BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
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Does the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) collect data on deaths in custody?

BJS began to collect mortality data from state prisons, local jails, and local and state law enforcement agencies in 2000 in response to the Congressional enactment of the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DICRA, P.L. 106-297). Through its Mortality in Institutional Corrections (MCI) collection, BJS obtained data on deaths that occurred in the custody of local jails from 2000 to 2019 and state prisons from 2001 to 2019. Deaths that occurred in the process of arrest by law enforcement agencies were collected from 2003 to 2009, and a redesigned methodology was tested in 2015 and 2016.

Federal agencies were not included in the 2000 DICRA law, but BJS collected summary statistics on persons who died in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) through 2014. After the reauthorization of DICRA in 2013 (P.L. 113-242), which included a requirement to collect data from federal agencies, BJS began obtaining individual-level death data from the BOP, as well as from other federal agencies with law enforcement responsibilities.

The 2013 DICRA reauthorization expanded the original 2000 law to include additional enforcement and compliance requirements for local and state law enforcement agencies, jails, and prisons. As a federal statistical agency and consistent with its authorizing legislation, BJS may only use the data it collects or maintains under its authority for statistical purposes, which excludes enforcement and compliance activities. Consequently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) determined that BJS's MCI collection did not meet the 2013 DICRA requirements. DOJ decided that it would be more appropriate for the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to administer the program and collect mortality data for DOJ starting with quarter 1 (Q1) of fiscal year (FY) 2019 (October to December 2019). State departments of corrections (DOC), local jails, and law enforcement agencies will now report their death information on a quarterly basis to centralized state agencies, who will compile and submit this to BJA to comply with all applicable DICRA requirements. Federal agencies, including the BOP, will continue to report deaths that occur in their custody to BJS.

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