Countless television shows and major motion pictures depict criminal incarceration as places of violence where the risk of serious injuries or death remains a clear and present danger. While some depictions are exaggerated, the number of attacks that result in injury or death is a stark reality in prisons across the nation.
Experts and those focused on reforms cite massive overcrowding combined with a lack of staff, representing the perfect recipe for dangers and trauma, not to mention daily dehumanizing.
While numerous accounts see prisoners enduring horrible treatment, statistics tell an alarming story.
- Federal prisoners who lost their lives while in custody of a facility managed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) were at 381 in 2019.
- State prison mortality rates were at 330 per 100,000 state prisoners in 2019, with BOP-operated detention centers at 259 per 100,000 federal prisoners
- Nearly 90 percent of 65,027 state prisoners and 7,125 federal prisoners died in custody from 2001 to 2019 due to illness.
- Deaths caused by drug or alcohol intoxication in state prisons skyrocketed from 35 in 2001 to 253 in 2019
- 3,853 prisoners lost their lives in state and private prisons under a state contract, a rare reduction of 284 deaths in 2018
- For every 100,000 prisoners in state and privately operated prison facilities In 2019, 261 lost their lives from illness, and 46 took their own lives
- Mortality rates involving homicide with state prisoners grew from 10 in 100,000 in 2108 to 12 per 100,000 in 2019
Even after prisoners are released, the trauma of violence and abuse continues, not to mention the unsanitary conditions and less-than-adequate healthcare. Reforms are paramount and long overdue to keep those incarcerated safe and those on the outside prepared for a new chapter in their lives.