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County Jail Suicides in a Midwestern State: Moving Beyond the Use of Profiles

NCJ Number
The Prison Journal Volume: 83 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2003 Pages: 130-148
Melinda M. Winter
Date Published
June 2003
19 pages
This article discusses the relationship between inmate characteristics and county jail suicides in a Midwestern State.
Suicide prevention in jails has largely relied on descriptive characteristics drawn from the population of inmates who have successfully committed suicide. This article discusses previous research focusing on the problem of jail suicide, arguing that profile-focused methodology allows a cleaner examination of a profile’s place in jail suicide prevention. Research conducted on county jail suicides from 1980 to 1988 at the State Office of Detention Facilities in an unnamed Midwestern State found that suicidal inmates represented a mean age of 29.2 years old, were single, were under the influence of alcohol at the time of admittance to jail, and did not exhibit either suicidal tendencies or physical or mental problems. Using a chi-square test of significance, the suicide group was compared to the nonequivalent comparison group and significant differences were found between the groups. Results indicate that there is a need for both improved local assessments and for more stringent methods in the development of suicide screening tools. Future studies concerning jail suicides need to employ a comparison group from the general jail population when attempting to assess the characteristics of suicidal inmates. Tables, appendix, notes, and references


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