Deaths go on quietly in rural jails

deaths plague America's rural jails with little answers and accountability for families of loved ones booked who never returned - your Friday long read from The Atlantic

We go to The Atlantic for this weeks long read by Katie Rose Quandt , read the whole article “America’s Rural-Jail-Death Problem.” We include key excerpts below to convince you it’s worth your time!

“Every day, in small towns and cities across the country, thousands of people are booked into local jails, many for minor crimes. Some never come home.”

Staff called an ambulance in the morning, but it was too late. Hall died 13 days after being booked in, with a final emergency-department diagnosis of sepsis, a brain abscess, and “an altered mental status.” An ongoing wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the mother of his child alleges that jail and medical staff “displayed a conscious disregard for his right[s] and safety.” (The defendants have disputed the claims in court, arguing that their “actions were reasonable, proper, justified, legal and undertaken without any wrongful intent, impact or effect.”) Hall was the fourth person to die in eight months at BCDC.


Across the country, an average of roughly three people died each day in local jails of all sizes in 2016, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, or BJS—a rate that is almost certainly an underestimate. A disproportionate number of those deaths happen in America’s smallest jails. Mortality rates were highest in jails holding a daily average of fewer than 50 people between 2000 and 2012, the last period for which BJS reported mortality by jail size; suicide rates were inversely correlated with jail size from 2000 to 2007. Small-to-midsize jails tend to have fewer resources to provide adequate mental-health and medical care, suicide prevention, and drug treatment—services that many people entering jails need. They also often have less oversight and are more overcrowded than their larger counterparts. In many ways, small institutions are the most troubling example of America’s epidemic of preventable deaths in jails—and they are also the least likely to draw public attention.

Bottom line

BCDC has long been plagued by overcrowding, abuse, poor health care, and abysmal conditions. It has a history of overdoses, including eight women who overdosed during one month in 2017. That same year, 10 incarcerated people set a fire to protest conditions, causing damage that forced the jail to briefly close. A civil-rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice found that jail officers regularly violated people’s constitutional rights from 2015 through 2018, including using excessive chemicals and tasers, and regularly restraining both men and women in suicide smocks without underwear, exposing their genitals to other incarcerated people and staff.

Read the whole article here.

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