Tuesday, December 23, 2014

TDCJ: Reporting change explains death-in-custody statistics

It wouldn't be the first time, but TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark says I was wrong in this post when I speculated that healthcare staffing cuts contributed to increased deaths in custody. Instead, he said, the agency began filing death-in-custody reports with the Attorney General for inpatient hospital deaths for the first time in 2013, tripling the number of death-in-custody reports to the AG from the previous year. Jason wrote in an email:
I read your post correlating healthcare cuts to an increase in in custody deaths. This is not accurate. The TDCJ Office of the Inspector General completes a custodial death report form for each death in TDCJ, with the exception of executions, and sends the completed form to the Office of the Attorney General.  Prior to 2013, the OIG only completed forms for unattended deaths (deaths that did not occur in an inpatient setting).  Beginning in January 2013, they began completing the form for all deaths. This accounts for the apparent increase. As you can see below, the number of deaths while in custody has remained relatively consistent.

2007 – 436
2008 – 469
2009 – 424
2010 – 382
2011 – 418
2012 – 463
2013 – 443
2014 – 389 (through November)

Note TDCJ reports all inmate deaths to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Here's the BJS report (pdf) he mentioned. Grits asked Jason what was the reason for the reporting change and for a breakout of "unattended" deaths for the last couple of years for an apples to apples comparison and I'll update this post if and when he responds. But I wanted to publish a correction/clarification ASAP before checking out for the holiday.


Bob D said...

It would be interesting to compare with the average Texas death rate. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the aveage death rate in 2010 was 6.5 per 1000 population. My back-of-the-envelop numbers shows TDCJ has 1/3 the deaths than the average.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The death rate in TDCJ is about half that of the general population, by my own back of the envelope calculation, at about 295 per 100K in 2013. Regardless, they're not apples to apples populations. Most inmates are relatively healthy young men and quite a few are there for relatively short periods.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you came up with your assumption that inmates are healthy. If you ask anyone who has worked in corrections health care you will find that inmates, whether in local jails or in state prison, are the unhealthiest demographic in our society. The fact that the death rate is half of hte general population should show that inmates are getting better care than most of us.

sunray's wench said...

Maybe a better comparison would be between TDCJ and another similar sized DoC in a different state. Perhaps Florida?

Seasons greetings to you and yours Scott, and good fortune for 2015.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"assumption that inmates are healthy"

Younger populations are healthier than older ones and TDCJ's pop is skewed young. Which is lucky. Healthcare for 55 and older inmates costs 3+ times the average for younger inmates.

Seasons greetings to you, too, sw, and to all.

Anonymous said...

You are still assuming that younger is healthier. If you work with that assumtion in mind then that may be why the death rate in jail/prison is half of the public rate. Assuming you are correct you may be a genius Grits.
Merry Christmas.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Nothing to do with genius, 12:43, I've just listened to what the doctors tell the committees when they testify on these topics at the Lege.

Prisoners are less healthy than their counterpart demographics in the outside world, I agree. For example, a 40 year old prisoner is more likely to be unhealthy than a 40 year old in the free world. (Another example: prisoners are many times more likely to have Hep C.) But because prisoners skew younger overall, TDCJ pays for end-of-life costs for a lesser percentage of prisoners than does society at large.

The agency has repeatedly said older prisoners cost them much more because of increased health care costs because, as a class, they have more and more serious health problems. I've never double-checked that claim, mainly because it seemed non-controversial to me.

Merry Christmas, too, to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

TDCJ Office of the Inspector General
Just before xmas, at the Skyview Unit, an incident occurred whre officer C....n (I don't want to embarrass him here) placed an un-necessary chokehold on a mentally ill inmate, almost choking him to death. No cameras, no procedures were followed..., the inmate was placed in solitary, had untreated panic attacks. To this day the inmate has received no mental health cslg after the abuse ---- check it out.
If he had died to to a later panic attack, would that be listeed as a "heart attack"? Panic attacks usually do not kill, are just scary for the person experiencing them; but THEY CAN BE LETHAL on already vulnerable folks.
Why are you allowing a chokehold on mentally ill inmates? Why is this "officer" still there?
Why nobody talks about the abuse AND NEGLECT at Skyview?
On paper Skyview is great: but the "therapy" is non existent (execpt for stabilizing meds); the vocational rehabilitation: 45 min. per every 6 weeks or longer does not rehabilitate anyone; the mental health staff conduct "group sessions" every 6 to 8 weeks - ABSOLUTELY NO INDIVIDUAL TALF OR COGNITIVE THERAPY at all; absenteeism by staff who cover for each other is rampant; isolation is used as punishment under the guise of "stabilizing" the patients;
all the caseworkers do is paperwork to show therapy and rehabilitation that never takes place. THE INMATES PACE THE FLOOR 24-7, with little or nothing to do, while taxpayer believe they are in a "hospital" - If they don't die of ACUTE STRESS CAUSED BY BOREDOM, they die at the hands of ill-minded guards and abusive "nurses
" who yell names as "stupid", "idiot", and other epitets if a schizofrenic inmates/patient is scared of an injection.
ANYBODY WHO COMPLAINS is deemed "dangerous" and placed in isolation. Nobody dares talk.
IT'S HELL and the deliberate indifference, neglect, mismanagement, absenteeism (wardens included) cover-ups that go back to when bodies used to disappear........ the never-present "health administrator" who administers her ass only..
There are deaths there too that will be explained under "heart attack".......I am stopping or I'll get sick!
Michael Chancellor (a former health prof for tdcj) documented this and started a blog.....not a soul cared...


Anonymous said...

As to prisoners being "less healthy than..." - Heck! There is and has been a drug epidemic INSIDE THE PRISONS. K2 has created havoc. Who brings the drugs in? The inmates who are locked up? No, the guards and other staff.
Now, let's see: if somebody's heart stop bec/ of overdose, the coroner will list
"heart attack".
Need I say more? How many incidence of drugs overdose have been documented? it has been happening in every single unit!
Now, let's add another "cause of death" to the list.

Anonymous said...

Young inmates in the system are not your typical picture of health just because they are young. Many of them have heart issues related to drug use, obese and developing type 2 diabetes, or Hep B/C due starting at a very young age of tattooing, sexual promiscuity, and alcohol and drug abuse. Treating even the young in this demographic is not like treating them in the free-world. Many of them will not even seek dental, mental, or medical care in the freeworld because they can't afford it, too busy abusing their vices, or they feel they don't need it. So, when they get into the system, they are identified and treated. In fact, their access to care is much better than ours on the outside and their care is followed on each facility they transfer to without interruption. They have access to specialist that many in the free world do not and never will. The population in Texas Prisons is getting older, sicker, and coming in with advanced stages of illness more so than in the past. It is a constitutional requirement that cost taxpayers more and more each passing year.