Bulletin Reports

Prison Mortality Rates

In 2014 the Deaths in Custody Reporting Program (DCRP) recorded 3,927 inmate deaths—a 1 percent increase from 3,879 in 2013—in state and federal prisons in the United States. This was the highest number reported since the program began collecting data in 2001.

The number of federal prisoner deaths increased 11 percent, from 400 in 2013 to 444 in 2014. Most prisoners (88 percent) died from natural causes. Unnatural reasons, such as suicides, homicides, and accidents, comprised 8 percent.

From 2013, with 3,479, to 2014, with 3,483, the number of deaths in state prisons remained stable. During the same time period, deaths of state prisoners declined in California by 13 percent and Texas by 7 percent. In 2014, these states combined accounted for 20 percent of the state prison population and 20 percent of state prisoner deaths. Nearly 87 percent of state prisoners died due to illness in 2014, while 30 percent died from cancer and 26 percent from heart disease.

The number of AIDS-related deaths increased 23 percent, and those due to respiratory disease grew 20 percent from 2013 to 2014. Also up during this period was the number of suicides in state prisons, which increased 30 percent from 2013 to 2014 after decreasing 6 percent from 2012 to 2013. In 2014, suicides accounted for 7 percent of all state prison deaths—the largest percentage observed since 2001. In 2014, accidental deaths and fatalities related to drug or alcohol intoxication were indicated as the cause in approximately 1 percent of state prisoner losses.

More females (154) died in state prisons in 2014, which was the highest number than in any year since 2008 (163); however, men comprised the majority (96 percent) of state prison inmates who died during the same year. More than half (55 percent) of decedents were Caucasian, while 32 percent were African American and 11 percent Hispanic. Over 50 percent of state prisoners who died in 2014 were 55 or older, and about 25 percent were age 45 to 54.

There were 50,785 prisoner deaths in state and federal prisons between 2001 and 2014. The majority (45,640) occurred in state facilities. The state prisoner mortality rate—256 per 100,000 inmates—was 14 percent higher than the federal rate—225 per 100,000— during this period. Twenty-seven U.S. states accounted for 90 percent of all state prisoner deaths (45,640) from 2001 through 2014. Texas and California accounted for nearly 25 percent of all deaths in state prisons during this 13-year period.

The full report, Mortality in State Prisons, 2001-2014, NCJ 250150, can be found at www.bjs.gov.