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Helping Hostages and Their Families Through Critical Incident Responses

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 56 Issue: 4 Dated: (July 1994) Pages: 78-84
T J Fagan
Date Published
7 pages
Many correctional facilities have established Critical Incident Response Teams (CIRTs) -- typically comprised of psychologists, chaplains, and medical personnel -- who are trained to deal with the victims of a prison hostage situation and their families, and to develop policy in this area.
CIRT members should establish a center where family members of hostages can gather during the crisis to receive accurate, up-to-date status reports about the incident, receive crisis intervention counseling from prison mental health and emergency staff members, and avoid unwanted media attention. The center should be as close to the facility as possible without endangering family members, should be large enough to accommodate extended families, should be equipped with television sets and video recorders, and should have eating and sleeping accommodations. CIRT members usually assume notification and identification responsibilities following a critical incident. They should set up a regular briefing schedule for family members to keep them apprised of the condition of the hostages and efforts being made to secure their release. The CIRT team must be able to offer a wide range of counseling services including psychological and spiritual counseling, children's services, psychoeducational programs, and financial counseling. CIRT members are also responsible for preparing the families for the release of the hostages and for implementing defusing, debriefing, and follow-up procedures. 5 references