Suicide Prevention in Corrections Clinical and Legal Implications

Suicide Prevention in Corrections Clinical and Legal Implications
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2024-06-13
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: Suicide Prevention
Unit 2 Transcript: Suicide Prevention
Unit 3 Workbook: Suicide Prevention
Unit 4 Recording: Suicide Prevention

In 2019, 29.6% of jail inmate deaths were due to suicide. This also has been the leading cause of death in jails every year since 2000. This makes it imperative for facilities to be more stringent with suicide prevention protocols when it comes to inmates who express suicide ideation. This presentation identified the core components of a suicide prevention program and legal concepts to reduce liability risks.

This session’s resource speakers are:

  • Christie Estes, General Counsel & Compliance Director for Quality Correctional Health Care
  • Krista Chick, a Licensed Professional Counselor in the states of Alabama and Tennessee

Points they covered in their discussion include:

  • The prevalence of work-related burnout in corrections, how it impacts employees wellness and relationships, and their attitudes towards suicide.
  • Suicide statistics on the general US population context and those specific to the jail population.
  • Signs and symptoms of suicidal behavior that corrections staff must be wary of in their interactions with inmates.
  • How correctional staff attitudes and supervision levels can influence suicidal ideation among inmates.
  • High-risk periods for suicide include reduced supervision, segregation, release, anniversaries, bad news, court hearings, and substance withdrawal.
  • The key components of suicide prevention in jails.
    • Regular, at least annual, suicide prevention training required for staff that covers topics like recognizing symptoms, mental health, burnout, and self-care.
    • A comprehensive intake screening process to ensure suicide risk is appropriately identified and addressed.
    • Consistent communication and documentation of interactions with inmates expressing suicidal thoughts, the steps taken upon identifying suicide risk, and common sources for this information.
    • Housing guidelines that emphasize avoiding isolating those on suicide watch, maximizing staff interaction, improving inmate morale, and ensuring safety by removing suicide hazards.
    • The levels of observation to utilize depending on the suicide risk, who are qualified to clear an inmate from being on suicide watch, and legal considerations in terms of the checks intervals and documentation of which.
    • Intervention considerations in terms of equipment, protocol, and documentation.
    • Reporting procedure internally within the chain of command, and externally to the inmate’s family and other outside authorities.
    • Follow-up and mortality review following a suicide inside within the facility to debrief everyone impacted by the event and to learn from the incident and improve existing strategies.
  • A case that highlights the importance of intake screening and how it is better to err to the side of caution than to face liability issues.
  • Legal concepts that touch on suicide within correctional facilities.
    • 42 USC Section 1983 that founded the rights of inmates.
    • Estelle v. Gamble that establishes the concept of deliberate indifference to inmates’ serious medical needs.
    • The criteria for deliberate indifference and serious medical need.
    • The scope and limits of adequate care.
    • The Eleventh Circuit Precedent that requires inmate suicide cases to prove deliberate indifference, where the standard includes showing the officer’s knowledge and actions regarding the inmate’s suicide risk.
  • The tough corrections job and how adhering to the suicide prevention components and self-care can reduce the likelihood of inmate suicides and prevent related liability issues.

Questions from the webinar attendees are about:

  • Handling inmate claims of suicidal ideation.
  • Peer support programs for inmates and training inmate trustees for suicide watch.
  • Frequency of suicide watch checks.
  • Housing multiple suicidal inmates in the same cell.



Click here to register and view other Jail/Corrections-related webinars and recordings on the JCH website.


Audience Comments

  • “I think the webinar included valuable information that continues to support correctional staff in dealing with inmates experiencing suicidal ideation.”
  • “One of the most valuable things that I learned from the webinar was the information on the Eleventh Circuit Precedent. Additionally, the information regarding the Section 1983 Lawsuit – prisoners having constitutionally mandated medical care.”
  • “Most beneficial the honesty of admitting mistakes. The trustworthiness of documentation produces trusting conversation. Very thorough. Plan to listen to this again. So helpful in serving inmates and their families after the unfortunate suicide event.”
  • “Thanks for your help. Awesome presentation.”



This webinar will be considered by the American Jail Association to equal one online learning hour toward certification and recertification for the following programs: Certified Jail Officer, Certified Jail Supervisor and Certified Jail Manager.  For more information about AJA certification programs, visit



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