Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Jail suicide increasing, especially in rural areas; trend linked to opioid and methamphetamine withdrawal, mental illness
"Long the leading cause of death in U.S. jails, suicides hit a high of 50 deaths for every 100,000 inmates in 2014, the latest year for which the data are available. That’s 2½ times the rate of suicides in state prisons and about 3½ times that of the general population," report The Associated Press and the University of Maryland's Capital News Service.
Rural jails have been hit particularly hard by the phenomenon. A 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that 64 percent of inmates in local jails nationwide had a mental-health problem, and the Treatment Advocacy Center estimates that 16% of inmates in jails and prisons have a severe mental illness. "That has raised troubling questions about the treatment of inmates in many jails, possible patterns of neglect, and whether better care could have stopped suicides," rsays The Crime Report, a publication of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice in the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.
Jails and prisons started seeing more mentally ill people in the 1970s after state psychiatric hospitals began closing. More recently the trend has been linked to drug use: Many drug addicts struggle with depression, and when forced to dry out in jail, many face the additional hurdle of withdrawal. "About a third of jail inmates who attempted suicide or took their lives did so after staff allegedly failed to provide medicines used to manage mental illness," says The Crime Report.