- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2007

From combined dispatches

Black inmates of state prisons die at less than half the rate of black people on the outside, the government said yesterday.

The report by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics also found that white and Hispanic inmates at state jails had a higher fatality rate than free whites or Hispanics.

The figures reported to the department by state prison officials showed that black inmates died at the rate of 206 per 100,000, compared with a rate of 484 per 100,000 for the black population as a whole. The statistics cover the 12,129 state prisoners who died from 2001 to 2004.

The death rates for Hispanic inmates was the same as for blacks — 206 per 100,000 — while the death rate for white inmates was significantly higher, at 343. Hispanic residents of the U.S. ages 15 to 64 had an overall death rate of 180 per 100,000, while for whites, the rate was 312.

Inmates in state prisons are dying at an overall average yearly rate of 250 per 100,000, according to the figures. From 2001 to 2003, the overall U.S. population between ages 15 and 64 died at a rate of 308 a year.

In prison, 6 percent of the deaths were suicides, 2 percent were homicides, 2 percent were related to alcohol, drugs or accidental injuries, and 1 percent of the deaths could not be explained, the report said. The rest of the deaths — 89 percent — were due to medical reasons. Of those, two-thirds of inmates had the medical problem they died of before they were admitted to prison.

Medical problems that were most common among men and women in state prisons were heart disease, lung and liver cancer, liver diseases and AIDS-related ailments.

But the death rate among men was 72 percent higher than that of women. Nearly one-quarter of the women who died had breast, ovarian, cervical or uterine cancer. Four percent of the men who died had prostate or testicular cancer.

More than half the inmates 65 or older who died in state prisons were at least 55 when admitted to prison.

State prison officials reported that 94 percent of their inmates who died from an illness had been evaluated by a medical professional for that illness, and that 93 percent got medication for it. Eighty-nine percent of these inmates had received X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging exams, blood tests and other diagnostic work, prison officials told the bureau.

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