Public health officials say the prospect of missed deaths from viruses associated with the country’s immigration service prisons, jails and detention centers is particularly risky. It is a challenge, say the experts, to prepare prisons for future epidemics without knowing the full number. Currently, most of the publicly known death tolls related to incarceration have come from the facilities themselves.
“You can’t make good public policy if you don’t know what’s actually going on on the ground,” said Sharon Dolovich, director of the Covid Behind Bars Data Project at the University of California at Los Angeles, which tracks coronavirus deaths in American prisons .
Prison and prison officials defended their methods of counting prisoner deaths from coronavirus, saying they followed all state and local documentation requirements. Some noted that their role was to track deaths in “custody” and suggested that including the deaths of those recently in their care but no longer in their care is both complex and complex would be impractical and possibly even overestimate the number of virus cases related to the facilities.
“It is unfair to expect prisons to somehow take responsibility for what happens to people when they are released from our custody,” said Kathy Hieatt, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Beach Sheriffs Office that held Mr. Melius. “We follow law and the Virginia Department of Corrections’s extensive standards for investigating and reporting those who die in custody. There is also no need to report the deaths of former inmates. ”She added,“ It is silly to think that we could somehow keep an eye on and take responsibility for these thousands of people. ”
Throughout the pandemic, prison systems have used different methods to publicly report Covid-19-related deaths. Nevada’s prisons say they are alerting state health officials of inmate deaths from Covid-19 but not making them public. Mississippi prison authorities said no inmates had died from the coronavirus at their facilities before announcing in January that nearly two dozen prisoner deaths were related to Covid-19.
And in Texas, a prison medical committee is re-examining any case where a coroner said Covid-19 was one of the causes of death and has sometimes overridden previous findings, according to Jeremy Desel, a spokesman for the state prison system. Shelia Bradley, a 53-year-old prisoner, was killed by a coroner as of “bacterial and possibly fungal pneumonia, a complication of Covid-19”, but the committee concluded that she died of “acute bacterial bronchopneumonia”. without listing Covid-19.