House bill would require states to report on prisoner deaths

The House will vote on legislation next week that would require U.S. states and territories to report to the U.S. Attorney General all information about people who have died while in the custody of law enforcement agencies.

The Death in Custody Reporting Act, H.R. 1447, is a bill from Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. But House GOP leaders will call it up as a noncontroversial suspension bill next week.

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The legislation specifically requires states to report to the AG any death of someone who is detained, under arrest or in the process of being arrested, en route to incarceration or in prison. States would have to provide the name, gender, race, ethnicity and age of the deceased, along with the circumstances of how they died.

The bill effectively reauthorizes a program that first started in 2000 but expired in 2006. Despite its expiration, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics continues to collect this data.

Scott's new version of the Death in Custody Reporting Act would also apply to people in federal custody and would put in place new penalties for states that fail to comply. Those states would be subject to a 10 percent reduction in federal law enforcement funding, subject to the discretion of the Attorney General.

The bill also requires the Attorney General's office to study the information it receives and assess whether there might be ways to reduce fatalities. The government would then have to report to Congress on its findings after two years.