Essay by Anonymous UserA+, December 1996

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The United States is plagued by a countless number of social dilemmas. Although

not in constant public scrutiny, suicide is a serious problem which has seemed to

have lost importance. When suicide is coupled with arrest and incarceration it

becomes an increasingly complex situation. In fact, research indicates that the jail

suicide rate ranges from 2.5 to 13 times greater than the rate of the general

population (Winkler 1992). Motivation, prediction, and prevention of suicidal

behavior are grossly unclear, which only adds to the already existing complexity.

Many factors involved with arrest and incarceration only serve as a catalyst of

suicidal tendencies. Suicide is the primary cause of death in this country's jails.

In 1986 there were 401 successful [jail] suicides (Winkler 19992).

There are many general assumptions made in regard to suicide. Most believe

suicide to be caused by mental illness such as major depression or bipolar disorder.

Another belief is that the emotional escalation leading to action takes place over a

long period of time.

Such is not the case in jail suicides. Much of the research

shows that ¼ of all [jail] suicides occur within the first twenty four hours of

incarceration, and an overwhelming number of these take place in the first three

hours of isolation which is referred to as the "crisis period" (Hess 1987). The

crisis period is reflective of arrest and incarceration as producing extreme

confusion, fear, and anxiety. The crisis period is also the result of isolation.

Isolation causes an individual to lose all social support systems. Placing an

individual in isolation may be a form of protection, but this gives the individual an

opportunity to concentrate on feelings of hopelessness (Winkler 1992). Hopelessness

can be defined as the presence of despair and negative feelings about the future

(Shneidman 1987).Isolation can...