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Deaths of New York State Inmates, 1978-1992

NCJ Number
J A Lyons; R A Greifinger; T Flannery
Date Published
18 pages
An analysis of the 2,313 inmate deaths in New York State prisons between 1978 and 1992 revealed that both the number and rate of inmate deaths increased substantially during this period; prisoner mortalities increased 900 percent, while the prison population tripled.
The research used official records to determine the manner of death, the characteristics of the inmates who died, and the characteristics of the total inmate population. Newspaper accounts of some of the fatalities were also reviewed. The composition of the inmate population changed during the study period; this changing composition affected mortality rates. The number of inmate homicide victims increased significantly, although intermittently, during the study period. The rate of homicides inside prison declined, whereas the rate for inmates in day reporting or work release programs increased. Accidental deaths increased and resulted mainly from drug-related incidents and accidental injuries. The numbers and rates of inmate suicides fluctuated during the study period. Moreover, as larger percentages of the inmate population consisted of drug offenders and older inmates, mortality rates for deaths by AIDS-related illnesses and natural causes also increased. Finally, the increase in female inmates appeared to have reduced overall mortality rates related to homicide, suicide, and accidents, but recent mortality rates for AIDS deaths of female inmates may be increasing faster than for males. Findings indicated the need to examine the characteristics of inmate population to understand underlying trends. Figures, appended tables, and 13 references