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NCJ Number: 81482 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: And Darkness Closes In - National Study of Jail Suicides - Final Report
Corporate Author: National Ctr on Institutions and Alternatives
United States of America
Project Director: L M Hayes
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 94
Sponsoring Agency: National Ctr on Institutions and Alternatives
Alexandria, VA 22305
National Institute of Corrections
Washington, DC 20534
National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
Grant Number: CC-4
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America

National Ctr on Institutions and Alternatives
3125 Mt. Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22305
United States of America
Document: PDF
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Demographic data on 344 of the 419 suicides in U.S. jails in 1979 were used to construct a profile of jail suicide victims. The study includes recommendations for jailers, public officials, and legislators on how to avert jail suicides.
Abstract: Researchers used surveys of jail and corrections officials, medical examiners, and a newspaper clipping service. Analysis of the data yielded a hypothetical victim profile: a 22-year-old single white male, arrested for public intoxication as the only offense. The typical victim is under the influence of alcohol upon incarceration in an urban county jail where he is placed in isolation for his own protection and surveillance. However, less than 3 hours after incarceration, the hypothetical victim is dead, having hanged himself with material from his bed in the jail cell. The incident takes place on a Saturday night in September between the hours of midnight and 1:00 a.m. Jail staff finds the victim within 15 minutes of the hanging. Jail records indicate that the victim did not have a history of mental illness or previous suicide attempts. The statistics from which the above profile emerged show 60 percent of the suicide victims under the influence of alcohol or another drug at the time of incarceration; two out of every three inmates who committed suicide were being held in isolation. Over 50 percent of the suicide victims were dead within the first 24 hours of incarceration; 27 percent died within the first 3 hours. The report recommends that jailers be alert for inmates whose characteristics fall within the victim profile. These inmates should receive special attention during initial incarceration, especially the first 3 hours, and isolation should not be used for inmates exhibiting suicidal behavior. Cosmetic precautions to prevent suicides at a facility--e.g. barless windows and television monitors--should not supplant the more necessary human interaction. Public officials and legislators should broaden the use of pretrial release, decriminalize public intoxication, and provide programs of support following detoxification. Jail suicide reporting should be improved. Tabular data and 51 references are included. (Author summary modified)
Index Term(s): Drunkenness; Jails; Suicide
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