Murder rate in prisons is not low

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with interest in today’s A.M. Costa Rica that the minister responsible for the Costa Rican prison system thinks that 29 murders in the prisons over the last five years is “low considering the number of inmates” (currently 13,243).

Murder rates are quoted as the number per 100,000, and if the data mentioned is used to calculate a murder rate using an average of 6 per year, the rate is 6/13,243×100,000 = 45.3.  There are only two countries in the world that report a higher murder rate: Honduras (84.3) and Venezuela (53.7) although prison to prison comparisons aren’t easily found. (Data is from Wikipedia. Costa Rica as a country is around 12 for 2015 and the U.S. around 6).

It’s obvious that overcrowding must have some strongly negative effect on violence in prisons but passing off the murder rate as low seems insensitive to that problem.

Bob Normand

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