The Justice Department is failing to adequately and efficiently collect data about deaths in state prisons and local jails, with at least 990 incidents going uncounted by the federal government in fiscal year 2021 alone, according to a newly released bipartisan Senate report.
The report’s findings were the focus of a hearing Tuesday of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which took the federal Bureau of Prisons and then-Director Michael Carvajal to task this summer over accusations of unsanitary and unsafe conditions at a penitentiary in Atlanta and other allegations of misconduct across the federal prison system.
Now, the conclusion of a 10-month investigation into how the Justice Department oversees the federal Death in Custody Reporting Act accuses the agency of missing death counts that are readily available on public websites and in arrest-related databases. In addition, the law requires that states and federal agencies report in-custody death information to the attorney general, who must then study how the data can help reduce such deaths and provide the results to Congress. The information was due at the end of 2016, but the Senate report says it won’t be completed until 2024.
At the hearing, the subcommittee’s chairman, Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., said the Justice Department’s failure in more recent years is glaring. For instance, the Senate report found that from October to December 2019, the department’s bureau responsible for data collection “did not capture any state prison deaths in eleven states or any local jail deaths in 12 states and the District of Columbia.”
“What the United States is allowing to happen on our watch in prisons, jails and detention centers nationwide is a moral disgrace,” Ossoff said.
Seventy percent of records supplied to the Justice Department in fiscal year 2021 were also missing at least one field of information related to the deaths, according to the report, which was done with assistance from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Read the full story at NBC News.