CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

DOJ Releases Inmate Death Report

From The nation's state prison officials reported that 12,129 inmates died while in custody from 2001 through 2004, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The deaths over this four-year period constituted an annual mortality rate of 250 deaths per 100,000 inmates, which was 19 percent lower than the adult mortality rate in the U.S. general population.

            Overall, 89 percent of all state prisoner deaths were attributed to medical conditions and 8 percent were due to suicide or homicide. The remainder of deaths were due to alcohol/drug intoxication or accidental injury (1 percent each). A definitive cause of death could not be determined for an additional 1 percent. Two-thirds of inmate deaths from medical conditions involved a problem that was present at the time of admission to prison.

            Half of all inmate deaths during this period resulted from heart disease (27 percent) or cancer (23 percent). Liver diseases, including cirrhosis, accounted for 10 percent of deaths, followed by AIDS-related causes (7 percent).

            Among cancer deaths, lung cancer was the most common, accounting for 910 deaths from 2001 through 2004, followed by liver (276), colon (171), pancreatic (124) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (114). Deaths due to gender-specific cancer sites varied. Breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine cancer accounted for 24 percent of female cancer deaths. By comparison, prostate and testicular cancer caused 4 percent of male cancer deaths.

            State prisoner mortality rates increased steadily with age. The mortality rate of inmates age 18-24 was lowest, at 34 deaths per 100,000 inmates. Among inmates age 55 or older, the rate was 1,973 deaths per 100,000 inmates. Inmates age 45 or older represented 14 percent of state prisoners, but 67 percent of the prisoner deaths from 2001 through 2004.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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