Inmates More Likely to Die in Missouri Jails Than in 42* Other States

Dec 15, 2011 at 8:43 am

The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics released a bunch of numbers yesterday offering an exhaustive demographic account of inmates who are dying in prisons and jails across the country.

It's not a report that Missouri will necessarily be proud of. The state shared the No. 7 ranking with Utah in the category of mortality rate per jail inmate in 2009, the last year on record. The state's twenty deaths equaled a ratio of 173 deaths per 100,000 inmates, which is the calculating measure used by the Justice Department's Deaths in Custody Reporting Program. *The District of Columbia is also included in the rankings, but six states do not report their annual numbers, so the results might be slightly skewed.

In 2008, Missouri was ranked tenth in that category. In 2007 we were ranked second, behind only Washington, DC.

The State prison system fared better, comparatively. The 81 prisoner deaths in 2009 gave us 266 deaths per 100,000 inmates, or a No. 24 ranking.

Overall, mortality rates are declining among states and prisons across the country, and 2009 witnessed one of the lowest numbers of jail deaths in a decade. In 2008 and 2009, suicide, heart disease, cancer and liver disease remained the leading causes of death in both prisons and jails.

The justice department data also are broken down by the inmates' ages, races, and sex.

More interesting findings from the report:

  • State prison facilities reported 3,452 inmate deaths in 2008 (a rate of 260 deaths per 100,000 prison inmates) and 3,408 inmate deaths in 2009 (257 deaths per 100,000 prison inmates).

  • Heart disease (26%) and cancer (27%) were the leading single causes of illness-related deaths in prisons, together accounting for nearly half (52%) of all prison deaths in 2009.

  • In 2008, 960 inmates died in U.S. jails (a mortality rate of 123 deaths per 100,000 jail inmates) and in 2009, 948 inmates died in U.S. jails (a rate of 127 deaths per 100,000 jail inmates).

  • In 2009, 32% of deaths in jails were suicides and 21% were due to heart disease.