These States Have the Most Prison Deaths
These States Have the Most Prison Deaths

by Alex Greer

Using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, InsideGov found the 24 states with the highest annual mortality rates for prisoners.

The U.S. has the largest number of prisoners in the world. U.S. state and federal prisons held just over 1.5 million inmates at the end of 2014, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. For reference, that's more than the entire state population of Hawaii.

The sheer number of inmates poses a challenge to the U.S. prison system. In addition to overcrowding and ballooning costs, prisons have come under scrutiny for failing to care for aging inmates. With an increasingly elderly prison population, the issue has drawn the attention of Democrats and Republicans alike.

As the debate over prison reform ramps up, InsideGov decided to take a closer look at the data surrounding prisoners. Using statistics from the BJS, we ranked the states with the highest average annual mortality rate per 100,000 state and federal prisoners. The data covers 2001 to 2013. States are listed alphabetically in the event of a tie.

The mortality rate is also broken down by cause of death, which includes natural causes, such as illnesses, and unnatural causes, such as homicide or suicide. The "All Other" category includes other specified or unspecified illnesses as well as other non-leading natural causes of death. Interestingly, the most common causes of death for prisoners -- heart disease and cancer -- are also the leading causes of death for the general U.S. population.

Notably, these figures do not include any executions that may have occurred. Due to missing data, the individual causes of death may not add up to the total death rate. The BJS also caveats some of its figures when there are too few cases to provide a reliable rate. Lastly, these numbers only include inmates in state or federal prisons, not local ones.

 

#24. Missouri

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 246 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#23. Montana

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 246 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#22. New Hampshire

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 248 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#21. Indiana

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 251 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#20. Oregon

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 252 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#19. Kansas

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 253 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#18. Michigan

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 258 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#17. Maryland

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 259 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#16. New Mexico

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 262 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#15. Texas

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 265 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#14. Nevada

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 268 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#13. Virginia

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 276 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#12. South Carolina

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 278 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#11. Florida

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 281 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#10. Alabama

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 305 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#9. Massachusetts

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 310 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#8. Oklahoma

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 319 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#7. Pennsylvania

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 323 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#6. Mississippi

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 326 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#5. Arkansas

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 331 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#4. Kentucky

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 351 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#3. Tennessee

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 379 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#2. West Virginia

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 379 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

#1. Louisiana

Average Annual Mortality Rate: 479 per 100,000 state and federal prisoners

 

National Overview

The visualization below shows the average annual mortality rate for prisoners in each state. Overall, Southern states tend to have higher mortality rates, while the Midwest generally has the lowest rates.

 

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