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Suicide prevention in Correctional Institutions

VISCI - History and scientific background
Psychiatric treatment in custody
Suicide in Custody
Suicide prevention in Correctional Institutions

VISCI - Viennese Instrument for Suicidality in Correctional Institutions
VISCI- The Questionnaire
Prof. Dr. Stefan Frühwald
Dr. Patrick Frottier
VISCI - Demonstration
A sufficient suicide prevention program consists of various components, as there are: the housing facilities of the institution, the training of the correctional staff, a screening instrument and the mental health treatment during detention. Only if all these factors work together a good suicide prevention can be guaranteed.

Special suicide prevention training for the correctional staff is essential, because they will be the only persons who are on duty and who are responsible for the inmates in the critical time of intake, at night and on weekends. The identification of suicidal behavior is the first step for an effective intervention. After an initial training the staff has to get regular refreshing units to hold a continuous level of high quality.

There are two main groups of high risk inmates. First are the inmates that face a long-term detention, second are the inmates on remand.

Within inmates on remand a suicide attempt occurs very often during the first hours of imprisonment or near the time of a court appearance.

In the group of sentenced prisoners the high at risk inmates are frequently violent offenders who have to face a long time detention. The suicide risk of long term inmates increases with the length of their stay.

In addition there exist some more risk factors that are true for both groups:

Situational Factors:

Suicides tend to occur by hanging, when the victims are being held in isolation or segregation cells, and during times when staffing is the lowest, such as nights or weekends.

Psychosocial Factors:

Among inmates there is a bigger group of persons with emotional problems or psychiatric illness as well as suicidal behavior. These problems even get worse through missing social and familiar support, conflicts among inmates or staff and with changing conditions in custody.


Women in custody face am extremely high suicide risk, as they are especially susceptible to emotional problems and psychiatric illness.


They have to face an extreme situation and therefore need the special support of the correctional staff. Juveniles who are placed in adult correctional facilities should be considered to be at particularly high risk of suicide.

Despite the different groups of high risk inmates, each suicide that occurs in custody influences the whole system and leads to big psychological and economic problems for the whole institution.

Therefore suicide prevention instruments are extremely important.
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