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Prisoners Struggle With Treatable Diseases Behind Bars

From 2018 to 2022, men in New Jersey prisons died at an average age of 59 years and two months of age, and among those, Black men died at just under 57 years and four months of age. The incarcerated population is on average younger than the general population, yet these numbers are still startlingly low compared with the overall state average age of death recorded by the New Jersey health authorities of 71 years and eight months for all men and 64 years and four months for the state’s Black men, the Guardian reports. In the state’s female prisons, only three women died during that period, at the relatively young average age of 51.3, compared with the society average of 78.6. Over the five years studied, the department of corrections held an average of 16,488 people.


David Fathi of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project said the Guardian’s findings show red flags that New Jersey has a “seriously dysfunctional prison healthcare system.” The state is no exception, Fathi stressed. “What we know is that the provision of healthcare in prisons across the country is generally systemically inadequate,” he said. In its 1976 ruling in Estelle v Gamble, the U.S. Supreme Court found that “deliberate indifference” to the health needs of incarcerated people violated the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Under the law, incarcerated people have a constitutional right to adequate health care that people outside prison do not – even if enforcing that protection has been a difficult task. By filing public records requests, the Guardian obtained data on all 272 people who died in New Jersey prisons from 2018 to 2022, as well as autopsy results on 265 of those people. Heart disease accounted for 69 of the deaths, making it the leading cause, with people dying from the condition at age 62 on average. The next two most common causes of death were COVID-19 (average age of death: 60) and cancer (59).

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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