There is a certain inevitability that people will die in jail. With the U.S. prison population being what it is, you simply have too many people in the system to expect it not to happen. You also have people who are essentially serving life sentences, such as a 50-year-old doing 60 years. Others are quite literally in for life and do not expect to ever be released.

That said, the rate at which people die behind bars seems to be increasing, and that is concerning. The Bureau of Justice recently released a report in February of 2020 that examined the statistics for 2015 and 2016. In 2015, they determined that 296 people died in jail for every 100,000 people in the system. In 2016, that rate rose to 303 people per 100,000.

Why does this happen? One potential reason is neglect. Prisoners deserve a certain level of care, regardless of what they did that resulted in their incarceration. They deserve a place to live, proper nutrition and a general level of safety. They deserve to drink clean water and be able to exercise. If they depend on medication in any way — maybe they are diabetic, for instance — they deserve to have access to that medication.

Unfortunately, these needs are sometimes neglected. When they are, prisoners can die as a result. These deaths often fly under the radar of public opinion since they happen out of sight, but it’s a real problem within the American prison system. The families of those who have been severely neglected, or those who have experienced neglect themselves and survived it, need to know what legal rights they have.