I can't imagine what life behind bars is like. The closest I've come to incarceration is friendship with several people who work for the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). Growing up in Jackson, home to Michigan's Jackson State Prison, I met many people who were paid for their time behind the walls of the Cooper Street facility. Some prisoners may never leave that facility, spending the rest of their lives behind bars and barbed wire. For those there for the rest of their existence, what is the leading cause of death for Michigan's prison population?

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The Connecticut Trial Firm, using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, set out on a mission to find out what the leading cause of death for prisoners in Michigan was. Inmate fatality data was gathered between 2001 and 2019, and they then compared that to Michigan's population to determine how many prisoner deaths per thousand residents there are.

The Five Causes of Death for Prisoners in Michigan


The fifth leading cause of death for Michigan prisoners is suicide, with 134 prisoners taking their own lives between 2001 and 2019. This is the leading 'unnatural' fatality within the MDOC, according to The Connecticut Trial Firm.

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Liver disease claimed the lives of 170 men and women in the state prison system in the same period.


'Other illness' was the third (245 deaths), and the second largest cause of death was heart disease, claiming 681 prisoner lives.

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Finally, the number one cause of death can't be stopped by barbed wire, prison guards, or pepper spray: cancer. Cancer took the lives of 783 of Michigan's incarcerated population between 2001 and 2019.


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