Suicide in Prisons
Suicide in Prisons
The leading cause of death in prisons is suicide. This is a prevalent problem not only in the United States but in many other countries. In this paper there will be various different empirical studies done to research the reasons as to why inmates are committing suicide or attempting to. The question these articles will be answering is, “In a sample of individuals in prison, what are the identified factors that lead to suicide attempts or ideation?”
The first article is trying to answer this question, “What are the reasons inmates are killing themselves?” The purpose of this study is to determine the factors that contribute to these inmates attempting suicide. Liebig (2017) interviewed two middle-aged men who were incarcerated with life sentences. The results showed that these prisoners did not have a life anymore, they were stripped of everything, and she described it as being a social death. It was a permanent exclusion from everything. They had no more desire for anything. They were spending the rest of their life there and they thought about it every day and it just became the sad reality of their life.
They have found that people who try and commit suicide are people who have very long sentences, or even life sentences. Some of the other prisoners who attempt suicide are vulnerable or mentally ill. There are also very different prison environments that make life either more or less survivable. A lot of prison suicides could be because of how they are treated by their other inmates and guards which could push them over the edge especially if they are already vulnerable. There has been a significant growth in inmate suicides in England and Wales and they said it could be because of a huge population growth in the prisons. Most suicides occur within one month of them being in prison. Also, a huge contributing factor of suicides in prisons is the lack of feeling safe from their prison guards. Suicide rates are always changing from year to year but the reasons for the suicide are all very similar (Liebling, 2017).
It is very hard to try to prevent prisoners from killing themselves but understanding the reasons why they are doing what they are doing could help prevent many more from happening. The mortality rate of people in prison is 40% higher than people outside of prison. There are guards that do help to try and prevent suicides and they can look out closely for inmates who are depressed or threaten to take their own lives, which people on the outside may not have that much close attention (Liebling, 2017).
In this second research study, they had 399 male inmates from two different facilities complete self-report measures. Due to precautionary status they did not use any individuals who were in solitary confinement. The sample group had an average of 9.11 years already spent in prison and they ranged in age from 19-69 years of age. Most of the sample was African American and Caucasian also with a mix of other nationalities. Some prisoners did not want to indicate their race. Depressive symptoms were indicated on their self-report measures by using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Scale for Depression. They also used the Beck Scale of Suicidal Ideation to measure the inmate’s suicidal ideation (Smith, Selwyn, Wolford-Clevenger, ; Mandracchia, 2013).
They had at least six different hypotheses about the relationships of depression, social interaction and the correlation with the ideation of suicide. The primary hypothesis was to examine the relationships with suicide ideation, history of suicide attempts in male inmates, and primary and secondary psychopathic personality traits (Smith, et al., 2013).
The purpose of the study was to examine psychopathic personality traits and that correlation with suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. The results of the study for the most part supported their hypotheses. The results showed that higher levels of secondary psychopathic traits had a high correlation with multiple suicide attempts (Smith, et al., 2013).
In this third research study, the purpose was to explore pathways to and from suicide attempts before being released from prison and weeks after being released. They carried out a qualitative study with 35 male offenders who were between the ages of 18-52. They were interviewed one week prior to being released up until six weeks after being released. These were men who had short sentences for violent crimes. The first interview was semi-structured and was done face-to-face. The post-release interviews were set up by phone calls, letters, or by text message. The last interview they conducted ended up only being with 19 out of the original 35 offenders they started out with (Byng, Howerton, Owens, ; Campbell, 2015).
The results of this study found that the offenders who have made multiple suicide attempts are often in despair, with little control over their life, and abusing substances. The offenders who have had either one suicide attempt or none seem to have a lot of control over their lives and are less likely to attempt suicide in the future (Byng, et al., 2015).
The purpose of this fourth research article was to examine the willingness to report, the prevalence, and treatment preferences among state prison inmates for suicidal ideation. The study was conducted on 67 inmates incarcerated in state prison. They were given questionnaires and the Beck Scale of Suicidal Ideation (Way, Kaufman, Knoll, ; Chlebowski, 2013).
The results showed that there was a positive correlation between prior suicide attempts and current suicide ideation. It showed that there was a substantial percentage of prisoners in the study that had a current suicidal ideation. The BSS also showed that a person who has had multiple suicidal attempts as opposed to only one are at much higher risk for current ideation. More than 40% of the sample said that they were unwilling to tell prison staff about their suicidal ideation. The study advocates that suicide risk assessment should not rely on a patient or inmates self-report (Way, et al., 2013).The purpose of this fifth research study was to examine the suicide rates in countries that had reliable information. They examined the associations of range in health service related factors and prison services, how all of these rates compared to the general population, and changes that may have happened in the past ten years (Fazel, Ramesh, ; Hawton, 2017).
Fazel, Ramesh, ; Hawton (2017) collected data from 2011-20114 from 24 different countries. They wanted to calculate the suicide rates in these prisons and compare them to the general population. They examined temporal trends, incarceration rates, prison related factors, and they used meta-regression to test associations with general population suicide rates. Some prison-related factors are overcrowding, imprisonment duration, and the ratio of staff to prisoners.The results showed that there were 3,906 suicide deaths between 2011-2014 in the 24 countries that they studied. Out of these deaths 93% were men and only 7% were women. Australia, Asia, and North American countries had the lowest suicide rates out of all these countries that were studied. The Nordic Countries had the highest suicide rates. They did not see any difference between suicide rates in jail as comparted to the suicide rates in the general population. They also found that prison suicide was not due to the factors or environment of the prison but possibly due to other complex factors that are unknown (Fazel, et al., 2017).
The last and final article looks at how we as a community can help prevent suicides. There is a prison in France called Fleury-Mérogis, it is the largest prison in France and it is very overcrowded. There are 5000 prisoners incarcerated here and the numbers keep on growing. It states that there has always been a suicide epidemic at this prison and this article takes a deeper look into it to see as to why this has happened. A psychiatrist from Fleury-Mérogis said that prisoners have told him that they think about their families all the time and then they feel said and bad thoughts and suicide haunt their minds all day every day. All the people working in prisons are always under stress and are afraid of the danger of suicide (Tesu-Rollier ; Wolf-Fédida, 2014)
Tesu-Rollier ; Wolf-Fédida (2014) also talk about how inmates verbalizing their feelings is very important for them to relieve stress and it helps them out emotionally and can reduce the risk of suicide. Sports, activities, and contact with culture and knowledge are an emotional stimulus. Maintaining intact with their culture is very helpful for their psych well-being.
In this paper we have found that suicide is not only an epidemic in the United States but in many other countries as well. We learned that many various factors including the prison environment, social seclusion, and previous mental health conditions can be factors for suicide or suicidal ideation. Overcrowding in prisons, being away from family, and losing their culture are factors of suicidal ideation as well. Suicide is more prevalent in men and most of these studies included men and women and it showed a higher ratio of men to women committing suicide. The United States has a lower suicide rate as compared to other countries. Although suicide is a large problem in prisons, there is no difference as compared to suicide in the general population. The final thing that was revealed is that a person who has had multiple suicide attempts as compared to only one are at more of a risk to attempt it again or to have more of a suicidal ideation.
Byng, R., Howerton, A., Owens, C. V., ; Campbell, J. (2015). Pathways to suicide attempts among male offenders: The role of agency. Sociology of Health ; Illness, 37(6), 936-951. doi:10.1111/1467-9566.12259
Fazel, S., Ramesh, T., ; Hawton, K. (2017). Suicide in prisons: An international study of prevalence and contributory factors. The Lancet Psychiatry, 4(12), 946-952. doi:10.1016/s2215-0366(17)30430-3
Liebling, A. (2017). The meaning of ending life in prison. Journal of Correctional Health Care, 23(1), 20-31.
Smith, P. N., Selwyn, C. N., Wolford-Clevenger, C., ; Mandracchia, J. T. (2013). Psychopathic personality traits, suicide ideation, and suicide attempts in male prison inmates. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 41(3), 364-379.
Tesu-Rollier, D. D., ; Wolf-Fédida, M. (2014). Mental health in prison: Prevention from suicide. Psychology, 05(13), 1583-1590. doi:10.4236/psych.2014.513169
Way, B. B., Kaufman, A. R., Knoll, J. L., ; Chlebowski, S. M. (2013). Suicidal ideation among inmate-patients in state prison: Prevalence, reluctance to report, and treatment preferences. Behavioral Sciences ; the Law, 31(2), 230-238. doi:10.1002/bsl.2055