Reuters is reporting that a new study of North Carolina inmates suggests that black men are half as likely to die at any given time if they're in prison than if they are not. The findings, published in Annals of Epidemiology, were based on a study that involved about 100,000 men between age 20 and 79 who were held in North Carolina prisons at some point between 1995 and 2005. Less than one percent of men (more than half of whom were black) in total died while in prison, and there was no difference between black and white inmates in that regard. But outside prison, blacks have a higher rate of death at any given age than whites.
Causes of death during incarceration. Reuters notes that, as in the general population, "cancer and heart and blood vessel diseases were the most common cause of death among inmates, -- accounting for more than half of deaths." But while white prison prisoners died of cardiovascular diseases similarly in prison as outside, and of cancer only slightly more so in prison than outside, black inmates were between "30 and 40 percent less likely to die of those causes than those who weren't incarcerated."
The black prisoners seemed to be especially protected against alcohol- and drug-related deaths, as well as lethal accidents and certain chronic diseases... They were also less likely to die of diabetes, alcohol- and drug-related causes, airway diseases, accidents, suicide and murder than black men not in prison.
The racial divide. Overall, for white men, the death rate was about 12 percent higher in prison that outside, with "some of that attributed to higher rates of death from infection, including HIV and hepatitis." The divide only occurred for white inmates over the age of 50. But for black men, "their risk of death at any age was only half that of men living in the community."