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Juvenile Suicide in Confinement: A National Survey

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2009
55 pages
The primary goals of this first national survey on juvenile suicides in confinement (juvenile detention centers, reception centers, training schools, ranches, camps, and farms) were to determine the extent and distribution of such suicides and to obtain descriptive data on the demographic characteristics of each victim, incident characteristics, and the characteristics of the juvenile facility in which the suicide occurred.
The study identified 110 juvenile suicides that occurred between 1995 and 1999. Data were analyzed for 79 of these cases. For these 79 suicides, 41.8 percent occurred in training school/secure facilities, 36.7 percent in detention center, 15.2 percent in residential treatment centers, and 6.3 percent in reception/diagnostic centers. Nearly half of the suicides occurred in facilities administered by States; 39.2 percent occurred in county facilities; and 12.17 percent occurred in private programs. Percentages are reported for victims' race, gender, age, offense for which confined, status of confinement, and criminal history. Other data on the suicide victims pertain to history of substance abuse, medical problems, history of various types of abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual), and history of suicidal behavior. Data related to the circumstances of the suicide are also reported. Recommendations relate to the development and implementation of a written suicide prevention policy for every juvenile custodial facility. Critical components of such a policy are training, identification/screening, communication, housing, levels of supervision, intervention, reporting, and followup/mortality review. Since about half of the victims were on room confinement status at the time of their suicides, and 62 percent had a history of room confinement, the potential consequences of room confinement as a standard procedure should be carefully considered. Also, because suicides can occur at any time during a youth's confinement, a continuum of suicide prevention services should be established. 38 tables, 21 notes, approximately 100 references, and appended phase 1 and phase 2 survey instruments

Date Published: February 1, 2009