US NEWS: Special Report Why 4,998 died in U.S. prisons They did not get their day in court

CANTON, Mississippi – Harvey Hill would not leave John Finnegan’s front yard. He stood in the pouring rain, laughing at the sky, threatening the wife of his former boss. Finnegan called 911.

“You need a psychiatric examination,” recalls the landlord telling the incoming police officer. Instead, Hill was charged with trespassing and was arrested on suspicion of a felony charge of $ 500 fine.

It was a death sentence.

The next day, May 6, 2018, Hill’s condition worsened. He flew into a rage at the Madison County Detention Center in Canton, Mississippi, threw the test board and hit a security guard with a lunch tray.

Three security guards arrested the 36-year-old man, sprayed him with pepper and repeatedly kicked him in the head. After handcuffing him, two security guards struck Hill on a concrete wall, unpublished video shows. They led him to the shower, away from the cameras, and beat him again, handcuffed, and a state investigation was found. The guards said Hill was fighting, showing amazing power that required energy.

Video showed Hill wrapping himself in pain at the hospital, where he was examined by a licensed practical nurse who was not given medication. Mississippi law requires that a highly respected doctor or nurse make decisions about medical intervention. But Hill was sent to a detention cell, where a guard pinned him to the ground, removed his handcuffs, and left him lying on the concrete floor. Hill crawled to the toilet. After that he stopped moving.

No one examined him for 46 minutes. When they did, he had no pulse. Within hours, he was dead. And he had a lot of company.

Hill’s is one of the 7,571 deaths of prisoners recorded in unprecedented tests of deaths in more than 500 U.S. prisons. From 2008 to 2019. Victims like Hill are common: they are caught on minor charges and die without getting their day in court. At least two-thirds of death targets, 4,998 people, have never been convicted of the charges against them.

Unlike state and federal prisons, they hold people detained for serious offenses, prisons serve as a place of detention for those awaiting trial or trial, or for those who serve short sentences. The number of prisoners who die without a trial violates the basic principles of the U.S. justice system: Innocent ones until proven guilty.

“Many people die and have never been convicted, and that is a very serious matter,” said Nils Melzer, a United Nations special tribunal for torture and other inhumane punishment, following a review. “You must provide the appropriate procedure in all these cases, you must provide conditions for the arrest of each person in each of these cases and you must provide medical assistance in all these cases.”

U.S. Constitution It gives prisoners basic rights, but those provisions are difficult to implement. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees fair treatment to those detained before the trial, but the “right” is open to interpretation by judges and magistrates. U.S. Supreme Court It ruled that the imposition of a eighth sentence of cruel punishment prevents “the deliberate disregard for the critical medical needs of prisoners,” but proving deliberate negligence is difficult. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a quick test, but does not mean speed.

Analysis revealed a combination of factors that could turn short prison sentences into death sentences. Many prisons do not have any restrictions on their work or the health care they provide. They usually get less when there is oversight. And bail requirements keep poor prisoners in custody before a lengthy trial. Meanwhile, the inmates became seriously ill, severely debilitated and mentally ill.

The 7,571 death toll from reflects the pressure. Most succumbed to illness, sometimes demanding basic health care. More than 2,000 committed suicide amid mental disorders, including 1,500 awaiting trial or indictment. A growing number – more than one in ten last year – have died from the side effects of drugs and alcohol. About 300 died after being tortured in prison, without trial, for a year or more.

As with most U.S. justice systems, the number of detainees falls differently to black Americans, such as Hill. White prisoners accounted for about half the deaths. African Americans account for at least 28%, more than double their US population, a disparity in proportion to the high rate of black incarceration. could not identify the race for the 9% of prisoners who died.

Prison deaths often attract local attention but exceed the scrutiny of foreign authorities, a gap in awareness that points to a national crisis: The American system of counting and monitoring prison deaths is broken.


The 3,000-plus American prisons are usually run by district officials or local police. They are often poorly equipped and understaffed, hungry for money that local officials see as budgetary burdens. A growing share has taken their health care from the private sector.

However, no national standards are required to ensure that prisons meet the constitutional requirements for the health and safety of prisoners. Only 28 nations have adopted their standards to close the gap. And most of the existing controls are limited to a secret curtain.

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics has collected data on the deaths of inmates for two decades – but individual prison statistics are withheld from the public, government officials and law enforcement agencies under the 1984 law prohibiting the release of BJS information. Agency officials say understanding is very important because it encourages police officers and police officers to report their death details every year.

Confidentiality has a cost: Local policymakers cannot read that the mortality rates of their prisons are higher than those in similar communities. Prisoners’ rights groups cannot obtain prison death data by soldiers to support court cases. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

“If there is a high mortality rate, that means there is a problem,” said Julie Abbate, former deputy head of the Department of Justice Special Litigation Section, which emphasizes human rights in prisons. Announcing those measures “would make it extremely difficult to hide a bad prison.”

The Department of Justice issues comprehensive statistical reports on national or national trends. But even those death numbers do not always tell the whole story.

Some prisons failed to notify the BJS of the death. Some have reported inaccuracies, citing homicides or suicide as accidents or diseases, found. Justice Department coordinator Steve Martin, who inspected more than 500 American prisons and prisons, said of all the cases under investigation, he remembers only one murder that was accurately reported. Others were classified as “medical, respiratory, or whatever,” he said.

Some prisons find other ways to prevent deaths in the literature, such as “releasing” inmates who are hospitalized in critical condition, either from suicide attempts or medical problems, so they are not on the prison list when they die. Prosecutors sometimes liken this to a “compassionate eviction” that allows families of prisoners to spend their last hours together without legal restraint.

In total, has found at least 59 cases in 39 prisons in which deaths have not been reported to government agencies or placed in tallies provided to the media.

The Department of Justice has grown very secretive with the details of the deaths under the Trump administration. Although the BJS has never released prison death statistics, it has traditionally published aggregated statistics every two years or more. The 2016 report has not been released until this year.

Also, a Justice spokesman said, “there are no plans” to release any future reports that contain aggregated details of deaths in prisons or prisons.

The report’s delay is “outrageous,” said representative Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat who co-wrote the first reporting law in 2000 with his Republican counterpart. Scott said concealment was never an intention. He jointly wrote a review in 2014, which blocks grant funding where prisons do not report deaths and submits data collection to a separate Department of Justice agency that cannot be prevented from releasing prison jail data. The revised rule has not yet been implemented.

“The whole point,” said Scott, “we suspect that most deaths are prevented by certain agreements – better suicide procedures, better health care, better prison guard measures. You must be knowledgeable at the prison level. You have no way of pointing to corrective action otherwise.

Because the government will not release details of prison deaths, compiled its own. The news agency traced the death of a prisoner 12 years from 2008 to 2019 to create the largest database outside the Department of Justice. Journalists filed more than 1,500 recording requests to obtain information about the deaths in 523 U.S. prisons. – all prisoners with a population of between 750 thousand or more, as well as 10 major prisons or prisons in almost every country. Together, these prisons hold an average of about 450,000 prisoners a day, or about three out of five in the country.

Findings: Since the Department of Justice’s final report, 2016, mortality rates in major prisons continue to rise, leaving 8% in 2019, the highest point in the 12-year period 2008-2019 reviewed. During that time, the suicide rate dropped as more and more institutions adopted measures to increase their awareness of suicide. However, drug and alcohol abuse has increased by about 72% among opioid addicts.

The data also reveals dozens of large prisons with high mortality rates, including twenty with double the national death toll.

Such data “would actually be a great help in enforcement purposes,” said Jonathan Smith, head of the Special Litigation Section’s Department of Justice from 2010 to 2015.


A detailed understanding of prison death can save lives.

In 2016, the Department of Justice began investigating the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Virginia, after Attorney General Mark Hering and local human rights organizations called for an investigation into the death of the prisoner. Found that the prison, which serves five authorities, had an estimated 3.5 million deaths in the years 2009 to 2019, double the national average of 1.5 deaths.

In December 2018, the Department of Justice said the 900-bed prison was violating the rights of inmates by failing to provide adequate medical and mental health care. The district administrative officer in charge of the prison agreed to the “permit decision,” which was enforced by a state judge, to ensure better treatment of prisoners.

Inmate deaths decreased after the agreement, which required increased staffing, better training and improved medical services. The prison reported that two people died in 2019 and one came in May, falling from a five-year average four years ago.

That was one of the last investigations into the Department of Justice’s prison. From 2008 to 2018, the department opened 19 investigations in prisons, three during President Trump’s tenure.

However, since 2018, it has not opened anything. A memorandum issued in November 2018 by Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the time set the stage for the renaming of prisons. In a telephone interview, Sessions told a policy that he said was in line with the Supreme Court’s rules on when permit conditions could allowing yourself where “should”.

In the absence of government oversight, the provinces have a number of guidelines.

Seventeen countries do not have laws or procedures for domestic prisons, according to a study and pending research by Michele Deitch, a rehabilitation specialist at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. In the other five lower states, all detention centers are controlled by correctional agencies. The other 28 have certain measurements, such as checking the lives of prisoners on arrival or examining prisoners committing suicide at regular intervals. However, those standards are often low, and in at least six states, the organizations that register them have no jurisdiction or authority to transfer non-investigative prisons.

Deitch said these vacancies make complete statistics across the country very important. “You can’t have a good policy without good data,” he said. “The data tells us what’s going on and what’s not.”


Without prison mortality data, even prisons with an unusual death rate could avoid legal intervention for years, and local officials may remain unaware of the seriousness of the problems facing their facilities. One example is the Marion County jail in Indiana, a 65-year-old institution known as “The Fossil” inside the sheriff’s office.

Overcrowded and understaffed, Marion County Prison had a death toll of at least 45 people from 2009-2019. However, local authorities have rejected the requests of two consecutive police officers for additional funding to strengthen staff and build a new facility.

The prison was among the top 20 with an average mortality rate, with 3.5 deaths per 1,000 inmates, at least twice the national average from 2009 to 2019. more than a quarter of all those executed in American prisons.

Thomas Shane Miles, a married father of two, battled for years with mental illness and opioid addiction when he was arrested in 2016 on drug charges. During his second day in prison, he threw himself down the stairs and swallowed the contents of the chemical ice pack.

While wearing a suicidal watch, Miles was given a “suicide watch” – a heavy hospital-style veil wrapped in Velcro – and placed in a guard cell. Prison policies, along with guidelines from the American Bar Association, require that inmates who want to commit suicide be monitored further.

On the sixth day, Miles was given a prison uniform for the hearing and was lowered into an underground passage into a cell below the nearest court building – a cell without video monitor or vice versa. Left alone, he tore off a piece of cloth from the collar, hung it on the doorpost and hung it up. He was found unconscious 30 minutes after entering the cell. An internal investigation revealed that the manager of the tournament had submitted his details after the fact, which left it unclear when Miles was tested.

In a case of unfortunate death that was resolved in September, Miles’ family argued that although he had been identified as a suicide risk victim, he was given a way and a chance to commit suicide. The sheriff’s office denied the misconduct and said it acknowledged no wrongdoing on the agreement; details not disclosed.

Miles’ suicide was the seventh in prison in less than 15 months. Fossil’s suicide rate has placed him among the top 20 prisons in a study.

In 2016, the sheriff called the suicide crisis a “pandemic”, but district officials rejected requests for additional funding. While the district knew it had a suicide problem, there was no way to know how it was compared. Like all other officials, Marion County officials could not obtain the Department of Justice’s figures.

Prison administration is often “second in line” in the budget process that contradicts Indianapolis police law enforcement services, said Frank Mascari, who lives in City-County Council. “We knew there were people dead in prison,” he said, “but we did not have the numbers” to know that the prices were staggering.

From 2015 to 2017, the king’s budget has grown by more than 1% per annum, audit figures show. The population increased by 12% at the time, due to increased arrests and state law which meant that some lesser criminals were serving their sentences in provincial prisons, not state prisons.

The sheriff introduced suicide prevention efforts, hired social workers and trained deputies to see suicide warnings. From 2017 to 2019, the number of suicides dropped to two per year, but staff remained very low as deputies often left better paying jobs at nearby prisons.

Prison deaths continued unabated despite declining suicides, reaching six last year, the highest number in more than a decade, driven by part of drug and alcohol abuse. However, there was no state or federal intervention.

In July 2018, Kyra Warner, 30, remained silent for about 90 minutes after arriving in prison. As his limbs shriveled, his fellow inmates asked for help, telling nurses and deputy nurses that Warner said he was using methamphetamine and an anti-anxiety drug Xanax.

The Jail video shows Warner unable to walk as deputies led him to a detention cell that was being monitored, where they left him on the floor, shaking. He remained unresponsive as they examined him for more than two hours – until paramedics could not find a heart. He died of an overdose.

“The police are watching and are not trained in medicine,” said Rich Waples, the attorney in charge of the family’s ongoing illegal lawsuit against the manager and Wellpath, a prison medical service company. “If they had received immediate care, they would not have been able to reverse the effects of those drugs.”

Prison authorities denied wrongdoing and responded to their response that deputies checked Warner several times, but added that they were medical personnel. Wellpath, who also opposes the ongoing lawsuit, has denied any wrongdoing.

“We are not built to be the largest mental health hospital in the province,” said Colonel James Martin, the prison’s superintendent. “We are not yet built to be the largest center in the province.” However, the prison “has more dormitories than any single hospital in the province.

” Prison errors have been documented, including a regional review in 2016 that found that Fossil was “outdated,” with inefficiencies and design errors that severely disrupted prisoner recruitment.

In 2018, after another independent study highlighted the prison challenges, the district approved a new $ 580 million criminal justice center, with dedicated mental health and drug abuse centers. By 2022, Fossil will become history.

Another error in the U.S. system Monitoring the murders of prison inmates is deceptive. The John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Florida in Seminole County reported one death in the Department of Justice in 2019.

But at least one person who died in prison has not been reported to official files. On June 2, 2019, Thomas Harry Brill, 56, was found hanging from a bed in his cell. The workers tried but failed to rehabilitate him, the prison said.

He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Sheriff spokeswoman Kim Cannaday said he was “released from custody” before his death.Brill’s sister, Tracy, was devastated to learn that her death had been announced in the official jail statistics.

“They are trying to evade responsibility,” he told. “They play with numbers. That’s just wrong. ” Brill graduated with a degree in mathematics from Eastern Michigan University and has lived on a cruise ship for years, he said.


The death website also shows another benefit of collecting and publishing death rates in prisons: It could point to an unusual number of prison deaths in general. Another is the Missison County Detention Center in Mississippi, where Harvey Hill died after being beaten by security guards.

The prison was dead from time to time, and for several years he did not report a single one. But in 2018, two people died, including a prisoner who died of complications as a result of an ectopic pregnancy. Few other prisons had the largest number of deaths that year.

Hill grew up in the poorest region in the poorest province in the United States. West, his city of 185 people, crosses a four-lane highway in the Mississippi Holmes County district. He worked on an hour-long renovation drive south of Canton, a town of 13,000 people in the richest region in the province, where the 19th Century antebellum hats were lined with antiquities that are a convenient postcard in the city center.

At the age of 18, Hill was arrested on battery charges for sexual assault and robbery. He pleaded guilty and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Friends and family say he began to reorganize his life after his release in 2015, taking on renovation projects with business owner Finnegan. “She was a wonderful person,” Finnegan said. In the winter of 2017 until spring, Hill showed signs of mental illness, showed paranoia light and complained of insomnia, Finnegan said.

After allowing him to enter 2018, Hill began appearing at his home, claiming his former boss owed him millions of dollars. If he wanted Hill removed, he had to open a case, Finnegan said he was told, so he did. “That’s not something I really wanted to do,” he said. “Harvey had to be in a psychiatric hospital.

” At the station, Finnegan told police he would drop the charges and take Hill to a mental health facility if they could find a room.”I’ll pick you up on Monday,” Finnegan said. “And we’ll get you some help.” Madison Police Department said there were “no strange or unusual incidents related to his arrest.

” Mississippi has no standards or prison administration. In their response to the family case, the guards said their actions were fair under prison policy. Michael Wolf, a lawyer for one of the guards, James Ingram, told that Hill bit him and tried to stab the officer, “and he continued to resist and showed extraordinary strength. The control measures were in line with the County’s use of force. Another security guard, James Buford, declined to comment.

The family believes the organization was wrong. “Harvey Hill was handcuffed and beaten to death,” said Derek Sells, a family lawyer. “Someone needs to be prosecuted.” Hill’s death was one of four sentenced to 12 years in prison. After his death, the prison filled out a BJS form with Hill’s name and details including his race, age and crimes. The “kill” box is left unchecked.

Two years later, no “cause of death” was sent to the BJS, the prison said, citing an ongoing investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. No one is charged. The family said the prison was lying about his death.

“They just told us that Harvey had a stroke and had a heart attack,” said Katrina Nettles, her younger sister. The prison did not respond to requests for comment. Its health contractor, Quality Correctional Health Care, and the nurse who treated Hill have denied wrongdoing in the courts.

An autopsy ruled Hill’s death a murder, however. The report showed that the scratches had spots on the head and chest. Heavy bleeding inside swollen her neck. His courage was refined.

The state medical examiner, citing backlogs, did not release the family’s findings until June, 25 months after his death and 13 months after the end of the limitation period for cases involving assault. The family filed an ongoing lawsuit last February, before receiving a post-mortem examination.

Reported of the tragic consequences of the discovery, Finnegan bent forward and shed tears back. “God Almighty,” he said, dragging his hand to his face. “Harvey was a friend.”

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