|| a higher rate of suicide is
associated with both low and high levels of education, but no significant
relationship is found between suicide and I.Q.;
|| suicide does not correlate with sentence
|| those in the initial phase of imprisonment show
the highest rate of suicide; and
|| hanging is consistently the most common method
employed, followed by slashing and overdose (Task Force on Suicide in Canada,
1994; Conacher, 1993; National Task Force, 1987).
SUICIDAL BEHAVIOUR AND RISK FACTORS
Given what is supposed to be a lack of privacy and an inaccessibility of
methods of committing suicide within the penitentiary environment, the
persistence and comparatively high rate of suicide in jails and prisons has
prompted increased efforts to develop a means of early identification of inmate
suicidal behaviour. A previous psychiatric history (attempted suicide,
depression, psychiatric treatment) can be a key factor in the cause of inmate
suicide. In 1993-94, 7 of the 24 federal inmates who committed suicide were
known to be depressed, 14 of the 24 were thought to have experienced
hopelessness, 7 of the 24 were diagnosed as either psychotic or schizophrenic,
6 of the 24 had been diagnosed as suicidal currently or in the past, and half
experienced suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts in the past (Laishes, 1994,
p. 13-14). These numbers may vary slightly from year to year, but these
elements are always present to some degree or another. These figures show that
there is often inadequate intervention and treatment of inmate suicidal
behaviour. Attempts at suicide and the expression of suicidal thoughts and
intentions are the most common ways to identify potential suicides (Conacher,
1996, p. 74), and should thus be considered more seriously and with more care.
While researchers have devised theoretical profiles of "typical"
inmate suicidal behaviour, the practical application of these profiles by
corrections staff has revealed limitations. Corrections staff are unable to be
provided with enough detailed information about the inmate and the particular
characteristics of the prison environment to allow a consistent, pro-active
prediction of suicidal behaviour. A profile alone, however accurate, will not
provide corrections staff with a reliable method of distinguishing between
suicidal and non-suicidal inmates. There must also be standardized reporting
and communication of information about the inmate's history and proper training
of corrections staff in the detection and intervention of suicidal behaviour.
In order to accurately detect whether or not an inmate is suicidal, factors
must be considered that range from the inmate's personal and social background
to the effects of the institutional experience itself.