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Data Analysis Shows 'Unnatural' Deaths Increasing In U.S. State Prisons

new analysis of data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows "unnatural" deaths in state prisons nationwide are increasing while the total state prison population has remained relatively steady.

The nonpartisan advocacy group Prison Policy Initiative reviewed state prison mortality data from 2001 to 2018.

Communication Strategist Wanda Bertram, says it found deaths categorized as “unnatural,” which include suicide, homicide, and drug and alcohol deaths, making up an increasing share of overall mortality.

'“There’s been a 600% rise in drug and alcohol intoxication deaths over the last 20 years," she said.

Bertram says overall mortalities have increased as well.

“Our prison population was about 1% higher in 2018 than in 2001, but the deaths were 44% larger in 2018 than in 2001," she said. "I mean that’s a huge difference.”

Bertram says state prisons saw the highest number of suicides in 2018 since the data has been recorded.

Arizona prison deaths are following the same trend. The latest mortality reports from the Department of Corrections show state prisons are on track to record more suicides this fiscal year than in any other in the past decade.

Jimmy Jenkins is a senior field correspondent at KJZZ and a contributor to NPR’s Election 2020 and Criminal Justice station collaborations. His work has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, The Takeaway and NPR Newscasts.Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Jenkins has a B.S. in criminology from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.Much of his reporting has focused on the criminal justice system. Jenkins has reported on Tasers, body cameras, use of force, jail privatization, prison health care and the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.