trauma visible or covert.

I believe the professional nurse advocates for his/her profession and the population being cared for. Forensic nurses should be active in the formation of public policy. In this area of nursing it is vital for nurses to better define and advocate their role to the benefit of themselves, the population served, and the general public.

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