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Suicide and Self-Harm in Prisons and Jails

Christine Tartaro and David Lester

Police and corrections personnel must always be mindful of the possibility that those in their custody may attempt suicide or commit an act of self-mutilation. Persons housed in prisons, jails, and police lockups tend to be at a higher risk for such destructive behavior than members of the general population. Reasons for this can be found by examining the mental health, substance abuse, and physical/sexual abuse histories of inmates in addition to deficits in their coping skills and the stress and uncertainty generated by incarceration.

This book explores several topics pertaining to suicide and deliberate self-harm in the corrections setting, including who tends to commit these acts; where, when, and how these incidents occur; screening mechanisms; the role of environmental stimuli in facilitating or preventing acts of self harm; interpersonal relations among inmates and between inmates and staff; and the role of the courts in setting and ruling on suicide prevention policies. The authors discuss the role of prevention techniques that offer a balance between strict opportunity-reduction and softer motivation-reduction strategies. The book also includes suggestions for diversion programs that can keep mentally ill inmates out of prisons and jails and transition planning programs to better prepare outgoing inmates for their re-entry into the community.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 238Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-0-7391-2464-2 • Hardback • January 2009 • $85.00 • (£51.95)
978-0-7391-2465-9 • Paperback • July 2010 • $34.99 • (£21.95)
978-1-4616-3424-9 • eBook • July 2010 • $34.99 • (£21.95)
Christine Tartaro is associate professor of criminal justice at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. David Lester is distinguished professor of psychology at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
Chapter 1 1. Introduction
Chapter 2 2. Who Commits Suicide While Incarcerated?
Chapter 3 3. When, Where, and How Suicides in Prisons and Jails Occur
Chapter 4 4. Suicidal Ideation, Suicide Attempts, and Self-Mutilation
Chapter 5 5. Screening and Assessment
Chapter 6 6. Crisis Intervention and Counseling
Chapter 7 7. Facility Design and Suicide Prevention
Chapter 8 8. Diversion and Transition Programs
Chapter 9 9. Litigation Issues
Chapter 10 10. Suggestions for the Future
Combining the skills of Christine Tartaro, an insightful criminologist, and David Lester, a leading suicidologist, Suicide and Self-harm in Prisons and Jails is not only timely, but also the most important book on the topic since Lester's Suicide Behind Bars two decades ago. Richly detailed, weaving together research, case examples, and the law, the authors allow the reader to appreciate and understand the complexity of suicide in prisons and jails, as both present very different rates and dynamics, and how to help. This book is a prime contribution for forensic specialists, law enforcement and correctional officers, students, and those of us who investigate the deaths for legal and liability issues. I predict that it will become the standard.
Antoon A. Leenaars, author of Psychotherapy with Suicidal People

Tartaro and Lester provide an accessible overview of the epidemiology and etiology of prison suicidality and self mutilation, as well as a critical assessment of clinical/prevention issues including screening programs, crisis counseling, environmental designs (that can limit opportunities for suicide), and litigation regarding system negligence. It is clearly the leading source on the topic for both researchers and practitioners.
Steven Stack, Wayne State University

This book is a thoroughly researched and comprehensive review of the current state of knowledge on the subject of suicide prevention in the custodial environment. It should prove valuable for any mental health professional who works with inmates, as well as for correctional staff and administrators who are tasked with ensuring the safety of an incarcerated population. Overall, Suicide and Self-Harm in Prisons and Jails is a comprehensive, eminently practical guide to this critical topic, and represents an important contribution to the field.
Journal Of Forensic Science, September 2009

A very much needed comprehensive and practical book. It will help in the hard work of preventing suicide in prisons. Highly recommended for anyone interested in suicide prevention and prison environment.
Maurizio Pompili, Sapienza University of Rome