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Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2005 Feb;35(1):63-75.

Demographic, criminal, and psychiatric factors related to inmate suicide.

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  • 1University Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


A review of 19 studies suggests that it may be feasible to identify prisoners with suicide risk on the basis of demographic, psychiatric, and criminal characteristics. The present study aimed to identify combinations of characteristics that are capable of identifying potential suicide victims. Characteristics of 95 suicide victims in the Dutch prison system were compared with those of a random sample of 247 inmates in ten jails. Combinations of indicators for suicide risk were also tested for their capability of identifying 209 suicides in U.S. jails and 279 prison suicides in England and Wales. A combination of six characteristics (age 40+, homelessness, history of psychiatric care, history of drug abuse, one prior incarceration, violent offence) was capable of correctly classifying 82% of the Dutch suicide victims (82% specificity). Less powerful combinations correctly classified 53% of the U.S. suicides and 47% of the U.K. suicides. It is concluded that a set of demographic and criminal characteristics and indicators of psychiatric problems is useful for the identification of suicide risk in jails and prisons.

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