Friday, October 16, 2020

No One Should Die in Jail

 


Reuters has an incredible story out today about the staggeringly high number of people who are dying in jail while awaiting trial:

The U.S. government collects detailed data on who’s dying in which jails around the country – but won’t let anyone see it. So, Reuters conducted its own tally of fatalities in America’s biggest jails, pinpointing where suicide, botched healthcare and bad jailkeeping are claiming lives in a system with scant oversight.

They tell the story of a man who was jailed and then left untreated for the injuries he suffered while in custody. Harvey Hill died after being held on a misdemeanor charge that would have brought him no time in prison and would have fined him no more than $500.

Hill’s is one of 7,571 inmate deaths Reuters documented in an unprecedented examination of mortality in more than 500 U.S. jails from 2008 to 2019. Death rates have soared in those lockups, rising 35% over the decade ending last year. Casualties like Hill are typical: held on minor charges and dying without ever getting their day in court. At least two-thirds of the dead inmates identified by Reuters, 4,998 people, were never convicted of the charges on which they were being held.

Unlike state and federal prisons, which hold people convicted of serious crimes, jails are locally run lockups meant to detain people awaiting arraignment or trial, or those serving short sentences. The toll of jail inmates who die without a case resolution subverts a fundamental tenet of the U.S. criminal justice system: innocent until proven guilty.

We have a serious problem here and it's time to wake up to the fact that we need serious reform of the judicial system as well as the way we handle people who are awaiting trial.

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