International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 132, Issue 4, pp 1225–1230 | Cite as

Suicide of isolated inmates suffering from psychiatric disorders: when a preventive measure becomes punitive

  • S. Grassi
  • G. Mandarelli
  • M. Polacco
  • G. Vetrugno
  • A. G. Spagnolo
  • Fabio De-Giorgio
Case Report


We performed external autopsies and examinations on two inmates who had committed suicide by hanging themselves with their underwear and using the window bars of their cells as ligature points after they had been placed in solitary confinement. In one case, the inmate had even been deprived of her clothing (with the exception to her underwear). Underwear has been rarely described as a means for self-harm and, to the best of our knowledge, no previous study has focused on cases of prison suicides committed using this garment, even though it is available to every inmate. The two cases were very similar; both inmates were young, physically aggressive and in their first week at a new facility; both had been affected by mental disorders, had been prescribed psychotropic medications and had histories of psychiatric hospitalisation. In each case, the psychiatric evaluations had highlighted significant suicidal risk. We discuss these two cases in an attempt to describe the complexity of and contradictions within the management of suicidal inmates at correctional facilities. We aim to propose new strategies and emphasise the need to introduce evidence-based standardised protocols over inhumane, ineffective and simplistic punitive measures in the management of these individuals.


Prison suicide Hanging Underwear Solitary confinement 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Grassi
    • 1
  • G. Mandarelli
    • 2
  • M. Polacco
    • 1
  • G. Vetrugno
    • 3
  • A. G. Spagnolo
    • 4
  • Fabio De-Giorgio
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Public Health, Section of Legal MedicineUniversità Cattolica del Sacro CuoreRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Neurology and PsychiatryUniversity of Rome, SapienzaRomeItaly
  3. 3.Unit of Risk Management, Policlinico A. GemelliRomeItaly
  4. 4.Institute of BioethicsUniversità Cattolica del Sacro CuoreRomeItaly

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