February 24th, 2023

About the Carceral Mortality Project

In 2023, we announced the next phase of our project, becoming the Behind Bars Data Project and transitioning our focus to all-cause deaths in U.S. prisons. After its 2019 report, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics data collection and publication program went from inadequate to non-existent. As a consequence, the public lacks access to even the most basic facts about mortality behind bars: how many people die in state and federal prisons each year, and in which facilities these deaths occur. Nor are we able to answer other crucial questions: including who is dying in prison and why, what racial disparities exist in mortality outcomes, and, ultimately, what those officials who run the country’s prisons can do to reduce preventable deaths and improve conditions inside.

On February 19, 2023, we launched our nationwide carceral mortality database alongside a major New York Times investigation relying on our data to show that the mortality rate in U.S. prisons increased 61% from 2019 to 2020. Sixteen state prison systems saw their crude mortality rates increase at least 90% from 2019 to 2020. Our database is the country’s most comprehensive public resource regarding prison deaths—from all causes—nationwide. More information on our project can be found below.


  • Fact Sheet (coming soon)

Blogs about the Carceral Mortality Project

Recent Press Coverage

Contact Information: behindbars@law.ucla.edu

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February 24th, 2023Sharon Dolovich and Aaron Littman

COVID to Carceral Mortality Project Transition Letter

Read about our transition to tracking carceral mortality behind bars.