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U.S. Marshals Service

Suicide Prevention and Recommended Practices


Here you will find specific sources that are directly relevant to the DOJ Condition of Confinement Suicide Prevention initiatives. Our Detention Facilities (IGA’s or Private Contracts) can be made aware of these resources and obtain the material directly from this website or by contacting the Information Center Help Desk via email or (800) 995-6423.

The below resources can be found on the National Institute of Corrections website.

Improve Your Agency’s Response and Services to Suicidal and Mentally Ill Offenders

The Jail Suicide/Mental Health Update is a joint project of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives and the National Institute of Corrections.  Published quarterly, this free newsletter is part of continuing efforts to keep practitioners aware of developments in the field of jail suicide prevention and jail mental health services.  To view previous issues or to be placed on a mailing list, contact Lindsay Hayes, Editor and NCIA Project Director. 

The following resources are also available:

NIC April 2010 Follow-up Jail Suicide Study

NIC recently published, National Study of Jail Suicide: 20 Years Later (April 2010). The study revisits a survey that was conducted by the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA), an NIC sponsored study, in the mid-1980s. The current report finds that the characteristics and demographic data surrounding inmate suicide have changed dramatically since the original study. The number of suicide deaths has also declined (854 deaths between 1985-1996 and 696 between 2005-2006). However, today's jails still face a 3 times greater rate of suicide than the general public, making suicide a leading cause of inmate deaths.

More resources that address jail suicide are available through the NIC Information Center's online library:

Suicide Prevention: Instructor’s Manual (2007) -
Participants of this 32-hour training program about suicide prevention should be able to: recognize characteristics of correctional facilities that foster suicide; list signs and symptoms of a possible suicidal inmate; know the times for increased suicidal risk; recognize the events that can trigger a possible suicide; know how to respond to an actively suicidal inmate; and understand the importance of early suicide intervention. This manual contains student materials, lesson plans, tests, and additional information.   Four video clips accompany this lesson. A short introduction (1:03 min.) provides some sobering statistics about suicide in correctional facilities; two clips (3:53 min. and 3:13 min.) show how the Initial Needs Survey (INS) is administered to two different individuals (one possibly at-risk for suicide); and a conclusion which relates in part how the Orange County Jail System has experienced only five suicides over the last ten years (during which 831,040 people were booked).

Guide for Development of Suicide Prevention Plans (1991, Updated 2006) - Providing a structure on which to base a comprehensive suicide prevention plan, this document prompts the planner through each aspect of suicide response. Main subjects covered include staff training, screening and identification of jail inmates at risk for suicide, communication among staff regarding at-risk inmates, housing, supervision/observation, intervention in a suicide attempt, and reporting and investigation of successful attempts.

Correctional Health Care: Suicide Prevention (Lesson Plan and Participant’s Manual 2006) - Common health-based risk factors, programmatic guidelines, and various methods of suicide prevention are discussed during this 20-hour course. This manual contains sections about: the importance of suicide prevention to prison administrators and clinicians; standards of care and liability (case law); aftermath of a suicide; suicide risk indicators; geriatric inmates; and presentation overviews. The lesson plan is presented as an "executive summary" (issue overview).

These are the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and DOJ’s Office of Federal Detention Trustee’s recommended suicide prevention practices:

Suicide Prevention in a Correctional Setting – Lessons Learned: This is a two page handout that highlights key “lessons learned” gleaned from a review of psychological reconstructions of completed suicides that occurred in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, as well as the professional literature on suicide prevention. This is a good tool for jail inspectors and facility administrators of what an administrator should be looking for and inspecting with regard to suicide prevention. This is a learning tool , not a replacement for a formal suicide protocol or policy.

Preventing Suicide in Prison: A Collaborative Responsibility of Administrative, Custodial and Clinical Staff: This article from The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law summarizes key issues in suicide prevention. It is relevant to both mental health providers and custodial supervisors.

Jail Suicide Assessment Tool:
This article presents a tool that can be used by mental health provider to guide their suicide assessments. The use of this and other similarly structured suicide assessment tools have been found to be a critical ingredient in reducing suicides.

Best Practices in Suicide Risk Assessment Documentation:
This one page handout highlights key components of a well conducted and documented suicide risk assessment. It is useful to mental health providers who conduct suicide risk assessments.

A Bibliography on Suicide Risk Assessment and Prevention:
This list provides additional resource materials for facilities interested in enhancing their suicide prevention efforts.


Prisoners is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice