Senate Investigation Finds Justice Department Undercounted Prison and Jail Deaths Last Year by Nearly 1,000
The Justice Department’s annual tally of deaths in state prisons and jails was short by nearly 1,000 last year, an investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found.
States are required under the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA) to submit data on deaths in prisons and jails to the Justice Department, but in a report released today, the committee says that the Justice Department has failed to effectively implement the law, undermining the accuracy of its data and congressional oversight of deaths in custody.
The committee and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that in the last year alone the department missed 990 prison and jail deaths that were reported on state websites, news articles, and other public databases.
Those failures have “deprived Congress and the American public of information about who is dying in custody and why,” the report says. “This information is critical to improve transparency in prisons and jails, identifying trends in custodial deaths that may warrant corrective action—such as failure to provide adequate medical care, mental health services, or safeguard prisoners from violence—and identifying specific facilities with outlying death rates. DOJ’s failure to implement this law and to continue to voluntarily publish this information is a missed opportunity to prevent avoidable deaths.”
Despite the Constitution’s bans on cruel and unusual punishment and excessive force, incarcerated people in prison systems and jails across the U.S. are regularly subjected to medical neglect, brutality, and unsafe living conditions.
Federal judges in both Arizona and Illinois recently held those state prison systems in contempt for failing to address gruesome medical neglect within their walls. The Justice Department has in recent years found unconstitutional conditions in prisons in Florida and Alabama, and it is investigating similar allegations in Mississippi and Georgia. In New York City, the infamous Rikers Island jail complex is under threat of being put in receivership by a federal judge because of a string of preventable deaths and chronic corruption.
Congress passed the DCRA in 20
Article from Reason.com