Authors: Janické du Preez, Francois Steyn & Karen Booyens

Keyword: suicide, South Africa, Gauteng


Suicides occur in correctional centres even though the behaviour of offenders is supposed to be closely monitored and regulated. The present study set out to identify and describe the risk factors and circumstances surrounding suicides in selected correctional centres in Gauteng (Johannesburg, Zonderwater, Boksburg and Kgosi Mampuru II). Qualitative methods, in particular semi-structured interview and focus group strategies, were followed to obtain data from two psychologists, two social workers, nine case management officers and twelve offenders. In addition, the case files of eight offenders who committed suicide in a correctional centre were scrutinised for information regarding their backgrounds, mental health, contact with their families, sentences and parole applications. The study identified an array of risk factors associated with suicide in correctional centres that can be categorised in terms of individual, interpersonal and structural contributors. Important risk factors include contact with families, mental health, type of cell accommodated in, access to prescription medication and overcrowding. The general strain and escape theories are used to explain the phenomenon of suicide in correctional centres.