The Unsafety and Mortality Rate of Prison and Jail

New data is arriving about the mortality rate and the lack of safety in state prisons across the United States. One thing is clear and that is death rates are rising and for a great many reasons studies show. New numbers were released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics from 2018, and these numbers don’t lie. Prisons seem to have thousands of deaths of inmates, while in custody. The new numbers do reflect the numbers seen from the past, showing an increasing rate of unnatural deaths. Homicide, drug overdosing, alcohol poisoning, and suicide are all on the rise across state prisons. Others die from unknown illnesses as well and prisons seem to keep this information close to the chest and not share it with the public.

Prison Conditions Contributing to Deaths


A high mortality rate may be contributed to the physical state of prisons which may lack temperature-controlled facilities, as well as a number of other facility lacking factors that can lead to general sickness within the prison population. Other conditions also arise constantly within the state prison system creating issues with many prisoners that lead to death. Overcrowding is one of the worst issues prisons face currently in many state prisons in America. Lack of privacy can lead to increased rates of violence as well as causing mental health conditions to grow worse. With so little room in the prison to function, overcrowding has been seen to increase the risk of self-harm, general violence, and even suicide. Sexual abuse is also another factor that becomes exacerbated because of overcrowding.


Prison guards and all correlating staff play an immense role in the higher death rates among inmates. Regardless of gender identity, disabilities, sex, or race, all prisoner types have reported issues with prison staff. Physical abuse, as well as mental abuse, has been reported by inmates in many state prisons.


Prisons are generally investing in more prison cells and bars, rather than placing any funds towards improving the prison system. Newer statistics have become available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics which states that in one year the death rate climbed from 296 deaths per 100,000 inmates in 2015 to 303 deaths per 100,000 in the year 2016. Without understanding how and why the inmates are dying, it is difficult to understand how to combat the increasing death rate. Suicides have been inclining at a staggering rate. Suicides have been reported to have raised as much as 22 percent since the last report was released, and the report was only generated two years earlier. Drug and alcohol intoxications leading to death have also increased exponentially. In the same two-year period as the suicide report, alcohol and drug deaths increased by an astounding 139 percent. These are both incredible findings and deserve attention to get to the root of the problems.

Increased Prison Population


The prison population increases year after year with new inmates arriving and many inmates being release and return within a short period of time. Although there has been a slight increase in state prison inmate populations since the year 2001, the rise of inmates death does not correlate. Prison populations peaked in the year 2009 and have fallen since. Are prisons becoming more dangerous? The answer seems to be a strong yes to the question. Mental health issues are growing within the prison system and more inmates are arriving at facilities with a pre-existing mental condition, only to be placed in a dangerous situation. In order to combat the rise in mortality rates, action is required. State prisons need to take the challenge straight on. Many prisoners are being exposed to terrible mental and physical conditions alike. Better relationships between prison guards and inmates need to be addressed, in order to address inmate issues. With so many prisoners, the parole boards need to release more prisoners at an accelerated rate, in order to help combat the overpopulation issue. Taking these types of bold steps and more can help alleviate some of the state prison issues and help lower the mortality rate.