Suicide in French prisons: trend, level and risk factors

Jean-Louis Pan Ké Shon, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Géraldine Duthé, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Angélique Hazard, Ministry of Justice, France
Annie Kensey, Ministry of Justice, France

The frequency of suicide has long been used as an indicator of tensions and problems in society. In French prisons, the number of suicides has increased rapidly over the last fifty years and the rate is currently 5 to 6 times higher than that of the non-imprisoned male population aged 15-59. In the beginning of the 2000s, the prison suicide rate in France is even the highest recorded in the EU-15 countries. Many factors are associated with suicide in prison, such as the role of concomitant events relating to the family (marital breakdown, loss of contact with children) or the prison environment. The individual characteristics of the detainee must also be taken into account (age, sex, family situation) and last, those of society (suicide rates in the general population, degree of social condemnation of the offence committed, management of mental health problems). The causes of suicide are thus multiple, stemming from an accumulation of negative social factors and of psychological tensions. After a methodological part devoted to measurement issue of the suicide rate and comparison with general population and other European countries, we analyse data from a study of the entire French prison population over the last three years taking account of social and demographic characteristics, judicial proceeding (gravity of offence, detention status) and prison regime (conditions of imprisonment, type of prison establishment). This analysis aims to identify risk factors of suicide in prison in France.

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Presented in Session 51: External and smoking-related mortality