An analysis of mortality in state correctional facilities 1985 1998
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An Analysis of Mortality in State Correctional Facilities, 1985-1998. Crime & Population Dynamics Workshop June 4, 2007 Evelyn J. Patterson University of Pennsylvania. The Study of Mortality in Prisons is a Natural Experiment. Knowledge Ascertained Level of mortality in prison

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An analysis of mortality in state correctional facilities 1985 1998

An Analysis of Mortality in State Correctional Facilities, 1985-1998

Crime & Population Dynamics Workshop

June 4, 2007

Evelyn J. Patterson

University of Pennsylvania


The study of mortality in prisons is a natural experiment
The Study of Mortality in Prisons is a Natural Experiment 1985-1998

  • Knowledge Ascertained

    • Level of mortality in prison

    • Further the literature on differentials by sex and race in mortality

  • Methodology – Life Table Methods

  • This research extends previous work

    • Examines trend in mortality change

    • Contextualizes findings in the mortality literature based on recent BJS study and general mortality literature

    • Considers the importance of the interaction of race, age, and sex


Summary of mortality findings sex differentials
Summary of Mortality Findings 1985-1998Sex Differentials

  • Prison was more of a detriment to females.

  • The relative difference in years of life lost for men in prison and for men not in prison decreased during study period.

  • The relative difference between mortality of males and females was smaller in prison than outside of prison.


Summary of mortality findings racial differentials
Summary of Mortality Findings 1985-1998Racial Differentials

  • Prison was more detrimental to white males than black males.

  • Black males had a higher level mortality outside of prison than inside.

  • There was little difference in the first and last periods between the mortality for white and black males in prison.


Possible explanations
Possible Explanations 1985-1998

  • Higher mortality in prison

    • Exposure to health risks while in prison

      • Poor condition of prisons

      • High prevalence of disease

    • Selection: Less healthy persons get sent to prison  higher mortality rates

  • Lower mortality in prison

    • Selection: Healthier, more defiant people fight the system, get sent away, and would have lived longer had they not been sent to prison

    • Environmental risks decrease

      • No guns in prison

      • No automobiles

    • Conditions better than those experienced outside of prison, in particular basic health care and nutrition


Conclusions future directions
Conclusions & Future Directions 1985-1998

  • Given the age pattern of mortality in addition with the literature, the key factor explaining difference in years lost ratio between prisoners and non-prisoners is safety.

  • The age pattern of mortality between white and black males leads to the idea that the racial difference in years lost ratio between prisoners and non-prisoners is healthcare.

  • Future Study - Parole Mortality


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