Texas Justice Initiative: 7,000 Deaths in CustodyOct 28th, 2016 | By admin | Category: Lead Article
by Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, July 28, 2016
The final product was culled from thousands of internal reports and includes names, time and place of death, cause of death, time in custody, and a description of the circumstances. Aided by web developers, Patrick Diaz and Vitaly Kezlya, and her husband, Robert Pinkard, Woog envisioned and created a website that’s well organized and cleanly designed.
Pre-booking deaths reported by law enforcement have been on the rise since 2005, and more than doubled from the fewest reported deaths in 2006 (74) to the most reported deaths in 2015 (152).
The racial disparities in Texas’s criminal justice system generally translate into racial disparities in custodial mortality. While blacks made up 12 percent of the state’s population in 2010, they comprised 36 percent of those incarcerated between 2005 and 2014. They also accounted for 30 percent of the deaths in custody from 2005 to 2015.
Justifiable homicide was the leading cause of non-natural deaths for black and Latino males 30 and 34 percent respectively—compared to 24 percent of white males.
Suicide was the leading cause of non-natural deaths for both white men and white women, with 47 percent of white male non-natural deaths and 49 percent of white female non-natural deaths—compared to 31 percent for males and females of other races/ethnicities.
Forty-one percent of people who died in jails were reported to have appeared intoxicated, exhibited mental-health problems, or exhibited medical problems upon entry into the facility.
Woog did further analysis of the demographic information within the data:
Although blacks made up 12 percent of Texas’s population in 2010, they comprised 36 percent of the incarcerated population between 2005 and 2014 (the last year for which data were available), and 30 percent of custodial deaths from 2005 to 2015.
Whites made up 45 percent of Texas’s population in 2010, but comprised 31 percent of the incarcerated population from 2005 to 2014, and 42 percent of custodial deaths between 2005 and 2015.
Latinos accounted for 38 percent of Texas’s population in 2010, and comprised 32 percent of the incarcerated population between 2005 and 2014, and 28 percent of custodial deaths from 2005 to 2015.
For comparison, on the national level, nearly 16,000 people died in custody between 2007 and 2010 at the state and local levels, according to the Custody Reporting Program at the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Of that number, 279 were listed as homicides and another 181 were labeled accidental. Ten percent were suicides. The bulk—13,060—were classified as natural. As for individuals killed during an arrest, the BJS estimates that an average of just over 900 people are killed during the process of an arrest each year overall. Police officers are responsible for many of these cases. In 2011 alone, the BJS received 689 reportsof arrest-related homicides committed by law enforcement. That represents a 39 percent increase over the prior two years.
The data gathered on Texas reflects a markedly high number of deaths in custody compared to national trends. The increased attention to suspicious cases such as Bland’s—which some see as representative of a deadly trend in over-policing of black citizens—magnifies the importance of this kind of tool, which allows anyone to study and analyze the data.