How many inmates actually escape each year?
Quite a few. In 2012, more than 2,500 inmates were counted as “AWOL/escape,” according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. (All from state institutions, by the way, as the government says a federal prisoner has not escaped since 1988.)
However, the Justice Department notes that these numbers, which are provided by state departments of corrections, combine people who escaped from secure facilities — your more typical prison break — as well as people who left boot camps or other correctional institutions that do not have the same level of security.
Are more prisoners escaping? Is this something we need to worry about? Because we can worry about it if we need to.
The number has indeed changed, but it is on the decline. The number of escaped/AWOL prisoners in each of the last two years was half of what it was in 2000 and about a quarter what it was in 1995.
This overall number has actually been dropping pretty steadily for about two decades, federal statistics show. While states reported an average of more than 9,800 escaped or AWOL inmates each year during the 1990s, that annual number has been dropping since 1994, when it peaked at more than 14,000 inmates.
How many inmates die behind bars?
Meanwhile, in 2012, more than 3,300 inmates died in state prisons. Another 350 died in federal prisons, while 958 inmates died in local jails. Most of these people died of cancer or heart disease. Generally, around 4,400 jail and prison inmates die each year, the Justice Department says.
Did any of these inmates die because they were executed?
They did not. There were 43 executions in the United States last year, but they aren’t included in the above numbers.