Suicide Identification, Prevention, and Policy Failure

Suicide Identification, Prevention, and Policy Failure
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Resources
Recorded on: 2019-05-01
Unit 1 Slide Deck: Suicide Identification, Prevention, and Policy Failure
Unit 2 Workbook: Suicide Identification, Prevention, and Policy Failure
Unit 3 Recording: Suicide Identification, Prevention, and Policy Failure

Suicide was the leading cause of death in jails in 2014. It also impacts everyone surrounding the incident including inmates and corrections personnel. While there is no fool-proof way to prevent suicides from happening, there are measures that can be put into place in the corrections facility setting to manage suicide ideation and attempts.

On this course, our key resource is John G. Peters Jr. He serves as the president and chief learning officer of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths. His professional experience includes working as a law enforcement administrator, deputy sheriff, and police officer. His expertise on in-custody deaths qualified him to be an expert witness within the US and internationally in cases dealing with sudden death and excited delirium. He has also published numerous articles and textbooks and created content including documentary videos and online programs for colleges and universities

John will talk about suicide in the correctional setting, discussing behavior, prevention, studies, and policies. Some of the specifics of this course include:

  • Defining suicide and differentiating suicide ideation from a suicide attempt.
  • Organizational components that provide protection from liability in instances of in-custody suicide through policies, rules, and procedures.
  • A look into suicide victim motives.
    • The four categories of suicide.
    • The identified reasons why people commit suicide that range from heroic, religious, romantic, to manipulation and contagion.
    • The various reasons for suicide that include yearning for attention, to manipulate or induce guilt, benefit from financial gains, or prove a point to authority, public, or loved ones.
  • Pre-disposing factors to listen and look out for in the jail setting such as alcohol and drug use, delusional and hallucinatory behavior, guilt or shame and other incidents that may lead to depression.
  • High-risk periods for jail suicide that usually happens in the first 3 to 72 hours, during alcohol or drug withdrawal, holidays, and even before release.
  • Behavioral cues to watch out for as manifesting existing depression, paranoia, delusion, and need for psychiatric care, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or demonstrating extreme behavior and mood swings.
  • The problem with common policy on suicidal inmate checks done in 15-minute intervals.
  • Hanging as the preferred suicide method due to the variety of items that may be used as a ligature, its certainty, ease, and swiftness.
  • A study that analyzed filmed hangings and was able to identify the agonal sequence and timings.
  • What correctional facilities must consider and do to effectively prevent suicide.
    • Ensure their policies and procedures are backed by scientific research.
    • Minimize potential liability by training and testing employees on the policies, rules, and procedures backed by evidence.
    • Maintain file references for the policies, training lesson plans, and test documents.
    • Take the IPICD online trainings on in-custody death and agonal breathing.
    • Conduct post-incident psychological autopsy that includes personnel debriefing, taking witness statements, notifying appropriate agencies and parties, and securing evidence (videos, photos, and medications).
    • Consider Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) suffered by other inmates and personnel who are privy to the suicide that occurred.
  • Questions raised during the Q&A include:
    • Studies that offers insights on the correlation of suicide history to future likelihood, and genetic-based suicidality.
    • Information that may be inferred from suicide notes.
    • Using closed-circuit monitoring to supervise suicidal inmates.
    • Workarounds when the facility is understaffed.
    • Resources to mitigate copycat or contagion suicide with the facility.
    • Correlation between suicide and sexual assault.
    • Standards and specifications for suicide-proof cells.
    • Pairing up inmates in the same cell to prevent suicide.


Resources Mentioned During Webinar


Audience Comments

  • “I learned a great deal about the topic that I can pass along to our jailers.” –Ken
  • “More than just the run of the mill signs and symptoms of potential suicide. The suggestions to help prevent suicide were helpful, such as 15 minutes checks might be too long and open dorm style housing could be a safer alternative.” — Randall


Additional Resources
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