Phoenix, AZ – The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has a policy that denies honor guards for corrections officers who commit suicide.
"If a death was the result of suicide, no ceremonial honors will be rendered,” the ADC Departmental Order Manual clearly states, according to KPHO.
Shannon Hendrickson, an ADC employee, said she learned about the policy in the wake of the loss of her husband, ADC Corrections Officer Jonathan Hendrickson.
After working in Indiana as a corrections officer for 12 years, Corrections Officer Hendrickson relocated to Arizona and joined the ADC, KPHO reported.
He was in his third year with the ADC when he took his own life in October.
Shannon said she believes the 15 years he spent on the job negatively affected her husband’s mental health and contributed to his death.
"You have to think about the toll it takes when your number one priority every day is just to come home safe," she said.
Like law enforcement officers and military veterans, former and active corrections officers are at much higher risk for suicide than the general population, KPHO reported.
“I think it’s the exposure to the trauma that is just in the job,” Arizona State University Center for Behavioral Health Policy Manager Denise Baegley told the news outlet. "We used to call cancer the 'C Word.’ And now we say, 'cancer,' and we stand up against it. We need to do that for mental health as well.”
As the shock of her husband’s sudden death sank in, Shannon immediately contacted the ADC to request the presence of an honor guard for his memorial service, she told KPHO.
That’s when she learned that the ADC has a written policy refusing to provide an honor guard for corrections officers who commit suicide.
“I have heard that it is viewed as dishonorable within the department,” Shannon said of her husband’s cause of death.
Many of Corrections Officer Hendrickson’s coworkers attended his memorial service in uniform, but not administrators.
“I received absolutely no support or even minimal contact from ADC following Jonathan's death,” Shannon wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “No administrators attended his funeral. His own Warden never called me.”
Shannon said she did receive an email from ADC Acting Director Joe Profiri after her husband’s passing, KPHO reported.
"The men and women of the Arizona Department of Corrections will continuously honor Officer Hendrickson and all our comrades laid to rest by wearing the badge every day, showing up in correctional facilities across the great state of Arizona in contribution of making Arizona communities safe,” the email read.
ADC media relations administrator Bill Lamoreaux released a statement detailing the mental health resources the agency has available for employees, but did not explain why the policy was created in the first place, KPHO reported.
"Our employees are the most important resource we have, and their safety and well-being is always a top priority,” Lamoreaux told the news outlet.
“The sudden, tragic loss of a coworker is a terrible and traumatic event that the department and our employees mourn. Support is available in this case and in many other critical circumstances," he added.
Shannon said that her husband was an outstanding, devoted corrections officer who loved his job, and that he deserved better treatment from the ADC.
“I would like the policy changed,” she told KPHO. “Anytime that we can remove some of the stigma for suicide or mental illness, we should. We’re in a day and age now where this is part of the conversation, and it’s got to keep happening. We have to keep talking about it.”