Single-cell and segregated housing are established risk factors for suicide in prison. The importance of these factors together may represent a disproportionate risk and are both modifiable.
We tallied the housing locations and single- versus double-cell status of the 26 inmates who committed suicide in the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) from 2005 through 2011, and compared the suicide rates in these housing arrangements. All single-cell housing in the NJDOC (whether segregated or general population) represented a higher risk of suicide than double-cell housing in the general population. Single-cell detention was the riskiest housing in the NJDOC, with a suicide rate that was more than 400 times the rate of suicide in double-cell general population housing and 23 times the rate of suicide in the prison system overall.
The odds ratios of suicide in single-cell detention represent the highest reported in the literature in terms of risk factors for suicide in prisoners. Apprised of this risk, the NJDOC, assisted by its mental health vendor, University Correctional Health Care (UCHC, of Rutgers University, formerly the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey), adopted in 2012 a practice of default double-celling of inmates placed in detention.
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- 1Dr. Reeves is Clinical Associate Professor and Dr. Tamburello is Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 2Dr. Reeves is Clinical Associate Professor and Dr. Tamburello is Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ.
- J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2014;42(4):484-8.
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