Inmate death rates for suicide, homicide and AIDS are showing substantial declines in jails and state prisons, the government says. The trend reflects improved medical care and closer attention to separating violent criminals from other offenders, reports the Associated Press. State prison homicide rates declined by more than 90 percent, from 54 per 100,000 in 1980 to four per 100,000 in 2002, the latest year for which data is available, the Bureau of Justice Statistics said.
Jail suicide rates fell more than 60 percent, dropping from 129 per 100,000 inmates in 1983 — when suicide was the leading cause of death among inmates — to 47 per 100,000 in 2002. Death rates from AIDS-related causes in jails also fell sharply, from 20 per 100,000 in 1988 to eight per 100,000 in 2002. One reason for the downward trend is that advocacy groups have become much more aggressive in filing lawsuits to improve conditions behind bars, said an ACLU representative.