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Why Thousands of Jail Inmates Meet a Grim Fate

Reuters takes an in-depth look at jail deaths
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2020 2:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Harvey Hill was acting a little crazy that night. The Mississippi man was laughing in the rain outside his former boss' house in May 2018 and wouldn't leave, so he was arrested, charged with trespassing, and tossed in jail—where he started a fight with guards that ended in his death. And he's not alone. In the first article of a series, Reuters reports that 7,571 people died in US jails from 2008 to 2019, at least two thirds of whom never got their day in court. "A lot of people are dying and they've never been sentenced, and that's obviously a huge problem," says a UN specialist on torture and other inhuman punishment, who adds that "you have to provide" two things in all cases: "due process" and "humane detention conditions." For more:

  • Of the 7,571 deaths, over 2,000 killed themselves during mental breakdowns. Most die from illness and sometimes fail to get quality healthcare in jail. More and more of them—over 10% last year—die from alcohol and drugs, partly due to the opioid epidemic. Almost 300 died after sitting in jail unconvicted for at least a year. And the overall death rate is climbing.

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