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33 How. J. Crim. Just. 1 (1994)

handle is hein.journals/hjcj33 and id is 1 raw text is: 

@  Basil Blackwell Ltd. 1994, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 IJF, UK
and 238 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA
The Howard Journal Vol 33 No 1. Feb 94
ISSN 0265-5527

  Suicide Amongst Women Prisoners

                         ALISON LIEBLING
              Senior Research Associate, Institute of Criminology,
                          University of Cambridge

Abstract: The rate of suicide amongst women prisoners is seriously underestimated. The
relatively small numbers of women in prison often leads to the neglect of their specific needs and
concerns. Their suicide rate in prison has been increasing. Women prisoners talk about family
and child-care concerns more often than male prisoners do. There may also be other reasons for
their greater vulnerability in prison. It may be that the fact of imprisonment has a different and
more specfic impact on women than upon men. The subjective, qualitative aspects of the prison
experience are rarely investigated. As a result, the pains of imprisonment are tragically

During   the last 20 years in  England  and  Wales   there have  been  14
consciously self-inflicted deaths by women in prison. Five of these deaths
have  occurred in the last five years; two of them since June  1992. The
effects of these deaths on families, on the staff who have worked  closely
with the women   concerned, and on their fellow prisoners, are devastating.

      The  Myth   of the 'Mainly  Male'  Prison  Suicide  Problem
Because  of the relatively small numbers of women  in prison, the absolute
numbers  of suicides might at first sight seem small: one or two each year,
compared   to  almost 40  male  prisoner  suicides each  year. Despite  a
growing  awareness of and concern about  suicides in prison in recent years,
there has been as assumption  that this problem overwhelmingly   concerns
men.  This  assumption  is reflected in the fact that none of the  official
publications relating to suicides in prison published  in the last decade
have  referred in any detail to women   (Home   Office 1984, 1986; Lloyd
1990; Tumim   1990). Instead, it is argued that one of the most significant
factors associated with suicide risk is being male  (Home   Office 1986).
Most  studies use all-male samples.
  In fact, there are specific and important features of suicide by women
prisoners  that should  not be  overlooked  in  any  investigation of the
problem.  The  first and most important  point is that the suicide rate for
women   prisoners is as high as the rate for men. This fact has been masked
even  in the most  recent studies by  suicide verdicts being used  as the
official measure of the actual number   of suicides occurring. This is no
longer a plausible baseline for the calculation of suicide rates. Official


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