Every year, thousands of people incarcerated in prison die. Some deaths happen as the inevitable result of illness. Others occur as the result of injury or violence. Understanding how someone passes and communicating necessary information with the surviving loved ones is the ethical responsibility of the carceral agency. Reporting a death, however, is an enforceable legal obligation carefully enshrined in federal law. Yet, too often this responsibility is left unfulfilled.
To communicate this information with families, to inform life-saving research, and to restore dignity to the deceased, the Third City Project is attempting to fill these critical gaps in reporting. Here we offer a first-of-its-kind systems of real-time, national mortality reporting for prisons from DOC’s and alternative data sources. We happily curate datasets on requests for members of the press, advocates, and researchers. Click here to see our available datasets.
Individual Mortality Data Reporting
While prison systems are mandated to share death events with the Bureau of Justice and Statistics (BJS), there is no similar mandate for releasing individual death data to the public.
Public data release is important for accountability to community groups tracking health outcomes and advocating for change, not just to formal systems like the BJS.
Few prison systems release fast, complete data to the public in a way described by the Death in Custody Reporting Acts of 2000 and 2013 (DCRA).
We define fast speed and completeness similar to the DCRA:
* All deaths meeting DCRA definition, e.g., not just COVID-19 deaths or executions only
** Ten DCRA required fields include: decedent’s name, date of birth, gender, race, ethnicity; date, time, and location of death; law enforcement / correctional agency involved; description (narrative and cause of death) of death. Fields are tracked as “provided” if they are consistently provided in death records. “Complete” death count reports include tables by age (not DOB). Only scoring *currently active* data release programs.
Below we summarize the public release Speed and Completeness compliance of individual death data across prison systems that our project collects in near real-time:
Data visualization last updated May, 2023