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American Indian Suicides in Jail: Can Risk Screening Be Culturally Sensitive?

NCJ Number
207326
Author(s)
Margaret Severson; Christine W. Duclos
Date Published
June 2005
Length
12 pages
Annotation
This article presents findings on a study concerning the high number of American Indian suicides in a Northern Plains State jail.
Abstract
In 1999, the jail administrator of a facility serving an area with a dominant American Indian population noticed an unusually high level of suicidal behavior. Researchers conducted a 2-year study of the jail and its inmates between 1999 and 2001 to discover the cause of the high rate of suicidal behaviors in the jail. During the first year, participants were 677 inmates who completed a survey measuring their risk level for suicide. Seven focus groups were also conducted with 42 inmates to review the jail’s risk assessment procedure. In the second year, 742 inmates were surveyed about the openness of their responses to the jail’s risk assessment procedure and how comfortable they felt with the process. The findings revealed that discomfort about the interview process and answering questions pertaining to alcohol and drugs, health, and mental illness prevented inmates from being candid with the interviewer. These results suggested the need for the jail to redesign its risk assessment process to tailor it to the cultural backgrounds of the inmate population. It is recommended that the experiences of the American Indian population should be used to design a culturally sensitive risk assessment procedure. Limitations of the study are discussed. Notes