Op/Ed Deaths During Arrests Or Correctional Custody


Deaths During Arrests Or Correctional Custody. The following article has been written by Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. It includes editorial content which is the opinion and story of the writer.


Decedents injured or attempted to injure federal law enforcement officers in 59% of arrest-related deaths and discharged a firearm in 41% in FY 2020.


Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of directing award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of Criminology and Public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Former advisor to the “McGruff-Take a Bite Out of Crime” national media campaign. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Former police officer. Aspiring drummer.

Author of ”Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization” available at Amazon and additional booksellers.

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There is controversy regarding deaths during an arrest. The data below from the Bureau of Justice Statistics deals with deaths during federal arrests or while in federal custody.

Is There State Data?

I’m unaware of similar state data although Congress passed the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2013.

A “new law requires the Attorney General to collect from each state as well as all federal law enforcement agencies “information regarding the death of any person who is detained, under arrest, or is in the process of being arrested, is en route to be incarcerated, or is incarcerated at a municipal or county jail, state prison, state-run boot camp prison, boot camp prison that is contracted out by the state, any state or local contract facility, or other local or state correctional facility (including any juvenile facility),” The Journalist’s Resource.

A resource guide from the Bureau of Justice Assistance provides the latest information.

The status of the act? “More than eight years ago, Congress passed the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA), which empowers the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to collect these data and requires it to publish a study using the data to identify ways to reduce deaths in custody. But as of 2023, the department has yet to collect reliable data, let alone produce the required study.”

Context-Medical Condition of Offenders

Note that there is considerable research indicating that inmates and those arrested have considerable medical issues. Nearly 4 in 10 state prisoners (40%) and 3 in 10 federal prisoners (29%) reported having a disability. Female state (50%) and federal (40%) prisoners were more likely than male state (39%) and federal (28%) prisoners to report having a disability.

More than half of state (57%) and federal (51%) prisoners ages 55 to 64 reported having a disability, and 7 in 10 state (70%) and federal (68%) prisoners age 65 or older reported a disability.

Disabilities include cognitive issues per the Bureau Of Justice Statistics.

Research reports considerable illness, disabilities, mental health problems, or drug withdrawals for booked-arrested inmates. Per USDOJ data, the great majority of those arrested were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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Summation Of The Report-Bureau Of Justice Statistics

Federal law enforcement agencies reported 65 arrest-related deaths and 614 deaths in custody in fiscal year (FY) 2020.

From FY 2016 to FY 2019, federal agencies reported an average of 53 arrest-related deaths and 449 deaths in custody each year.

There were more deaths in custody in FY 2020 than in any year since FY 2016.

The manner of these deaths included homicide, suicide, illness, accident, and other or unknown means.

The findings in this report are based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) Federal Law Enforcement Agency Deaths in Custody Reporting Program (FDCRP), which began collecting data in FY 2016 in response to the Death in Custody Reporting Act. DICRA requires federal law enforcement agencies to report information about the death of any person who dies while detained, under arrest, being arrested, or in the custody of federal law enforcement officers.

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Summation-Deaths During Federal Arrests

Editor’s Note: Homicides are defined as the willful killing of one person by another. This includes killing in the performance of an official duty or in circumstances defined by law as legally justified.

Homicides accounted for 47% of the 65 arrest-related deaths in FY 2020, suicides accounted for 26%, and deaths from natural causes or accidents each accounted for 13%.

In FY 2020, about 89% of decedents in arrest-related deaths were male, 69% were white, and 62% were ages 25 to 44.

In 60% of arrest-related deaths in FY 2020, law enforcement was serving a warrant when they made initial contact with the decedent.

Decedents injured or attempted to injure law enforcement officers in 59% of arrest-related deaths and discharged a firearm in 41% in FY 2020.

Law enforcement officers discharged their firearms in 61% of arrest-related deaths in FY 2020.

Deaths During Federal Custody

The majority (84%) of the 614 deaths in custody in FY 2020 were due to natural causes (including HIV/AIDS and other illnesses), followed by suicide (9%).

In FY 2020, the majority of persons who died in custody were male (95%), about 67% were white, 26% were Black, and 59% were age 55 or older.

The most commonly reported serious offenses for persons who died in custody in FY 2020 were drug violations (31%), followed by sex offenses (20%) and weapons violations (15%).

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Bureau Of Justice Statistics

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See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.

Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.

US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.

National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.

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