Although the earliest discussions on deliberate self-harm can be traced in medical literature as early as the mid-1800s, it wasn’t until the 1960s when the psychiatry community became interested in studying self-harming behavior (Favazza, 1998). Since then, psychiatrists and psychologists alike have spent time researching self-harm behaviors and evaluating treatment methods for individuals who engage in self-harming behaviors. The vast majority of the existing research focuses on patients in the community who self-harm. However, little research has been dedicated to examining self-harming behaviors among the incarcerated population. This dissertation seeks to fill the gap in the literature by analyzing self-harming behaviors among prison inmates in Arizona. Based on record reviews, data was gathered on every self-harm event that happened between September 1, 2018 until September 30th, 2019 by the inmate population incarcerated within the state of Arizona’s 16 state and private prisons. During the 13-month study time period, a total of 2,845 self-harm events were gathered, which were produced by 647 inmates. The results indicate that a large portion of the deliberate self-harm events that occurred in the prison setting served a functional purpose for those who engaged in the self-harm. Specifically, offenders who engaged in deliberate self-harm behaviors did so to obtain a desired outcome or for some kind of secondary gain. The results also indicated that many offenders engaged in deliberate self-harm to obtain a transfer to a safe housing location, and that the number of self-harm event these offenders engaged in decreased once they were transferred to their coveted housing location.
- Deliberate Self-Harm in the Prison Setting
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