Professor of Criminal Justice, Stockton University
- In a study of podular jails with direct supervision of inmates, 69% reported no suicides, 18% reported one suicide, 6% reported two, and 1% reported six. Urban jails were more likely to report at least one suicide than jails not in urban areas.
- Jails that allowed inmates to regulate lighting, control their entrance and exit of cells, and have materials that reduce echoes had fewer suicides.
- Podular jails that had more assaults between inmates had more instances of suicide. For every assault, a jail was 1.96 times more likely to have a suicide.
- The average number of inmates per supervising officer in the jails studied was 59. Factors related to officer training and circulation of officers throughout the pod were unrelated to the likelihood of suicide.
In the article, “Predictors of Suicide in New Generation Jails,” Tartaro and Levy examine podular direct supervision jails to determine which characteristics of the jails predict the likelihood that inmates will commit suicide. Out of concern about suicide, violence, and vandalism, the federal Bureau of Prisons commissioned architects in the 1970s to design a new type of jail. New generation jails feature pods that facilitate direct supervision of and communication with inmates; they have been credited with reducing rates of violence, vandalism, and suicide. This study analyzed data from 150 jails throughout the United States as part of a national survey of the new jails. Jails that allow inmates some control over their environment and jails that have fewer assaults between inmates were less likely to have suicides. Although these types of jails are expensive and politically controversial, the authors say county-level decision makers need to understand that not including certain aspects of the podular model may reduce its effectiveness in preventing suicides.