WASHINGTON – State prison inmates, particularly blacks, are living longer on average than people on the outside, the government said Sunday.
Inmates in state prisons are dying at an average yearly rate of 250 per 100,000, according to the latest figures reported to the Justice Department by state prison officials. By comparison, the overall population of people between age 15 and 64 is dying at a rate of 308 a year.
For black inmates, the rate was 57 percent lower than among the overall black population — 206 versus 484. But white and Hispanic prisoners both had death rates slightly above their counterparts in the overall population.
The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics said 12,129 state prisoners died between 2001 through 2004.
Eight percent were murdered or killed themselves, 2 percent died of 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 both men and women in state prisons were heart disease, lung and liver cancer, liver diseases and AIDS-related causes.
But the death rate among men was 72 percent higher than among 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 they were 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 93 percent got medication for it.
Eighty-nine percent of these inmates had gotten X-rays, MRI exams, blood tests and other diagnostic work, state prison officials told the bureau.