Hip Hop Caucus Responds to Bureau of Prisons’ Chronic Failures Resulting in Hundreds of Preventable Deaths in Custody

WASHINGTON — Today, Hip Hop Caucus President and CEO Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. issued the following statement in response to a new report by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General highlighting numerous policy violations and operational failures that contributed to nearly 200 suicides by people who were incarcerated, based on a review of 344 deaths in custody from the 2014 to 2021 fiscal years:

“The findings in this new Department of Justice Inspector General’s report are stunning, seemingly avoidable, and yet, unsurprising. Deaths in custody are often occuring and underreported in the United States. The deaths highlighted in this report are a result of systemic failures in our carceral system and are exactly why we are pushing for a check box on the death certificate to declare that a death occurred in custody. It should not be a mystery how many people die in law enforcement custody in the U.S. each year, and collecting accurate and comprehensive data is a first step toward solving this problem.  

Deaths in custody are both a public health emergency and a moral failure. We are encouraged by the American Bar Association’s recent resolution calling for support of the Death in Custody Act Hip Hop Caucus will continue to raise awareness of this issue, push for amending U.S. death certificates to account for deaths in custody, and advocate for transparency and accountability throughout our criminal legal system.”