Self-harm in prisoners

CNS Spectr. 2011 Mar;16(3):75-81. doi: 10.1017/S1092852912000211.


IntroductionSelf-harm is a direct, socially unacceptable,repetitive behavior that causes minor to moderate physical injury without suicidal intent. It is also a significant and growing concern among prison inmates, although it has been rarely studied. In the present study, we aimed to investigate demographic, psychosocial, and clinical variables associated to this critical bahaviour in a high risk sample of 1,555 male prisoners.

Methods: Prisoners were interviewed about their history of self-mutilation, psychiatric history,and forensic history. The prisoners completed the Barratt Impulsivity Scale, Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory, Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, and Childhood Trauma Questionnaire.

Results: Eighteen percent of prisoners had a history of self-harm. They more frequently reported childhood traumas, were more likely to be unmarried, previously imprisoned, tested positive for substance abuse, had a history of suicide attempt, and more likely showed violent tendencies.DiscussionSelf-harm among prisoners is common, being found in almost 20% of the subjects in our sample. Self-mutilation among prisoners appears to be multi-factorial with developmental, socio-demographic, psychiatric, and personality determinants.

Conclusion: Self-harm is associated with critical behaviors such as violence, substance abuse and suicide attempts, which represent major critical problems in contention environments.