February 4, 2009

Deaths In Custody Reporting Act Provides Overdue And Welcome Accountability, Says ACLU 

CONTACT: (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org   

WASHINGTON – In the wake of recent reports about the November death of an immigrant detainee at the Piedmont Regional Jail in Virginia, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill today that encourages detention facilities to promptly report detainee deaths to the U.S. attorney general. Under the Deaths In Custody Reporting Act, which reauthorizes and expands an existing Bureau of Justice Statistics program, state and federally-run facilities that receive funding from the federal government will lose ten percent of their allotment if they fail to provide details of detainee deaths in a timely fashion. The American Civil Liberties Union urges the Senate to follow suit and also pass the law, which is sponsored by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA). 

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

“All too often, family and friends of immigrant detainees find out about the tragic deaths of their loved ones by word-of-mouth or through news reports instead of by prompt and direct communication. The ACLU applauds the House for taking action to prevent unreported deaths of immigrants in U.S. detention facilities. When detention facilities know that they could lose federal funding if they don’t report the details of deaths that occur in their custody, their incentive to avoid these tragic instances will increase.  

“The ACLU commends Representative Bobby Scott and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer for leading the effort to bring about badly needed transparency and accountability in our state and federal detention facilities.” 

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