Considering the impact of COVID-19 on suicide risk among individuals in prison and during reentry

Sean M. Mitchell, Nikki L. La Rosa, Julianne Cary, Sarah Sparks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: This paper mains to bring attention to the potential impact COVID-19 could have on suicide risk among individuals who are incarcerated and those reentering the community after incarceration (i.e. reentry), with particular emphasis on the USA, as well as provide possible solutions to mitigate suicide risk. Design/methodology/approach: This paper provides an overview of the association between the COVID-19 pandemic policies and suicide, the vulnerabilities specific to prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic, relevant suicide risk factors among prisoners, the possible impact of COVID-19 on suicide risk during reentry and proposed solutions for moving forward to mitigate both risks for COVID-19 and suicide. Findings: This paper highlights that prisoners and individuals reentering the community are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and suicide risk and COVID-19-related stressors may further exacerbate known suicide risk factors (e.g. psychiatric symptoms, lack of positive social ties, low feelings of belonging, feelings of burden, economic problems) and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. This paper also discusses barriers (e.g. lack of funds, access to health and mental health care, COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment) to managing COVID-19 and suicide risk within prisons and during reentry. Originality/value: This paper provides a review of scalable solutions that could mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and suicide risk during this pandemic among prisoners and those reentering the community, such as psychoeducation, self-help stress management, telehealth services, increased access and reduced cost of phone calls, reduced or eliminated cost of soap and sanitization supplies in prisons and early release programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-253
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Criminal Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Inmates
  • Prison
  • Reentry
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Suicide


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