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J Forensic Sci. 2011 Nov;56(6):1541-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01858.x. Epub 2011 Aug 9.

Suicide behind bars: trends, inconsistencies, and practical implications.

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Division of Forensic Psychiatry, Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, 1438 South Grand Blvd, Saint Louis, MO 63104, USA.


The results of two comprehensive approaches are compared: the nationwide surveys of suicides in U.S. jails by Hayes and the international meta-analyses of suicides in jails and prisons by Fazel et al. Factors are classified as demographic, situational, clinical, and methodical. More than 50% of U.S. jail suicide victims were men, white, unmarried, under 28 years of age, charged with minor or drug-related offenses, and intoxicated with drugs or alcohol. Suicides significantly occurred in isolation. Suicide victims in the international study were significantly (p < 0.001) men, white, married, pretrial, and charged with or convicted of violent offenses. Psychiatric diagnosis, alcohol abuse, taking psychotropic medication, and suicidal ideation were also positively correlated in the international study, but suicide victims were distributed more evenly over age-groups. Results of other studies illustrate the near universality of some findings. Three theories of suicide are briefly discussed.

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