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Prison Escapes and Killings Down

Incarceration rates in the United States and Canada are on the rise. Overcrowded conditions are being felt by more and more prisons. Despite all this, the number of prison escapes and homicides has decreased. Fifty state systems, the District of Columbia, and the federal Bureau of Prisons responded to a recent survey by Corrections Compendium regarding prison escapes and violence.

In 1991, prison populations in the U.S. grew by more than 76,000 in the 49 systems reporting. For the same period there were 5,793 escapes. This is a decrease of 1,451 from 1990's figure of 7,244. The escape rate has continually decreased since 1984, when a reported 1.93 percent of the inmate population (7,903) escaped. In 1991, the escape rate decreased to .78 percent.

Thirty-two U.S. systems, including the federal Bureau of Prisons, reported a decrease in escapes, owing to better inmate classification procedures, increase in staffing and training and an advancement of technology in security equipment. An increase in escapes was reported in seven systems due to an increase in population, specifically community or open institutions which makes it easier for an inmate to "walk away."

Escapes by low-risk inmates (minimum security custody) decreased by almost 1,500 from 1990 figures, while escapes from community custody and furloughs show a decrease of 707. Many more inmates escaped from behind the bars of medium or maximum security institutions - 399 in 1991 as opposed to 327 in 1990. California, with the highest number of incarcerated offenders in a state system, also had the highest number of escapes, 1,196. However, Delaware reported the highest escape rate, 8.46 percent. The federal Bureau of Prisons, with a prison population of 52,588, reported an escape rate of less than .01 percent.

Of the 49 reporting U.S. systems, the number of escapees returned to custody was 78 percent, a decrease from 1990's figure of 86 percent.

In Canada, with seven provinces and the Correctional Service of Canada reporting, 562 escapes and 769 unlawfully-at-large (UAL) occurred in 1991, making the escape rate 2.07 percent and the UAL rate 2.82 percent. This is an increase over 1990's figure of 461 escapes in eight of the provinces. The Correctional Services of Canada, which housed the most inmates, had the lowest escape rate, .57 percent. The highest percentage of escapes in 1991 was 12.6 percent in Manitoba. Canada increased their escapee return rate from 86 percent in 1990 to 88 percent in 1991.

Homicides within America's prison walls also declined in 1991. Inmate deaths have been reduced by half since Compendium's first prison violence survey in 1984. Also, for the first time since 1984, there have been no staff homicides reported in the 49 responding U.S. systems.

Inmates killed by staff members, not surveyed previously, occurred in Arkansas, California and North Carolina. A distinct increase of inmate and staff assaults by inmates was reported. Assaults on staff by inmates increased by 2,519 and assaults on inmates increased 2,438 over 1990's figures. Inmate suicides increased slightly, going from 101 in 1990 to 112 in 1991.

In Canada, of the eight reporting jurisdictions, Ontario and the Correctional Services of Canada reported five inmate homicides and no staff homicides. Only the Correctional Services of Canada reported two inmates killed by staff members. Assaults on staff by inmates decreased slightly from 42 in 1990 to 37 in 1991 for the same provincial systems. As in the U.S., Canadian provinces also reported an increase in assaults on inmates by inmates of 148 for 1991, up from 102 in 1990. Twenty-five inmate suicides were reported in four Canadian systems, a decrease from 55 reported in 1990. Two staff members killed inmates in Correctional Services of Canada facilities.

Over 150 riots or disturbances occurred in 20 U.S. systems and the federal Bureau of Prisons. Maryland reported a riot involving 41 inmates, injuring 14 officers and causing over $1 million damage to the facility. Texas reported the most disturbances, 47, involving several inmates, but did not submit any specific information. Canada reported 17 occurrences in two provincial systems and the Correctional Services of Canada.

Corrections Compendium

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