In state prisons, 2013 was the most deadly year for inmates since the government started tracking the numbers.
But a new Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report on prison mortality reveals that it wasn’t violence or suicide that killed the most — it was disease.
Of the 3,479 inmates who died in state penitentiary’s in 2013, 3,082 of them died from diseases like heart disease, cancer, and liver disease.
Furthermore, the BJS report — which covers all prison fatalities from 2001 (the year the organisation started tracking inmate deaths) to 2013 — found that of the 42,157 inmates who died during that span, 37,374 died from disease (89%).
Of all the inmates who died from disease, BJS notes cancer, heart disease, and liver disease accounted for two-thirds of those deaths (67%).
The next biggest killers were suicide (5.5%) and homicide (2.6%).
In general, prison deaths in 2013 increased 4% over the previous year.
The Washington Post’s Mark Berman speculates that the increase in state prison mortality rate could be linked to two factors: a larger prison population and an older prison population. In a speech to the NAACP last month, President Barack Obama noted that the nation’s prison population has exploded from 500,000 in 1980 to 2.2 million today.
In addition, the Vera Institute of Justice estimates that the population of prisoners who are age 55 and older has increased by 550%
since 1992. The organisation notes that this population can cost two to three times more to incarcerate than young prisoners.
Here are the BJS stats:
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