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Deaths in Custody Reporting Act Must Demand Accountability in Federal Immigration Detention Facilities

Senate should close loophole that allows deaths of immigration detainees in federal detention facilities to go unreported

WASHINGTON - Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up a bill that reauthorizes a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) program, called the Deaths in Custody Reporting Program, which is designed to report the deaths of prisoners and immigration detainees in local and state custody. The ACLU urges senators to strengthen the House-passed bill, H.R. 3971, the Deaths in Custody Reporting Act of 2008, by requiring federal detention facilities to report in-custody deaths to the attorney general.

The following can be attributed to Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel:

"The Deaths in Custody Reporting Act is a critical oversight tool. State and local corrections officials and advocates use this program to monitor in-custody suicides, homicides, drug and alcohol overdoses and other critical issues. Unfortunately this legislation does not require federal prisons or immigration detention centers to report deaths in custody.

"Because of the lack of transparency and accountability, the public and advocacy groups have had to rely on word-of-mouth and media accounts to find out about deaths of immigration detainees. At least 69 immigrants have died in custody since 2004. A significant number of these deaths occurred in federal detention facilities.

"Today, senators should close the loophole that allows deaths of immigration detainees in federal detention facilities to go unreported. The Deaths in Custody Reporting Act must be expanded to include federal prisons and immigrant detention centers to ensure that all in-custody deaths, whether they occur in federal, state or local facilities, are reported."


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