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Juvenile Suicide in Confinement A National Survey

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2004
84 pages
This document presents findings from a national survey on the scope and distribution of suicides by youth in public and private juvenile detention facilities.
The National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA) was awarded a contract from the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to conduct the first national survey on youth suicide in confinement. Chapter 1 presents a literature review that outlines the problem, prevalence, and risk factors of youth suicide. The provision of mental health services in juvenile detention facilities is explored and previous statistics on juvenile and adult suicide within jails are presented. Chapter 2 describes two of the three phases of the NICA survey. Phase 1 involved a 1 page survey instrument that was sent to directors of 1,178 public and 2,634 private juvenile facilities; directors were asked to identify total number of juvenile suicides in confinement between 1995 and 1999. Results of Phase 1 revealed 110 juvenile suicides between 1995 and 1999, distributed among 38 States. Phase 2 involved a 7 page survey asking about demographic characteristics, incident characteristics, and facility characteristics of the 110 suicides. Chapter 3 presents demographic findings collected on 79 juvenile suicides that occurred in public and private juvenile detention facilities in the United States between 1995 and 1999. Of these 79 suicides, 41.8 percent occurred in Training School/Secure Facilities; 36.7 percent in Detention Centers; 15.2 percent in Residential Treatment Centers; and 6.3 percent in Reception/Diagnostic Centers. Caucasians were 68.4 percent of victims and 79.7 percent were male. Average age of suicide victims was 15.7 years and 69.9 percent had been confined for nonviolent offenses. Findings concerning the suicide incidents are also reported, including time span between last observation of victim and finding victims and suicide precaution status at time of incident. Chapter 4 examines special considerations, such as the facility’s compliance with the national juvenile correctional standard of having a written suicide prevention policy; the use of room confinement as a sanction; and corrective actions taken by facilities following a suicide. Chapter 5 presents conclusions and recommends that all juvenile facilities have detailed written suicide prevention policies, create and maintain effective training programs, and ensure that medical and mental health practitioners receive instruction on suicide prevention. Tables, references, appendix

Date Published: February 1, 2004