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Report: Inmate deaths on the rise

The number of inmates who died in state prisons and local jails in the United States increased for the third year in a row in 2013, according to a report from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

The total number of inmate deaths that year, 4,446, is the highest since the agency began tracking it in 2007. The previous year, there were 131 fewer deaths in state prisons and local jails.

In 2013, of the deaths in U.S. state prisons and local jails, more than a third -- 34 percent -- were due to suicide, according to the report. That has been the leading cause of death in state prisons and local jails every year since 2000.

The report comes as two high profile jail deaths have made headlines across the country. On July 13, 2015, Sandra Bland was found dead in a Texas jail cell. Officials said the 28-year-old, who was arrested following a traffic stop three days earlier, committed suicide. Her family insists that isn't the case, and following widespread protests, Texas authorities and the FBI announced they had begun a joint investigation into Bland's death. The Waller County district attorney's office is also investigating her death.

On August 3, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that his office is investigating the death of Raynette Turner, 42, who was found dead in a Mount Vernon, N.Y., holding cell. She was arrested two days earlier on a shoplifting charge.

The BJS report also found that the increasing number of elderly inmates has contributed to the rise of deaths in incarceration.

"In state prisons, the percentage of decedents age 55 or older has increased by an average of 5 percent annually since 2001. By 2013, more than half (57 percent) of prisoner deaths were of inmates age 55 or older," researchers note in the report.

Nearly a quarter of all jail deaths occurred in California and Texas, according to the report. Eighty percent of jails nationwide reported no deaths at all.

This article was produced as part of a partnership with The Crime Report.

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