While literature on inmate suicide indicated that suicidologists have
long been in disagreement over what the causes and best prevention strategies
would be for inmate suicide, they have agreed that few jails and prisons have
succeeded in consistently and effectively detecting and intervening in
incidents of inmate suicidal behaviour. Ironically, the highest risk of suicide
is in maximum security and remand facilities, where it is less likely that
programs such as Samaritans will be implemented due to security issues. The
very factors that relate to suicide risk are those that make suicide prevention
difficult to implement. One of the common themes within the inmate suicide
issue has been the increasing acknowledgement by corrections officials and
suicidologists that profiles alone, however accurate, will not reduce the
incidence of inmate suicide. There must also be standardized reporting and
communication of information about the inmate's history, proper training of
corrections staff in suicide detection and intervention and a move toward a
more inter-disciplinary approach to intervention and prevention of inmate
suicide. While there is more that can be done, the fact is that prison and jail
are brutally harsh environments that some simply are not able to cope with.
After we have done all the prevention and intervention possible with the
environmental constraints, will we then step back and look at prison itself?
Perhaps the solution to inmate suicide lies in more discriminate and
appropriate use of incarceration, keeping less serious offenders in the
community and making better use of mental health facilities for inmates with
mental health concerns.