You Have Utterly Failed.’ The Department of Justice Undercounted Nearly 1,000 Deaths in U.S. Prisons

The Justice Department undercounted nearly 1,000 deaths in prisons, jails, or during arrests during the last fiscal year, according to the results of a nearly year-long bipartisan investigation.

The 10-month investigation, outlined in a Sept. 20 report released jointly by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and the Government Accountability Office, centered on whether the Justice Department (DOJ) has complied with the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA) of 2013. DCRA requires the department to collect data from states on deaths in jails and prisons and submit to Congress a report that analyzes that data to propose solutions on how to reduce such deaths. The investigation found that DOJ missed the deaths in custody of 990 people in fiscal year 2021, that data-keeping by the DOJ has been disorderly since 2016, and that the report it is required to produce to Congress will not be complete until 2024—eight years past its due date.

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