Adult Suicide Rate High in Inmates After Recent Jail Release, US study finds



DLHA Staff writer

Inmates grabbing at iron bars in an overcrowded US jail

Inmates grabbing at iron bars in an overcrowded US jail.


Inmates released from US jails have a nine-fold increased risk of suicide within one year following release, compared to people who’ve never been incarcerated, new research published on May 10, 2024 in the JAMA Network Open journal shows.


The research estimated the death by suicide rates among formerly incarcerated adults who have been jailed and released at least once in 2019 from 10 different US jurisdiction


The study population included approximately 7.1 million adults (2.8% of the US adult population; 76.7% males and 23.3% females).


The study found that inmates had a nine times greater risk of dying by suicide within one year of their release, and a seven times greater risk of suicide within two years of release whem compared to  non-incarcerated people.


The significance of this research for informed policy making in developing countries of sub-Saharan Africa cannot be overstated.


The suicide rate in newly released people from jail during the study year accounted for about 20% of all adult suicide deaths in the US.


Characteristically, individuals in the study population were often arrested when experiencing acute mental health crisis, and jail stays were usually brief, and releases of those in pretrial jail detention were typically unscheduled. 


The researchers conclude that their findings support the possibility of linking jail release data to patient health records across the United States, and thus support the targeting of recently released inmates with outreach suicide prevention services.


“Focused suicide prevention efforts could reach a substantial number of adults who were formerly incarcerated within 2 years, when death by suicide is likely to occur,” the researchers concluded.


The significance of this research for informed policy making in developing countries of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, data on the impact of incarceration on the mental and physical health of inmates during and after their release are notoriously unavailable within both the justice and health systems in many SSA countries. More needs to be done in these countries for the collection of system-wide data to safeguard the mental and general health as well as the overall wellbeing of incarcerated people during and after their release from jail.



Miller TR, Weinstock LM, Ahmedani BK, et al. Share of Adult Suicides After Recent Jail Release. JAMA Netw Open. 2024;7(5):e249965. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.9965




Published: May 17, 2024

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