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Black men twice as likely to die outside prison

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A new study of North Carolina inmates has shown that black men are twice as likely to die outside prison walls, while for white inmates, the opposite is true.

The black prisoners were especially protected against alcohol and drug-related deaths, as well as deadly accidents and certain chronic diseases.

Hung-En Sung of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York:

"Ironically, prisons are often the only provider of medical care accessible by these underserved and vulnerable Americans. Typically, prison-based care is more comprehensive than what inmates have received prior to their admission."

Researchers looked at around 100,000 men between the ages of twenty and seventy-nine, held in North Carolina prisons at some point between 1995 and 2005. Sixty percent of those men were black. 

The team examined the prison and state health records to determine which inmates died, and of what causes, during their sentences. They then compared those figures to the general population.

Less than one percent of men died while incarcerated, and there was no difference between white and black inmates. But on the outside, blacks have a higher rate of death at any given age than whites.

Speaking as someone whose health-care plan is likely to be NyQuil and screw-top wine until I'm in my thirties, I'm inclined to be a bit jealous that prisoners are getting better health care than a certain segment of law-abiding citizens. But then I realize that this study says more about the crappy conditions experienced by lower-income people than it does about the great conditions in our prison system. And it shows me that James Verone might have been crazy like a fox, though I'm not exactly lining up to go to jail to get my chronic back pain treated.