NYMC Faculty Publications

Custodial Suicide and Class Action Remedies: Current Obstacles and Future Directions

Journal Title

Behavioral Sciences & the Law

First Page


Last Page


Document Type


Publication Date

May 2019


Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences


Custodial suicide is a foundational concern for correctional systems. The incarcerated population is at an increased risk for suicide as compared with people living in the community. Sufficient suicide prevention is a critical component of a constitutionally adequate system of correctional mental health care. The remedial phases of class action litigations have animated improvement in suicide prevention in many correctional systems across the United States. In the current climate, many legal obstacles make it more difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in such cases, but it is expected that advocates will find novel approaches in response to these legal hurdles, such as greater reliance on state law remedies, and will seek to expand the scope of potential actions in emerging areas such as immigration detention. Defendants and courts will, in turn, need to respond to these changes. This article explores the history of relevant litigations, and the legal obstacles currently faced by plaintiffs, as well as future directions the authors consider will likely be taken. Practical issues such as appropriate measurement of improvement in the area of suicide prevention are also explored.