A Decade in Review

The Death in Custody Reporting Act in two parts.

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Ten years, too little progress 

Next week is Sunshine Week. The event had its start in the Florida newspaper industry, but has expanded over the last 20+ years. Sunshine Week is now a time when journalists, activists, members of the civil service, and all sorts of good-government champions across the country come together to uplift the value of information in a democracy. Secrecy (and worse, willful ignorance) inside the walls of the government has a reverberating effect that’s felt by all of us. We can’t fight to fix something if we’re in the dark about what is broken. 

This year, POGO is honoring Sunshine Week by shedding light on one of the most shameful and shadowed failures of our federal government: its inability to protect the safety and well-being of the people in its custody. No one should die in government custody, period. But people are dying in law enforcement custody every day, and in staggering numbers annually. The government is not taking the necessary steps to work toward preventing those deaths — not even by making sure they accurately document and track the lives lost in their custody.  

The Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA) was enacted a decade ago to formalize the tracking of deaths in government custody. Under DCRA, the Department of Justice is responsible for collecting this information. But 10 years after DCRA’s passage, there’s still no authoritative, comprehensive, or useful source of death in custody data to speak of — and the government hides too much of the data it has.  

This week, I’m pointing you to some prerequisite reading. To understand the sorry state of DCRA implementation ahead of Sunshine Week, read our past editions of The Bridge on the matter: 

We Don’t Know How Many People are Dying in Custody 

Why Don't We Know How Many People Are Dying In Custody? 

My colleague — POGO Senior Policy Analyst, resident DCRA expert, and Bridge regular David Janovskywill be joining us next week to help deepen our understanding of where implementation of this law is failing and what can be done about it. 

Thanks for staying informed.  

P.S. Subscribe to our emails to learn more about DCRA this Sunshine Week, and for information on how you can join our campaign to push DOJ to do better. 

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