Suicide is the third leading cause of death in U.S. state and federal
prisons, exceeded only by natural causes and AIDS. Comprehensive
suicide-prevention programs in prisons are of increasing importance to
mental health professionals, correctional administrators, health care
providers, legislators, attorneys, and others as they seek to
rehabilitate offenders and avoid the multimillion-dollar lawsuits that
often arise from inmate suicides.
A comprehensive review of national and international research clearly
demonstrates that inmate suicide arises from a complex array of
inter-related and self-reinforcing risk factors.11 (Links to an external site.)
These risk factors include mental illness, substance abuse, prior
serious suicide attempts, chronic stresses of incarceration (i.e.,
family separation, solitary confinement, intimidation, and
victimization), acute psychosocial stressors (i.e., parole setback,
death of a loved one, rape), and staff errors or oversights.
Responsibility for suicide prevention in corrections has
traditionally been placed squarely on mental health staff. Experience
has shown that their efforts may be doomed to failure in the absence of
adequate support and involvement of administrators and custodial staff.
These correctional employees have joint responsibility for ensuring the
health and safety of prison inmates, and they are increasingly held
liable, individually and collectively, when they fail in this duty. Best
practice in suicide prevention, outlined in the World Health
Organization’s updated resource guide,12 (Links to an external site.)
calls for a state-of-the-art collaborative effort of administrators,
medical and mental health clinicians, and custodial staff to identify
at-risk inmates and intervene appropriately.
1. What if any, legal consequences should be imposed on correctional facilities when inmates commit suicide?
2. Discuss your thoughts related to the following statement: I
am unable to afford quality healthcare, so why should inmates be
allowed medical, dental, psychiatric care, etc. paid for by my tax
3. Discuss the benefits and liabilities for inmates and
correctional personnel when basic medical/ psychiatric care is provided
to inmates. Do you believe the benefit outweighs the cost? Yes or no?
Explain your answer.
4. Explain/ discuss the following statement, ” The mental and
physical health pains of imprisonment are but a slim reflection of
mental and physical illness on a grand scale.”