Inmate Deaths Increase For Three Consecutive Years

Gavel on American flag

For the third consecutive year, the number of inmates who died while in the custody of local jails or state prisons increased. A total of 4,446 inmates died in 2013, an increase of 131 deaths since 2012.

The number of deaths in local jails and prison decreased an annual average of 2% between 2008 and 2010. In 2013, a total of 967 jail inmates died while in the custody of local jails. The number of deaths increased from 958 deaths in 2012 to 967 in 2013, while the jail population decreased 4%.

As a result, the overall mortality rate in local jails increased from 128 per 100,000 jail inmates in 2012 to 135 per 100,000 in 2013.

Suicide and heart disease have been the top two causes of death in local jails since 2000 (figure 1). Suicide has been the leading cause of death in jails every year since 2000. In 2013, a third (34%) of jail inmate deaths were due to suicide. The suicide rate increased 14%, from 40 suicides per 100,000 jail inmates in 2012 to 46 per 100,000 in 2013.

The number of state prisoner deaths increased 4% in 2013, for a total of 3,479 deaths, or an additional 122 deaths since 2012 (figure 2). From 2001 to 2013, the majority (9 in 10 deaths) of prisoner deaths were due to illness-related causes.

Between 2012 and 2013, the overall mortality rate for state prisoners increased 3%, from 265 deaths per 100,000 in 2012 to 274 per 100,000 in 2013. This was the highest mortality rate since the collection began in 2000.

The mortality rate for illness increased 4% between 2012 and 2013, from 234 to 243 deaths per 100,000 inmates. In 2013, the mortality rates increased for the leading causes of illness—heart disease (up 11%), cancer (up 4%), and liver disease (up 16%), while the rates decreased for respiratory diseases (down 12%) or AIDS-related deaths (down 30%). The rate of AIDS-related deaths in state prisons has declined 82% since 2001.


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