Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 738, the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2009. As my colleague, Chairman SCOTT, has mentioned a few moments ago, Congress passed a similar piece of legislation in the 110th Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support.
The Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2000 directs the Bureau of Justice Statistics within the Department of Justice to collect data on deaths that occur in two primary stages of the criminal justice system: First, deaths occur ``in the process of arrest'' or during transfer after arrest; and second, deaths that occur in jail and in prisons.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics report that between 2001 and 2006 there were 18,550 State prisoner deaths. Likewise, there were an additional 5,935 local prisoner deaths and 43 juvenile deaths between 2000 and 2005
Half of all State prison deaths are the result of heart disease and cancer; two-thirds involve inmates age 45 and older; and two-thirds are the result of medical problems which were present at the time of admission when they were incarcerated.
Although illness-related deaths have slightly increased in recent years, the homicide and suicide rates in State prisons have dramatically decreased over the last 25 years.
H.R. 738 reauthorizes this data collection program and directs the Attorney General to not simply collect the data but to study it, as well as to determine how to reduce deaths in custody in the future.
H.R. 738 incorporates several changes adopted by the Senate during the last Congress. In addition to collecting data from State and local agencies, the Attorney General is now directed to also collect data on the number of deaths that occur in Federal facilities each year.
The bill also ensures that those States that make a good faith effort to report this important data to the Attorney General will not automatically lose 10 percent of their Byrne-Justice Assistance Grants funding if their data submissions are untimely. The collection of this data will help Federal, State, and local governments examine the relationships between deaths in custody and the proper management of jail and prison facilities. It will also provide important information to Congress on how we may need to improve Federal custody procedures.
I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.
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