DESCRIPTIVE ANALYSIS OF MORTALITY DATA IN TEXAS STATE CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES

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2013-04-12

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Hall, Lauren

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Abstract

Purpose: Inadequate prisoner healthcare in Texas is a significant problem. The Federal Constitution requires Texas to provide basic medical care for prisoners' serious medical conditions. Federal courts have had to monitor Texas for failing to meet the basic requirements of prisoner medical care. This study analyzed data on prison deaths in the state of Texas in order to determine trends in causes of death and identify points of advocacy to improve prisoner healthcare. Methods: This study used data on Texas prisoner deaths found in custodial death reports and made publicly accessible in a dataset via request to the Texas Attorney General's office. The dataset contained information for deaths reported between February 7, 2006 and October 12, 2011. Descriptive analyses were performed on demographics, death types, and medical conditions which were further stratified by gender. Overall mortality rates were calculated per year, and further stratified by prison type. Results: Texas female and male prisoners primarily died due to natural causes/illness (48%), followed by suicide (20%). The main medical cause of death due to natural causes was cardiovascular disease (24%), followed by infection in males (11.2%) and respiratory disease in females (16.9%). Overall, mortality rates in Texas prisons have decreased each year from 81.3 per 100,000 in 2006 to 67.7 per 100,000 in 2011. Higher mortality rates were observed in the smaller, low capacity Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison units. Conclusions: Mortality rates appear to be decreasing across prison facilities (both penitentiaries and county jails) in the state of Texas from 2006 to 2011. A more comprehensive and uniform database would be beneficial to future analyses on Texas prisoner deaths and healthcare. Further data is needed for a more robust interpretation of the data analyzed.

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