I certainly learned a lot about inmate suicide while serving as a lead member of the suicide watch team in Fort Dix, NJ. Valuable insight into the reasons which people commit suicide in county jails and the state prison system also provided me with exceptional understanding that has equipped me as a prison consultant.

Far more suicides occur in county jails in comparison to state or federal prisons. The statistics are tracked by the Department of Justice.

The report also states that nearly half of all local jail suicides in the United States between 2000 and 2010 took place within seven to ten days of prisoners’ admission. During the same period, the suicide rate of jail inmates was highest among white, older male inmates. You may wonder why? My opinion is that far less white males enter the prison system as opposed to Black, Latino or other inmates. The critical flaw in with Department of Justice statistics is that Latinos are counted as Whites. Quite frankly and unfortunately Blacks and Latinos are more equipped to handle the chaos and mayhem of the county jail. Most are from the same neighborhoods or adjacent townships. The chances of a low, middle or upper class Whites having family, friends or colleagues in a county jail, state or federal prison are slim to none.

Of the 918 jail deaths in 2010, 305 (33.2%) were attributed to suicide. Of the 3,232 prison deaths that year, 215 (6.7%) were suicides.

County jails are pure jungles consisting of individuals trying to make bail, parolees waiting to see if their parole will be revoked whereby they will be sent back to prison.  As well as recently sentenced inmates waiting to be designated and/or transferred to a state or federal prison. To make matters worse, you have drunks, drug addicts, drug dealers, pedophiles, rapists and murderers anxious and angry because they can’t get through to friends and family on the phone who can bring them money or pay for an attorney. A high number of those processed into county jails are withdrawing from drugs and alcohol. This creates very short fuses.

The dormitories and lunch areas can be loud with cursing, dominoes smashing, playing cards slapping on tables as obscenities pierce the air. This can be intimidating, mind and nerve wrecking for anyone who has lived a discreet life in a quiet and safe neighborhood with no history of violence.  This is probably why most suicides in county jails take place within the first 10 days.

State prisons also have a higher number of white males who commit suicide however age has rarely been a factor. As a prison consultant, this is the most common concern of the mates who will support their loved one while they are incarcerated. They often ask “Do you think my husband/wife will kill themselves?”  It’s a question that neither a prison consultant or family member can answer. Although suicides in prison are rare, once a person is sent to a state or federal prison some cannot come to terms with the reality of prison. The thoughts of being beaten, bullied or raped, a wife cheating, children rebelling, embarrassment to their family or missing their pet is simply overwhelming.

Prison Consulting is about spending time, digging deep to not only learn your clients strengths and weaknesses but as much about their mental condition as possible. If it is determined that my client may be suicidal, I will always encourage them to seek help prior to self-surrendering and immediately seek help once he or she has entered the prison system.

This prison consultant knows that when these feelings and emotions take over, inmates rip the bed sheets and commit suicide by tying it to a sink, toilet or bunk inside their cell simply because watching freedom is too painful.


One thought on “Prison Consultant take: Why do inmates commit suicide in prison?

  1. John,

    It was truly an honor having you give the groundbreaking presentation on “Corporate Corruption the Fast Track to Imprisonment” today at the company’s Lunch and Learn series. The information you shared regarding corporate responsibility and individual accountability was sobering. In our daily lives in the financial services arena we are often confronted with temptation. The worst possible consequence among many was “what if I were to loose my job” but hardly was prison considered as an outcome! Many were chatting afterwards about your blunt and candid of the delivery which added to this reality.  I will be speaking with the event organizers to determine the feasibility of you to come again and present to executive management.  Again John, thank you.

    Amber K.

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