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Reducing the Liability for Inmate Suicide: A Design Guide

NCJ Number
R I Atlas
Date Published
This paper examines research into inmate suicides, reviews responsibilities of the supervising correctional agency, and presents architectural and management strategies for reducing the desire and opportunity to commit suicide in correctional facilities.
General conditions in most jails and lockups promote isolation and dehumanization through loss of control over the environment. A rigid authoritarian structure can increase feelings of anomie, hopelessness, and depression, which are ingredients in consideration of committing suicide. Management strategies include careful screening of detainees, staff suicide prevention training, removal of materials that could be used in a suicide attempt, constant human supervision and observation, and use of a specially designed ward or suicide-resistant cell. Architectural designs and layouts can contribute to suicide prevention by increasing visibility and easy access to inmates by staff. Lighting should be adequate, pastel paints should be used, and cell fixtures should be rounded and tamper-proof. Fire retardant materials and the inclusion of monitoring systems also are recommended. Additional information and instruments for suicide assessment and prevention are appended. 22 references.