State prisons reported 3,408 inmate deaths in 2009, an increase from 2,877 in 2001, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said today. The mortality rate in state prisons has remained stable since 2003, fluctuating between 250 and 260 deaths per 100,000 prison inmates. Both the rate and number of deaths in local jails dropped to one of the lowest levels in a decade in 2009. The jail mortality rate dropped to 127 inmate deaths per 100,000 jail inmates in 2009 from 151 deaths per 100,000 in 2000. Jail deaths declined from a high of 1,102 in 2007 to 948 in 2009.
In 2008 and 2009, suicide, heart disease, cancer, and liver disease remained the leading causes of death in state prisons and local jails. In 2009, 32 percent of deaths in jails were suicides and 21 percent were due to heart disease. Heart disease and cancer accounted for half (52 percent) and liver disease for 8 percent of all prisoner deaths in 2009. Suicide rates in jails dropped each year between 2001 and 2007 (from 49 to 36 deaths per 100,000 inmates), before increasing in 2009 to 41 deaths per 100,000 inmates. In state prisons, the suicide rate has been fairly stable, fluctuating between 14 and 17 deaths per 100,000 prison inmates between 2001 and 2009.