Suicide in correctional facilities.

Author:Marcum, Chelsea

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 4,238 inmates died while in the custody of local jails or state prisons in 2011. Suicide, which accounted for more than half of those deaths that year, is the second-leading cause of death in local jails after heart disease. The suicide rate among inmates varied between 2009 and 2011, with 34 to 48 deaths per 100,000 inmates; it is estimated that nearly 48 percent of suicides occur within the first week of admission. While suicide rates in local jails have ultimately decreased since 2000, it certainly remains a significant problem. A study conducted by Scott Grinder and Margaret Noonan from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which ranged from 2000 to 2011, concluded that suicide rates were three times higher for white inmates than for inmates of other races. (1) Specifically, white inmates had a suicide rate that was 1.3 times higher than the rate of Hispanic inmates and three times higher than the rate of black inmates.

The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that, "A number of jails and prisons have undertaken comprehensive suicide prevention programs and, in some countries, national standards and guidelines for suicide prevention in correctional settings have been established." (2) Because suicide in jails has remained an area of concern over the past decade, the establishment and implementation of suicide-prevention guidelines and protocol is increasingly important. It is likely that suicide rates have, in part, dropped due to the application of such preventive strategies. As reported by WHO, "Pre-trial inmates who commit suicide in custody are generally male, young (20-25 years), unmarried, and first time offenders who have been arrested for minor, usually substance related, offences." (3) Intoxication is often a factor at the time of their arrest; therefore, they are more likely to commit suicide at an early stage of their confinement--particularly within the first few hours. Isolation, shock, lack of information and insecurity about the future are all considered factors that increase the risk of suicide for a new inmate. Additionally, many suicides occur within three days of a court appearance. This information suggests the idea that subtleties in an inmate's demeanor, as well as their actions, could indicate an increased risk of suicide upon entering the jail. These subtle changes can be brought on by certain levels of care, induction processes and routine procedures throughout the...

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