Criminal Prosecution Linked to Increased Suicide Risk

Highest risk for women offenders, those sentenced to psychiatric treatment, and those acquitted

THURSDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Individuals with a history of criminal justice prosecution, particularly those sentenced to psychiatric treatment, have an elevated suicide risk compared to the general population, according to a study published online Feb. 7 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Roger T. Webb, Ph.D., from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and colleagues examined suicide risk among individuals processed by Denmark's national criminal justice system. A total of 27,219 adult suicides were identified from 1981 to 2006, and a history of criminal prosecutions was examined.

The investigators found that, compared to the general population, the relative risk of suicide was higher among women than men, and that more than a third of all male suicides had a history of criminal justice prosecution. The increased risk remained after adjusting for potential confounders. The highest risk was seen for those who had the charges withdrawn and were sentenced to psychiatric treatment. Suicide risk was elevated in those with custodial sentencing and also in individuals who were not sentenced to prison or were found innocent. Risk was particularly high in those with recent or recurrent contact with the criminal justice system, and in individuals charged with violent offenses.

"Aside from prisoners and ex-prisoners, a much wider group of men and women processed by the criminal justice system has elevated suicide risk. Previous contact with secondary care psychiatric services is common, which highlights the opportunities for suicide prevention in this population," the authors write.

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