Jail Suicides Prevention Essay

1739 words - 7 pages

The United States is plagued by a countless number of social dilemmas. Althoughnot in constant public scrutiny, suicide is a serious problem which has seemed tohave lost importance. When suicide is coupled with arrest and incarceration itbecomes an increasingly complex situation. In fact, research indicates that the jailsuicide rate ranges from 2.5 to 13 times greater than the rate of the generalpopulation (Winkler 1992). Motivation, prediction, and prevention of suicidalbehavior are grossly unclear, which only adds to the already existing complexity.Many factors involved with arrest and incarceration only serve as a catalyst ofsuicidal tendencies. Suicide is the primary cause of death in ...view middle of the document...

Undoubtedly, isolation is often necessary to contain a person, or to prevent injuryto the individual and, or other inmates. Individuals who are experiencing obviousmental stress should certainly not be held in isolation for obvious reasons.According to Hess (1983),many facilities have regulations which state,"Theaction taken must be responsible under the circumstances and represent a good-faithjudgment that the action was the least restrictive alternativeavailable."Regulations such as this not only serve as a guideline for officers, butas a preventive measure against legal action as a result of isolation. Aside fromthese emotional factors of the physical environment which are impetus of suicidalattempts. Isolation cells more often than not tend to have poor lighting,ventilation, and the surroundings are extremely noisy (Winkler 1992). The are minormodifications which can be made to reduce risk. These include removal of bars, sinks,or any other object which may facilitate a suicide attempt (Kunzman 1992).There are certain characteristics of the "act" of jail suicide. The majorcharacteristic which seems to be consistent in almost all cases is that the methodused is hanging. In fact, according to Hess(1983), 96% of the [jail] suicides aresuccessfully completed in this fashion and the instruments most often used areclothing, bedding, shoelaces, or belts. This trend is attributed to the fact thatother avenues for suicide are not available. In cases which officers are aware of theperson's fragile mental state, attempts are made to extinguish the availability ofinstruments. This is done by stripping the inmate of clothing, and, or accessories.All too often the objects and particularly the mental states are overlooked. Sincethis does occur, officers now carry the Stephans 9-11 knife which caneffectively cut through sheets, bedding, belts, and other material (Winkler 1992).Some other rather interesting statistics have been compiled regarding the jailsuicide act in reference to month, day and time in which it is most likely to occur.The majority of inmates commit suicide between the hours of midnight and eight A.M.,usually occurring on a Saturday in the month of September (Winkler 1992). The actstake place at these specific times and days due to the fact that officer supervisionis greatly decreased at these intervals. Despite the fact that supervision is sodecreased, the victims are usually found within 15 minutes.Research has also been consistent in identifying other typical aspects of thejail suicide. The prominent factors are age, race,, marital status, and type ofoffense. The person is usually a 22 year old single whit male who has been arrestedfor an alcohol related offense . Many times an individual who is incarcerated becauseof a murder offense is automatically placed on suicide watch."The Federal Bureau ofPrisons has warned local jailers that persons held for murder or any other offenseinvolving possible death penalty be watched closely for any...

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