Suicide Attempt and Death in Jail

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Suicide is not an uncommon cause of death within the criminal justice system. Just like individuals in society who faced mental health problems leading to suicide or death, those who have come across the criminal justice system have also faced similar problems. Suicide attempts and deaths in jails have considerably become a problem in the United States.

According to Gerald Landsberg, a professor of Social Work at the New York University, jail suicides are estimated to exceed that of suicides in the overall population by four times, especially amongst younger individuals. Self-harm in jails are not often understood nonetheless is a severe health concern. Individuals with mental illnesses and drug and alcohol abuse treat jails as a haven for them and continue to commit crimes. As a result, there will be high incarceration rates which leads to the possibility of an increase in suicide deaths in jail. The jails face repercussions for the lack of suicide prevention. Families of incarcerated individuals whose death was caused by suicide are given the authorization and right to sue the state for compensation. The increase in suicide in jails will result in budget cuts in jails, reduction in mental health treatments for jails, and the absence of employment of competently trained workers. (Landsberg,2018).

The issues of suicide in the criminal justice system revolve around inadequate prevention and training. Preventing suicide in the criminal justice system is a process that requires, yearly staff training, mental health and suicide screening at intake (later explained), suicide treatment and prevention programs, treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, proper mental health services, adequate funding, and secure and safe living environments in jail—for example, designing a building that is as visible to the staff as possible. The jail has inadequate staff training to handle mentally ill and suicidal individuals. Training the staff about mental health, suicide, and substance abuse can help educate those incarcerated so it can decrease reincarceration rates and suicide in jail. All jails should provide mental health and suicide screening for inmates at intake because it could potentially reduce self-harm and suicidal dispositions. Adequate screening can lead to the identification of mental illnesses and observation by jail staff can be helpful in the next step. Following the screening, the staff should follow procedures to place the individuals in a proper treatment and prevention program. In order to successfully run a suicide prevention and treatment program in jail, they will need properly trained jail staff and officers. Enforcing suicide prevention and treatment programs in the New York State Jail in the 1990s and early 2000s in jails helped decrease suicide rates by the late 2000s (Landsberg, 2018).

Alcohol and drug abuse amongst individuals can later develop into mental illness and suicidal thoughts. Implementing alcohol and drug abuse programs to educate individuals can help deter the use and the possibility of it leading to suicide and mental health issues. Drugs and alcohol lead to the next step of prevention by providing proper mental health services to inmates in jail or prisons. America has one of the highest incarceration rates which is no help when it comes to mentally ill individuals. Providing inadequate mental health care to individuals incarcerated is an issue faced in America’s jails and prisons. Many of those who are incarcerated do not know how or where to seek mental help, some cannot afford to pay for medical expenses, and others do not have the insurance to cover mental health expenses.

According to RAND corporation, studies have found that states with higher rates of people unable to obtain health care because of costs were more susceptible to suicide. Funding is a huge concern for mental health care and improvement is a huge requirement. Providing a safe and visible facility for individuals in jail or prison is just a smaller step of improving and preventing suicide in the criminal justice system. Implementing various proposals involving various programs in jails and prisons is a way to divert individuals from being incarcerated and lessening suicide deaths.

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Suicide Attempt and Death in Jail. (2021, Apr 15). Retrieved from

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