Objectives: Our objectives were to document data availability and reporting on suicide mortality in state prison systems. The United States leads the world in mass incarceration, a structural determinant of health, but lacks real-time reporting of prison health statistics. This absence is particularly notable in suicides, a leading cause of death that carceral policies play a key role in mitigating.
Methods: Suicide data for each state prison system from 2017–2021 were gathered through statistical reports, press releases, and Freedom of Information Act requests. We graded states based on data availability.
Results: Only sixteen states provide updated, frequent, granular, freely provided suicide data. An additional thirteen states provided frequently updated data but that had little granularity, was incomplete, or was not freely provided. Eight states provided sparse, infrequent, or outdated data, and thirteen provided no data at all.
Conclusions: The 2000 Death in Custody Reporting Act requires that states provide these data freely, yet the majority of states do not. There is a need for reliable, real-time data on suicides, suicide attempts, and conditions of confinement to better understand the harms of the carceral system and to advocate for change.