Prison Suicide: Rates and Prevention Policies

By Hayes, Lindsay M. | Corrections Today, February 1996 | Go to article overview

Prison Suicide: Rates and Prevention Policies


Hayes, Lindsay M., Corrections Today


Historically, little is known about the issue of prison suicide, a research topic that has been characterized as a victim of relative neglect in criminology and corrections (Austin and Unkovic 1977). Recently, the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA) completed a monograph on prison suicide for the National Institute of Corrections. The 108-page monograph, Prison Suicide: An Overview and Guide to Prevention, presents a thorough discussion of the literature, a review of national and state standards for prison suicide prevention, national data on the incidence and rate of prison suicide, effective prison suicide prevention programs and a discussion of liability issues (Hayes 1995). Summarized below are key findings related to suicide rates and prevention policies.

Prison Suicide Rates:

A 10-year Review

Suicide ranks third behind natural causes and AIDS as the leading cause of death in Prisons within the United States (Bureau of Justice Statistics 1993). To measure the severity of the problem, researchers invariably calculate the rate of suicide within prison systems. To date, however, few national studies of prison suicide rates have been conducted; therefore, our existing knowledge base is limited to research on individual state prison systems reporting widely disparate findings. For example, Anno (1985) determined that the suicide rate was 18.6 per 100,000 inmates in the Texas prison system; Salive et al (1989) calculated a suicide rate of 39.6 for male prison inmates in Maryland, and Batten (1992) found an average suicide rate of 53.7 in the Oregon prison system during the 25-year period of 1963 through 1987. In addition, rates of suicide within the same prison system can vary widely from year to year. For example, the California Department of Corrections (1994) determined that the rate of suicide in its prison facilities decreased from 17 per 100,000 inmates in 1990 to 14 per 100,000 in 1992, while dramatically and inexplicably rising to 25 per 100,000 inmates in 1993.

The limited research available on national prison suicide rates is both somewhat dated and plagued by inconsistent reporting problems. Lester (1982, 1987) cited previous calculations of national prison suicide rates for two periods: 1978 to 1979 and 1980 to 1983. The rate of suicide for male inmates was 24.6 and 24.3, respectively, for these two periods. Unfortunately, the above calculations were based on nationally reported Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data that were underreported. For example, the most recent data available on prison suicide from the BJS reported a total of 89 Prison suicides throughout the united States in 1991. This total, however, does not include data from six "nonreporting" jurisdictions, as well as an unknown number of possible suicides contained within inmate death data listed by BJS as "unspecified causes." Excluding nonreporting jurisdictions, the national prison suicide rate based on BJS data would be 13.9 suicides per 100,000 inmates. This rate is low, how ever, compared to other data. For example, analyzing annual national survey data from both the Criminal Justice Institute (1992) and Corrections Compendium (1992) as well as from telephone follow-up with several jurisdictions, NCIA was able to verify 127 prison suicides for all state and federal prison during 1991. Thus, a more accurate national prison suicide rate for 1991 would be 16.4 suicides per 100,000 inmates.

In an effort to collect the most recent national data on prison suicides, NCIA surveyed all 50 state departments of correction (DOC), plus the District of Columbia and the Federal Bureau of Prisons and inquired as to the number of inmate suicides each prison system had during 1993. In addition, to review historical trends in the rate of prison suicide throughout the country, we gathered and analyzed data from the 1984 through 1992 annual surveys of both the criminal justice Institute and Corrections Compendium.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Prison Suicide: Rates and Prevention Policies
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.