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Suicide and Homicide in State Prisons and Local Jails

August 2005, NCJ 210036

Data from new Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data collections offer the first opportunity to analyze the personal characteristics, current offenses, and environmental factors surrounding inmate deaths in local jails and State prisons nationwide.

To implement the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2000 (PL 106-297), BJS began collecting inmate death records from all local jails in 2000 and expanded reporting to include State prisons in 2001. In this first report from the Deaths in Custody Reporting Program, data from 2000 to 2002 highlight inmate and facility characteristics related to high risks of suicide and homicide.

Jail suicide rates declined steadily from 129 per 100,000 inmates in 1983 to 47 per 100,000 in 2002. In 1983 suicide accounted for the majority of jail deaths (56%), but by 2002, the most common cause of jail deaths was natural causes (including AIDS) (52%), well ahead of suicides (32%). Suicide rates in State prison fell from 34 per 100,000 in 1980 to 16 per 100,000 in 1990, and have since stabilized.

State prison homicide rates dipped sharply from 1980 (54 per 100,000) to 1990 (8 per 100,000). By 2002 prison homicide rates had declined further, down to 4 per 100,000. Homicide rates in local jails were more stable, declining slightly from 5 per 100,000 in 1983 to 3 per 100,000 in 2002.

For the remainder of this report: by Christopher J. Mumola, BJS Policy Analyst

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