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Amid Rising Jail Deaths, DOJ Gives $2M For Worker-Training Center

Three U.S Justice Department agencies are awarding nearly $2 million for a new Department of Justice Jails and Justice Support Center to help create safe environments for jail inmates and workers. “It is the responsibility of our corrections systems — jails and prisons alike — to keep individuals in their custody safe and to treat them with dignity and respect,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. She said the new center will help provide jail officials with the "tools and training they need to safeguard the rights and well-being" if prisoners.

There are more than 3,000 jails across the U.S., with 10.3 million admissions in 2019 and an average daily census of 734,500. Jail administrators must deal with a high population turnover, limited resources and a broad mix of sentenced and unsentenced inmates. Some 1,200 people died in local jails in 2019. In Houston, 21 people have died this year in the jail, which has reached its highest population count in over a decade, reports the New York Times. Deaths have spiked in other cities, including New York, Oklahoma City, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Louisville, California, Texas and Georgia have also recorded statewide increases in deaths. COVID-19 accounts for part of the rising toll — suicides and fatal overdoses have also increased in some places. Jail officials blame a host of factors, including crowding, staff shortages, mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic and the repurposing of solitary confinement beds, once available to isolate violent detainees, that now must be used for quarantining the ill. “Millions of people cycle through America’s jails each year, bringing with them a host of challenges, but also presenting opportunities to address the health and well-being of those who enter and leave the system,” said Bureau of Justice Assistance Director Karhlton Moore. Shaina Vanek, who served as National Institute of Corrections Acting Director for over five years, helped to design the DOJ-funded center. The award to establish the center is going to CNA. The National Sheriffs’ Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the American Jail Association and the National Association of Counties are partners.


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