ACLU Applauds Senate Judiciary Committee for Reauthorizing and Expanding Deaths in Custody Reporting Act

September 25, 2008 12:00 am

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Senators closed loophole that allowed deaths of immigration detainees in federal detention facilities to go unreported

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WASHINGTON – Today the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reauthorize and expand a Bureau of Justice Statistics program that will require the Attorney General and encourage states to report information regarding the deaths of individuals in the custody of federal, state, and local law enforcement.

“Today, senators closed the loophole that allowed deaths of immigration detainees in federal detention facilities to go unreported,” said Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “The lack of transparency and accountability on the federal level under the current law meant that 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 people have died in immigration detention since 2004. A significant number of these deaths occurred in federal detention facilities.”

Lin continued, “The Deaths in Custody Reporting Act passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee will include federal prisons and immigration detention centers to ensure that in-custody deaths, whether they occur in federal, state or local facilities, are reported to the Attorney General. The ACLU urges the entire Senate to quickly pass this bill and the House to follow suit.”

Elizabeth Alexander, director of the ACLU National Prison Project, called the reauthorization of the Deaths in Custody Reporting Act essential, adding “This legislation shines a light into our nation”s prisons and jails, where, too often, neglect and lack of resources result in unnecessary deaths that require Congressional scrutiny. This important oversight tool needs to cover federal detention facilities.”

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