Institutional Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis Incidence and Mortality in Turn of the Century American Correctional Institutions

Margaret L. Charleroy, University of Minnesota

Tuberculosis was the most common recorded cause of death in nineteenth century America. Historians have argued that the increased incidence of tuberculosis flourished because of the shift of population concentration from rural to urban settings, leaving more people living in tight, poorly ventilated areas. My aim is to reexamine this trend using inmate case records from the Minnesota State Prison between 1850 and 1930. The data suggest a significant increase in tuberculosis incidence and mortality between 1880 and 1930. 1 in 4 cases of tuberculosis deaths occurred less than 4 hours after the extreme exercise treatment, suggesting a link between treatment regime and mortality. A significant decrease in tuberculosis mortality exists between 1910 and 1920, when the prison shifts to use of sputum tests for tuberculosis diagnosis, increases the size of cells and cell blocks, and creates a quarantine space for infected inmates.

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Presented in Poster Session 4