The exterior of the Oklahoma County jail. Photo by Doug Hoke, Oklahoman archive
She then took that number and multiplied by 100,000.
For 2006, Oklahoma County's equation would have looked like this: 3 (deaths) Ã· 3,501 (average daily population) x 100,000 = homicide rate. The homicide rate rounds to 86. In other years, when there were no deaths, the rate is zero. To get Oklahoma's overall rate from 2000-07, Noonan added up the yearly rates and divided by eight.
"Basically the reason we use rates is that you're trying to put everybody on a base level where number are easy to understand,” Noonan said. "The caveat of rates, the real burn in them, is if you have a smaller population — if you're Oklahoma where you're a large jail but you're not as big as L.A. which is literally 10 times their size — you end up getting a really high rate. The rates are very sensitive to fluctuation if you have a smaller population.”
Myers said the report's methodology was unclear and didn't deal with hard numbers.
"Unless you're a statistician it's hard to understand what they (the statistics) mean,” he said.
"We look at hard numbers,” Myers said. "I think that in the initial news reports there was a misunderstanding of the statistics. The numbers were presented as hard-line numbers and in reality they're not.”
On a national level
Overall the study found a declining mortality rate from 2000 through 2007 in local jails.
A total of 8,110 jail inmates died in custody over the study period, during which the mortality rate declined from 152 deaths per 100,000 inmates in 2000 to 141 per 100,000 inmates in 2007.
Suicide was the leading cause of death, accounting for 29 percent of all jail deaths.