By Aaron Jophlin,
Bell Legal Group
Inmates have rights. That’s critical to understand, first and foremost. Especially in light of an article I read recently on Huffington Post (December 15, 2016) entitled: “We Wanted To Find Troubled Jails, So We Counted The Bodies”
Did you know?
The United States is the only democracy in the world that has no independent authority to monitor prison conditions and enforce minimal standards of health and safety.
Unreported (or mis-reported) deaths in jail
Each year some 1,000 people die in jail – and that’s just the deaths that are reported. Many more go unacknowledged, or fly under the radar. Oftentimes inmate death reports are evasive or vague, and don’t accurately depict the true cause of death. For instance, let’s say an inmate dies of a coronary attack. That seems innocent enough. But what if the coronary attack was the result of negligence? What if the inmate didn’t receive his heart medication? Or received the wrong dosage? Or the wrong medicine altogether? These are the critical distinctions that are often unreported.
“It’s a national scandal that we have so little information about people who die in state custody. I don’t know of any other developed country where it’s really impossible to say how many people died in jails and prisons in a given year.”
Director of American Civil Liberties,
Union National Prison Project
Going to jail shouldn’t be a death sentence
The Huffington Post article focused on jails, not prisons. That’s a key distinction. Jails typically hold inmates for a much shorter time than prisons—many of whom have not been convicted of a crime. Jails also tend to be much smaller than prisons. Yet according to the article, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of deaths go unreported each year. “Although our list remains incomplete, we uncovered hundreds of deaths that were never reported in the media.” Not surprisingly, upon closer investigation, many of these deaths are actually the result of negligence, error, or violence. And this needs to stop.
There are roughly 3,600 jails in the U.S. and some 100 federal prisons and correctional institutions.
Make your voice heard
As a number of people are surprisingly unaware, inmates have rights as stipulated by the U.S. Constitution. However, we have found that many inmates and their families are often confused about their rights and don’t realize that they have legal options if those rights have been violated. This is especially applicable to the wrongful or negligent death of an inmate. Either through lack of understanding, or lack or awareness, families of inmates are victims of a system that largely ignores the rights of inmates. That’s why it is important for you to speak up and seek legal counsel if you suspect foul play of any kind. Please let us know if you think someone in your family has been the victim of an unreported or negligent death while in jail. We’ll make sure your voice is heard.