Now here is a remarkably depressing study. According to a study published in the Annals of Epidemiology, black men are half as likely to die when they’re in prison than if they are free in society. According to the study of North Carolina inmates, they lived longer if they were incarcerated.
Part of the reason was the reduction in alcohol- and drug-related deaths as well as lethal accidents and certain chronic diseases. By the way, white men were only slightly more likely to live longer when not incarcerated.
One obvious reason is the availability of free health care.
What I find fascinating about this study is the countervailing issue of rapid aging in prison. It is well known that prisoners tend to be physiologically older than their chronological age. Thus, the true number of physiologically geriatric prisoners is higher than records will often indicate. As we work with prisons through the Project for Older Prisoners (POPS), we often find that the per capita expense of prisoners is higher than projected due to this fact. This does not necessarily contradict the North Carolina study, however. Much of that advanced aging is due to prior alcohol and drug abuse. Yet, the stress of prison also is known to accelerate the aging progress. That seems true in this study for whites, but was less apparent for the black population. It is an interesting study for that reason.
The study is entitled “All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Black and White North Carolina State Prisoners, 1995–2005” 08 July 2011 by David L. Rosen, David A. Wohl, Victor J. Schoenbach (Annals of Epidemiology)