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Role of Corrections Professionals in Preventing Suicide

NCJ Number
Date Published
7 pages
After discussing the prevalence of suicides in jails (the leading cause of death in custody) and in prisons (third leading cause of death) and the factors involved, this paper identifies the warning signs for suicide risk among inmates, recommends responses to these warning signs, and proposes actions for preventing suicides in custodial facilities.
Most suicides are associated with depression, substance abuse disorders, and other forms of mental illness. Prisons and jails house large numbers of people with the types of mental health problems associated with the elevated risk of suicide. All correctional staff should be trained to recognize and respond to the warning signs of the risk for imminent suicide, which include expressing the wish or intent to commit suicide, a feeling of hopelessness about the future, acting anxious or agitated, and withdrawal or isolation from interaction with others. Recommended measures for preventing suicide in correctional facilities include assessing suicide risk by staff trained to make such an assessment; effective communication among criminal justice agencies regarding offenders' suicide risk, the use of isolation cells to improve observation of inmates believed to be at risk of suicide, and appropriate staff training. In addition, a facility should have first aid safety equipment, including latex gloves, resuscitation breathing masks, defibrillators, and tools for opening jammed cell doors and cutting down a hanging inmate. 14 references and a listing of resource materials for corrections professionals