National study of jail suicides: seven years later

Psychiatr Q. 1989 Spring;60(1):7-29. doi: 10.1007/BF01064362.


Project staff from the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA) gathered information from all jails (county and city) and police department lockups throughout the country regarding the incidence of jail suicides during 1985 and 1986. The study resulted in the identification of 854 jail suicides during 1985-86, with 453 occurring in 1985 and 401 in 1986. Project staff analyzed demographic data on 339 of the 1986 suicides. Subsequent comparison with NCIA's prior national research revealed that, absent minor variations, there were not any appreciable differences in jail suicide characteristics from 1979 and 1986. Most of the key characteristics of jail suicide--offense, intoxication, method/instrument, isolation, and length of incarceration--have remained virtually unchanged over time. The consistency of such findings could impact the ability to deter suicidal behavior. The utilization of these findings in the prevention of jail suicides is discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prisons*
  • Suicide / prevention & control
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors
  • United States