The number of inmates who died in state prisons and local jails increased for third year in a row in 2013, according to a report from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
The total number of inmate deaths, 4,446, was the highest number since BJS began tracking the number in 2007. In 2012, there were 131 fewer deaths in state prisons and local jails. More than a third (34 percent) of deaths reported to BJS were due to suicide, according to the report. That has been the leading cause of death in state prisons and local jails every year since 2000.
The report comes as two high profile jail deaths have made headlines across the country. On July 13, 2015, Sandra Bland died inside a Texas jail cell. Officials said the 28-year-old, who was arrested following a traffic stop three days earlier, committed suicide. Her family insists that isn’t the case, and following widespread protests, Texas authorities and the FBI announced they had begun a joint investigation into Bland’s death. The Waller County district attorney’s office is also investigating her death as a possible murder.
On August 3, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that his office is investigating the death of Raynette Turner, 42, who was found dead in a Mount Vernon, N.Y., holding cell. She was arrested two days earlier on a shoplifting charge.
The BJS report also found that the increasing numbers of elderly inmates has contributed to the rise of deaths in incarceration.
“In state prisons, the percentage of decedents age 55 or older has increased by an average of 5 percent annually since 2001. By 2013, more than half (57 percent) of prisoner deaths were of inmates age 55 or older,” researchers note.
Nearly a quarter of all jail deaths occurred in California and Texas, according to the report. Eighty percent of jails nationwide reported no deaths at all.
Read the full report HERE.