Inmate Deaths Demand More Scrutiny
So say campaigners who want the state Department of Corrections to do a better job of documenting the demise of prisoners who perish behind bars. Prompted by a spate of deaths at the Menard Correctional Center in September 2018, a public records probe showed that the department couldn’t identify the cause of around half of the more than 160 inmate deaths that had occurred during the previous 18 months. Prison rights groups have pushed lawmakers in Springfield for more transparency only to see the Reporting Deaths in Custody Act stall in committee, in part due to complaints by prison officials about the lack of resources for increased oversight. Critics say falsified documents are commonplace and that the department routinely turns a blind eye to shoddy record-keeping at Menard and other facilities. Gov. J.B. Pritzker is looking into the issue but has yet to express support for the greater transparency called for in the act.