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November 14, 2010

"Hundreds Die of Illnesses in County Jails"

The title of this post is the headline of this piece from the Texas Tribune.  Here are some excerpts:

Sheriffs say that they are doing everything they can to care for people who come to them with a multitude of physical and mental illnesses that are exacerbated by drug and alcohol addiction.  And, they say, they are struggling to meet the health care needs of more inmates at a time when budgets are dwindling.

There are no state standards for health care in county jails, but criminal justice advocates and correctional facility experts say the large number of illness-related deaths prove they are needed.  “People aren’t dying of old age in jails,” said Michele Deitch, a jail conditions expert and professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.  “Those numbers are more likely to be reflective of medical care concerns.”

The data analyzed by the Tribune related to more than 1,500 deaths that occurred in law enforcement custody statewide from January 2005 through September 2009. Nearly 500 of those deaths were inmates who were in the custody of the state’s 254 sheriff’s departments.  Some were the result of high-intensity pursuits or suicides that occurred before an offender was arrested. Some happened during the course of the arrest, when a person was shot, tased or restrained by officers.

But more than half of the deaths reported by county law enforcement — 282 — happened as a result of an illness contracted before or during incarceration.  Many inmates died of heart conditions; some of cancer or liver and kidney problems; and others of afflictions ranging from AIDS to seizure disorders and pneumonia.

November 14, 2010 at 12:18 PM | Permalink


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These numbers have no meaning without a proper denominator. It is entirely possible that prison has a lower death rate than the street by reducing the drinkin', druggin' and carousin'. The number one cause of death in young people is the car crash. By reducing driving, jail may increase the lifespan. I understand this is fifth grade math, fractions.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 14, 2010 5:44:26 PM

But that bit of common sense has no cachet with the "incarceration nation" proponents. It is all about sensational headlines without regard to context/veracity.

Posted by: mjs | Nov 14, 2010 6:03:01 PM

I understand lawyer math stops at the fourth grade, that needed to count money. However, I am very grateful for the hospitality of Prof. Berman. I want to try to inoculate him against the criminal cult indoctrination. This is stuff he can use in his thinking and in his work. The Daubert decision applies to the criminal and sentencing law. It is potentially a devastating tool to upend all the furniture. It has not yet been used much. Watch out when someone clever decides to use it.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 14, 2010 9:30:44 PM

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