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An Examination of Suicide Attempts Among Incarcerated Sex Offenders

Elizabeth L. Jeglic, Ashley Spada & Cynthia Calkins Mercado.

Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment; February 2013, vol. 25, no. 1, 21-40.

 

Abstract

Little is known about suicide attempts among sex offenders. This study examines the rates of nonfatal suicide attempts among a sample (N = 3,030) of incarcerated male sex offenders. Overall, the authors found that 14% of sex offenders in the study sample had made a suicide attempt at some point in their lives. Of those, 11% had reported a suicide attempt prior to incarceration, 0.5% had made a suicide attempt while incarcerated, and 2.5% made suicide attempts both prior to and during incarceration. Sex offenders who made suicide attempts were significantly more likely than those who did not make suicide attempts to have had an abusive childhood, a history of psychiatric problems, intellectual impairment, male victims, and related victims. Suicide attempters also scored higher on actuarial risk measures than nonattempters. No differences were found in attempter status between sex offenders who committed sex offenses against children and those who committed sex offenses against adults. A history of psychiatric problems and treatment as well as childhood abuse/neglect and perpetration against male victims predicted suicide attempter status. These findings are discussed as they pertain to suicide prevention, risk assessment, and the collateral consequences of sex offender legislation.

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