Georgia Lawmakers Seek Jail Reform After Reuters Investigation | Top News

(Reuters) – Georgia lawmakers are pressing for stronger jail oversight after a Reuters investigation identified hundreds of deaths in the state’s county jails and dangerous lapses in inmate medical care.

David Wilkerson, a Georgia state lawmaker who had been planning new jail legislation for the upcoming January session, said he intends to cite Reuters’ findings in his proposed reforms.

As part of an examination of deaths at more than 500 jails nationwide, Reuters found 272 inmate deaths among 13 large Georgia jails over more than a decade. At least half of the deaths were caused by a medical condition or illness, and a quarter by suicide.

The news organization exposed healthcare lapses at the jail in Savannah. Another report explored the 2017 death of Chinedu Efoagui, who died at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center after spending 512 days behind bars without ever being tried on the charges for which he was held.

To read the full investigation, Dying Inside, click

Wilkerson, a Cobb County Democrat, said his proposal will focus on improving mental health care in jails, as well as the disclosure and investigation of in-custody deaths.

“It’s impossible for the jail to investigate themselves. At the end of the day you’re asking someone who did something wrong to look at themselves,” said Wilkerson. “The public trust is not there.”

Wilkerson had begun researching new legislation after the death of Kevil Wingo, a 36-year-old Atlantan who died in the Cobb County jail in 2019. He said he was further moved to propose reforms following the Reuters accounts of Efoagui’s death and others in Georgia jails.

Other state legislators say the spate of jail deaths, particularly involving inmates who had not been convicted of their charges, shows the need for enhanced oversight.

“It is a tragedy. It is malpractice on the part of the state of Georgia, and on the counties,” said Mary Margaret Oliver, a Georgia Democratic lawmaker and former magistrate court judge.

Oliver said substandard mental health care in jails must be tackled when lawmakers convene in January. “Jails are significantly the largest mental health facility in the state,” she said. “And we are not attending to the combination of mental illness, addiction, and significant physical health issues.”

The death of Efoagui, a 38-year-old Nigerian native, highlights such concerns. The software programmer was arrested after suffering a mental breakdown during a traffic stop. As his physical and mental health deteriorated behind bars, he begged for help, but died of a pulmonary embolism.

Many of Efoagui’s friends from Nigeria were unaware of the details of his death after he moved to the United States in 2012 to pursue the American dream. They expressed shock when they learned the full story in the Reuters account.

“Mental illness and the inability to post bond should not cost a life,” tweeted Ogechukwu Eze. “Any life.”

(Reporting by Linda So. Editing by Ronnie Greene)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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U.S. coronavirus cases cross nine million: Reuters tally

By Shaina Ahluwalia and Kavya B

a man and a woman looking at the camera: FILE PHOTO: Medical personnel work inside a field hospital known as an Alternate Care Facility at the state fair ground as cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases spike in the state near Milwaukee, Wisconsin

© Reuters/Wisconsin Department of Administ
FILE PHOTO: Medical personnel work inside a field hospital known as an Alternate Care Facility at the state fair ground as cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases spike in the state near Milwaukee, Wisconsin

(Reuters) – U.S. coronavirus cases crossed the 9 million mark on Friday, rising by 1 million in two weeks as the world’s worst-affected country faces a resurgence in the pandemic just ahead of elections.

Cases are rising faster than ever before. The previous record for 1 million new cases was during a surge in infection in July and August – when it took 16 days. Now the country has recorded over 1 million cases in 14 days with no sign of the outbreak slowing. (Graphic:

On Thursday, the United States reported a record 91,254 new cases. On average, over 77,000 cases are being reported every day in the last seven days, double the level seen two months ago. Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients are hitting records in 21 out of 50 states. Deaths are also trending higher and have reached nearly 230,000.

For every 10,000 people in the United States, over 272 coronavirus cases have been reported and about seven people have died, according to a Reuters analysis. In Europe there have been 127 cases and four deaths per 10,000 residents.

Texas has surpassed California as the worst-affected state in the United States, with Florida in third place.

Global coronavirus cases rose by more than 500,000 for the first time on Wednesday, a record one-day increase as countries across the Northern Hemisphere reported daily spikes. Many governments have started taking stronger measures to bring the spread of the virus under control.

More than a half million lives could be lost to COVID-19 across the United States by the end of February, according to researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

U.S. President Donald Trump, who is seeking a second term on Tuesday, has been saying for weeks that the country is “rounding the turn,” even as new cases and hospitalizations soar.

The United States performed 7.7 million coronavirus tests last week, of which 6.3% came back positive, compared with 5.4% the prior week, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

South Dakota led the nation with the highest positive test rate at 40%, followed by Idaho at 34% and Wyoming at 29%. A total of 14 states had a positive test rate of over 10%.

According to a Reuters analysis, the South region comprises nearly 44% of all the cases in the United States, with nearly 4 million cases in the region alone, followed by the Midwest, West and Northeast.

(Reporting by Shaina Ahluwalia and Kavya B in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Death Rate Rising in U.S. Jails, Reuters Data Project Finds | Top News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The death rate in more than 500 top U.S. jails has risen more than 8% since the last official data was released in 2016, a Reuters investigation found, led overwhelmingly by people never convicted of their alleged crime.

After leveling off in 2016, the death rate climbed overall in the first three years of the Trump administration to the highest point in the 12-year period of 2008-2019 examined by Reuters.

Using more than 1,500 public records requests, Reuters surveyed 523 jails for 12 years of inmate death records – all U.S. jails with 750 or more inmates, plus the 10 biggest jails or jail systems in most states. The resulting database is the largest accounting of jail deaths outside the U.S. federal government. It details more than 7,500 inmate deaths in a universe of jails that accounts for three-fifths of the total U.S. jail population.

At least two-thirds of the deceased inmates identified by Reuters between 2008 and 2019, or 4,998 people, were still awaiting their day in court and presumed innocent when they died, never convicted of the charges on which they were being held.

The death rate in the 500-plus jails soared 35% over the decade ending last year, Reuters found, fueled by illness, suicide and overdoses from drugs and alcohol in facilities that get little oversight and sometimes provide inadequate medical and mental health services.

More than 2,000 took their own lives, including some 1,500 awaiting trial or indictment. A growing number – more than 1 in 10 last year – died from the acute effects of drugs and alcohol. Nearly 300 died after languishing behind bars, unconvicted, for a year or more.

The data shows that over the past three years, the suicide rate in jails declined as many facilities launched suicide awareness and response initiatives. But the death rate from drug and alcohol overdoses increased by about 72% amid the opioid epidemic.

The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics has collected inmate mortality data for two decades. It issues reports with national-level data on jail deaths and some state-level numbers. But death statistics for individual jails are withheld from the public, government officials and oversight agencies under a 1984 law limiting the release of BJS data. The Reuters report identified jails with high death rates going back a decade.

The most recent BJS report on jail deaths at the national level was issued in 2016. Justice officials told Reuters they have no current plans to issue additional reports.

The data captures jails in 44 states plus the District of Columbia. It does not include six other states – five where all detention facilities are managed by unified state corrections agencies (Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont), and Alaska, which uses a hybrid model that also relies largely on a network of state-run facilities.

To read the full investigation, Dying Inside, click

(Writing by Jason Szep. Editing by Ronnie Greene.)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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