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tv   Hearing on Uncounted Deaths in U.S. Prisons Part 1  CSPAN  December 14, 2022 5:18pm-6:44pm EST

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nightclubs in the 1970s, california. california state university, well a temper faster consular. and it m15 p.m. is, don't reenactment of the second -- of 1775 and its original location, st. johns parish at st. john's, virginia. where patrick henry spoke his favorite words, give me liberty or give me death. explore the america story, watch american history tv on saturdays at c-span two. and find a full schedule on your program guide or watch online anytime at c-span dot work slash history. >> c-span is your unfiltered view of government. were funded by these television companies and more, including mitt co-.
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>> moscow supports c-span 2 as a public service, along with these other television providers, giving a front row threat to democracy. >> the senate homeland security and governmental affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations held a hearing on uncounted death in u.s. prisons. the subcommittee's ten month investigation revealed that in 2021, the doj failed to identify about 990 deaths in custody. parameters of disease prisoners share their personal experiences, as well.
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>> the permanent subcommittee on investigations will come to order. today the subcommittee continues our bipartisan work investigating conditions in prisons, jails and detention centers across the united states. i think the ranking member for his cooperation. in july, we released findings of corruption, abuse, misconduct in the federal prison system and questioned the now former director of the federal bureau of prisons. today, after a ten month bipartisan investigation, we can reveal that despite a clear charge from congress to determine who is dying in prisons and jails across the country, where they are dying, why they are dying, the department of justice is
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failing to do so. this failure undermines efforts to address the urgent humanitarian crisis ongoing behind bars across the country. our investigation has revealed that last year alone, according to g.e.o. and allison is that i requested from the department of justice, failed to identify at least 990 deaths in custody. nearly 1000 uncounted deaths. the true number is likely much higher. we will hear today from melinda manley and vanessa fanone whose loved ones died preventively while in custody. in both cases, sons and brothers who died while they were pre-child detainees have been convicted of no crime. we will hear their grief and anger, a grief and anger shared by many thousands of americans whose loved ones needlessly suffered and died while
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incarcerated. we will hear from professor andrea armstrong of university to understand why and how doj's failure to oversee prisons and jails undermines americans civil rights. we will hear from dr. greater goodwin of the government accountability office, a legislative branch agency that provides investigative search -- analyzed at my request the death of a collective in 2021 and who will publicly report those findings today for the first time. we will question miss marine hannah burger, deputy district -- of the departments failure since 2019 to implement the death and custody report backed -- a failure that has undermined federal oversight of conditions in prisons and jails nationwide. and therefore, undermined americans human and constitutional rights. members of congress swear to support and defend the constitution of the united
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states to defend the constitutional right of all americans. in my state and every state. including the rights of those who are incarcerated. we are here today because what the united states is allowing to happen on our watch in prisons, jails and detention centers nationwide is a moral disgrace. as federal legislatures serving the preventative panel, it is our obligation to investigate the federal government's complicity in this disgrace. therefore, it is our obligation to ask what tools the department of justice is using to protect the constitutional rights of the incarcerated. to hold doj accountable when it fails to use those tools. and to furnish better more powerful tools with which the department can defend civil rights and civil liberties. there are some bright spots. for example, i was encouraged one assistant attorney general kristen clark announced doj
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investigation of conditions in georgia's horrific state prisons almost one year ago today. but it has become clear in the course of this investigation that the department is failing in its responsibility to implement the death and custody reporting act. that is the department is failing to determine who is dying behind bars. where they are dying and why they are dying. and therefore, failing to determine where and which interventions are most urgently needed to save lives. in 2000, again in 2014, congress passed the death in custody reporting act, also known as decorative. tasking doj with the collection analysis of custodial death didn't nationwide. dgas elf describe this law as quote, an opportunity to improve understanding of why deaths occur in custody and develop solutions to prevent avoidable deaths. for nearly 20 years, doj
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collected and published this data. invaluable resource for the department, for the congress and for the public. then, abruptly, the publication stopped. aren't mastication followed. we found that in recent years, over multiple emitted stations, the departments implementation of this law has failed. despite clear internal warnings from doj's own inspector general and doj's bureau of justices to sticks. for example, in the first quarter of the cycle your 20, department did not capture any state prison deaths, in 11 states, or any jail deaths in 12 states. in the district of columbia. in fy 21 alone, according to 208 analysis produced at our, request apartment bill to declare nearly 1000 deaths. my suspicion is that the numbers likely much higher. of those recorded, 70% of the records were incomplete and 40% of records failed to capture
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the circumstances of death. the department of has failed to collect complete or accurate state and local death data for the past two years. and fail to report to congress how data about deaths in custody can be used to save lives. a report required by law that is now six years past due. and we recently learned it is not expected to be produced for another two years. p.s. is investigation found that the department has no plans to make state and local death data public began, despite the obvious public interest in this transparency. today's hearing may divert times into arcane discussions of administrative regulations or the close parsing of legislative text. those discussions are relevant. they are relevant. at the department has concluded in 2020 28 years after this law was reauthorized, then it is
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incapable of successfully implementing it. i am surely willing to work with them to help fix that. this hearing is about something more fundamental. americans are needlessly dying and are being killed well in the custody of their own government. in our july hearing, focus on the federal prison system, we reveal that federal pretrial detainees were denied nutrition, hygiene, medical care, endured months of lockdowns with limited or no access to the outdoors or basic services and had rats and roaches and affecting their cells. we reveal that federal inmates kill themselves while the basic practices of suicide prevention and wellness checks were neglected. abusive and unconstitutional practices by the federal government that likely led to loss of life in federal facilities, we reveal that the federal -- was won four years by its own
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investigators of corruption and misconduct in his own facility and of, a quote, lack of regard for human life by its own personnel. today, we will hear about the experiences of americans in state and local prisons and jails. americans entitled to constitutional rights, no matter where they are incarcerated, no matter whether they are incarcerated. we will hear about americans who died in custody, many of whose deaths and causes of death are not being counted by the federal government as the federal government is bound to count them. the same federal government obligated to defend their constitutional rights. before i yield to the ranking member, and with miss milley's permission, we are going to listen to an audio clip. it's of the last phone call that she shared with her son while he was jailed. a pretrial detainee who was never convicted of any crime.
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i want to war those who are tuned in across the country, that this is a disturbing clip. while this audio place, as that we imagine how we might feel to be on either end of this call. please play the audio >> i've done everything we can. i'm having lawyers, the sheriff, all this other kind of stuff to make it so i can come in there and see you. try to also get you out of there. >> go to the hospital. women here. >> i know you are, matthew. i'm doing everything i can to get you out. so i can see hello? >> yeah. >> we're doing everything we
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can. >> ten seconds remaining. >> blood, fever, swollen. that hurts. >> i know, matthew. i know something is wrong with you. i love you, matthew. >> i love you too. >> i'm going to die in here. [crying] >> the crisis in americas prisons, jails and detention centers is ongoing and unconscionable. the department of justice and the congress must treat this as the emergency for constitutional rights that it is. senator johnson, i yield to you. >> thank you, mister chairman. you are correct. that is very difficult to listen to. miss mainly, miss fanone, our
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severe -- for the loss of your loved ones. i can't imagine how difficult that is for you to listen to that. i think that, first of all, let me just enter my prepared opening remarks into the record. much of what i prepared is a repeat of what the chairman has laid out. i think many people might question what equity does the federal government have in how state and local governments around their presence? >> i think we just heard the equity right there. as a chairman laid out, civil rights and basic civil liberties. that presumption of innocence, their rights to a fair trial
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and a speedy trial. the rights to be given proper care when in custody. i just want to commend the chairman for doggedly pursuing the truth here. i think what you're certainly experiencing the frustration i've experienced as chairman of the full committee doing investigations and simply having departments and agencies ignore requests. the american people deserve the truth here the american people deserve to understand what is happening and federal government agencies. i don't know whether these things could have been prevented from more vigorous federal government oversight,
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congressional oversight, exposure. it is the right thing to do. again, mister chairman, i appreciate your pursuit of these truths. i've certainly been appreciative of the fact that we work on this cooperatively. specifically in terms of this issue right here. i think it is interesting, the original law passed in 2000 did produce information. we have a report of that is 47 pages long. it is chalk full of information. i know it expired, but department of justice continue to provide this information to inform congress, inform the american public. then congress change the law, updated the law. and put funding attached to penalties. something went haywire. when you're talking about legislative text. which agency collected data
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versus one that can't. it is all bureaucratic bs, if you ask me. it happened. we lost the transparency. it doesn't look like the department of justice is interested in providing transparency. that is a serious issue. i don't understand it. listen, i'm going to continue to cooperate with you to try to get those answers because i think missed fano, miss maley, you deserve those answers. hopefully some of this congressional oversight can do more than assist us in passing new laws. hopefully it can save lives. i wish that could have been the case with your loved ones. thank you, mister chairman. >> thank you, johnson. the subcommittee's findings that provided the basis for
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this committee is laid out on a bipartisan staff support that i ask for unanimous consent that this report be entered into the record. we will now call our first panel of witnesses for this afternoon's hearing. miss vanessa fano is the sister of jonathan fano, who died in the east baton rouge baton rouge prison. miss maley is the mother of matthew laughlin who died in the county detention center in georgia. miss andrea armstrong is a professor of law at loyola university in new orleans college of law. the subcommittee is deeply grateful for your presence, testimony and courage in appearing today. we look forward to your testimony, the hearing record will remain open for 15 days before any additional comments or questions by members of the subcommittee. the rules of the subcommittee require all witnesses to be
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sworn in. at this time, i would ask you to please stand and raise your right hand. >> do you swear that the testimony you are about to give before the subcommittee is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you god? thank you. the record will reflect that all witnesses as third in the affirmative. please be seated. your written testimonies will be protected for the record in their entirety. we ask that you try to limit your remarks to around five minutes. miss fano, we will hear from you first and you are recognized for her opening remarks. just a kind reminder to all three of you, on addressing the subcommittee, please make sure that your microphones are on as indicated by the red light. thank you, miss fano.
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>> thank you, chairman and -- for the ability to testify before you today. thank you to the committee staff whose tireless were made my appearance possible today. no amount of time can truly heal what i share with you today yep. jonathan louis fano what was my brother. jonathan was so kind. he felt guilty by killing a bug. he wants took the bus downtown just a babysitter cousins kids, even though it was his own birthday. jonathan would spend hours upon hours listening to my problems and would do anything to support me. but at the time, he needed the same support, no one responsible for his care, custody and control gave it to
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him. jonathan suffered from bipolar disorder and depression for which he sought professional help and support from his family. he was never any type of threat or danger to us or to others. in october 2016, jonathan was arrested in baton rouge, louisiana, while having a mental breakdown and taken to east baton rouge parish prison. in his ten weeks and pretrial detention, jonathan never received a mental evaluation. after cutting his wrists, he was placed in isolation. despite our frequent phone call's, our family was repeatedly told that jonathan did not want to speak to us. it was only on christmas that we heard from him. jonathan told us he wasn't allowed to call us.
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during that phone call, we learned about jonathan's attempt on his own life. we could not get the details before the phone system cut off our call. even though we provided more funds, we weren't able to continue the call. we trusted the system. my family trusted the system when it provided us with jonathan's court date. my family flew across the country, only to discover we were provided the wrong date. we trusted his public defender would be advocating for jonathan's mental health, care and release. and the advise to wait just a little longer in custody to resolve the case. we trusted the baton rouge sheriff's office that confirmed jonathan was receiving the care he needed in detention. on february 2nd, 2017, jonathan
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hanged himself with a bedsheet in his cell. when we finally saw his lifeless body, the first time in ten weeks, he was handcuffed to an intensive care unit bed. it was only then we realized how wrong we were to place our trust in this is done which told us there was no fault after their own internal investigation of jonathan's death. it is only through our own insistence over the past five years that we have come to learn how hard jonathan tried to receive help. how belittles he was. how no one believed him. how so many other people have died in the same jail, under the same conditions.
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each time i tell jonathan story, he feels farther away. [crying] i worry for the day that i simply can't remember his voice or his [inaudible] or even his face. [crying] i tell you jonathan's story for every family who has experienced the same. i hope in doing so we can improve our beloved nation and prevent this from ever happening to another family again. please reach back to my request to enter further testimony into the record. thank you. >> thank you miss fano, the
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rest of your written testimony will be entered without objection. thank you for testimony. miss maley, you will now hear from. you don't feel bound by the precise time on the clock. we will accommodate the time you need to share your story and you are recognized for your opening statement. >> thank you chairman and ranking member johnson for the opportunity to testify before you today. thank you to committee staff whose work made my appearance here today possible. we mothers and sons have a special bond. a barge no one should ever be able to break.
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tragically, in my case, that bond was broken. it was broken by a for profit medical provider that brought a painful death on my only son. my only child. my son, matthew, was scared and alone in the chatham county georgia detention center on a non violent drug offense. matthew was suffering from cardiomyopathy, which the for profit medical provider ignored. studies show that the prognosis for people with untreated cardiomyopathy is bleak and
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matthew was never given any treatment. the for profit medical provider had no intentions of treating him because cardiology appointments outside of the jail would cut into their profit margin. one of his jailers called his pain and english, quote, unquote, fussy. matthew knew he was dying. he told me many times by phone and in a single jail visit that, quote, i needed to get him out of here and that he didn't want to die here. the pure horror of matthew's voice made me feel as though i was dying, as well.
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matthew died a slow, painful death over the course of weeks. he was too sick to take phone calls or visit after the one time i got to see him in jail. i never got to hold him, to tell him how much i loved him or pray with him. the next time i got to see matthew, he had already suffered brain injury after being resuscitated three times by the jail staff. [crying] my last visit with him was to take him off of life support where he was still handcuffed to an icu bed and
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under 24/7 supervision by a corrections officer. after 32 years of life with my only son, our bond was broken. and no one, not the health provider, not the infirmary staff, the sheriff's office or the district attorney, was willing to help. they did take time to exact one last indignity upon matthew before his death. issuing him a personal recognizance bond after he was brain dead. so, his death would not count as an in custody death. not a day goes by that i don't think about what matthew went through. in closing, matthew's story
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might not be over. i will continue to spread awareness of this problem for as long as i am able. with over 2 million people in our prisons and jails, there are more millions of mothers, fathers, siblings and friends who are in this same or worse situation. this should not be ignored. that is why enforcement of the death and custody act is so important. and could be a tool to hold the for profit jail and present medical providers accountable for unnecessary deaths like matthews and others. i ask, respectively, to enter further with this testimony into the record. thank you. >> thank you miss maley. without objection, your written testimony will be so entered into the record, as found miss
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maley, thank you for sharing. you're difficult, deeply personal stories with the subcommittee. professor armstrong, you are now recognized for five minutes to present your opening statement. >> chairman ossoff, ranking member johnson and members of the subcommittee, thank you for holding this hearing, for the opportunity to testify. thank you also to the staff who worked incredibly hard to pull this together, as well as the courage of the families who are appearing as witnesses today. my name is andrea armstrong. i'm law professor at willow university. i teach at -- and i research incarceration law policy. i have visited prisons and jails across the country and i participate in audits of these facilities for their operations and adherence to best practices. my students and i created
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incarceration transparency dot org. it is a project and a website that collects publishes and analyzes deaths in custody in louisiana prison, jails and detention centers. at the time that we started that project and continuing today, the type of information that we wanted was not available, mainly individual level death records, as well as facility level death records. so that we could identify which facilities in louisiana were actually the most troubled. as we've heard today from other witnesses, there are a lot of reasons to be concerned when a death in custody occurs. in addition to the impact on families and communities, deaths in custody may signal a broader challenges in of the silky. it is impossible to fix what is
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invisible and hidden. as justice brandeis wrote, some light is the best of disinfectants, electric light, the most efficient policemen. increasing public transparency on deaths in custody is a critical step towards ultimately reducing deaths in custody. i'd like to share with you a graph that i shared with your staff. it is on page 28 of exhibit one. this chart helps us understand why transparency is so critical. the percentage of suicides that happened in solitary confinement, also known as isolation, restrictive housing or segregation, is highlighted in pink. and what you can see is we are looking at the location of suicides by the type of
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facility. on the first column, department of corrections, that is prisons. the second, juvenile facilities. the third is jails that our locally operated. iv's private. what you can see in pink is that 43% of all suicides in louisiana jails occurred in solitary confinement. compare that to only 7% in our state prisons. of the three youths suicides it happened between 2015 and 2019, in louisiana, two out of three occurred when these youth were confined, alone and in segregation. this binding should prompt review of staffing, discipline, security and mental health protocols in the jails where the suicide occurred.
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unfortunately, due to changes in the federal collection of data on deaths, we will no longer be able to identify patterns like these. that is because the department of justice no longer collects information on incident locations within the prison or jail. it also doesn't collect information from facilities where there was zero deaths. meaning it will be harder for facilities to learn from each other what works and what doesn't work. changes in what is collected is not the only problem. in addition, department of justice is undercounting of deaths. four deaths in 2020, louisiana reported six total deaths to the bureau of justice assistance. in contrast, loyal law students identified 180 deaths in 2020 in louisiana prisons and jails. multiple shares inform our students that there were no longer required to report deaths in custody for federal
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data collection. if louisiana's expense is similar to those of other states, 2020 will be the first year in almost two decades in which the department of justice cannot tell us who is dying behind bars and why. congress has a range of tools available to help increase transparency, which ultimately, i hope, will reduce in custody deaths. the work of your committee is vital and academic researchers like myself stand ready to assist and support as needed. thank you. >> thank you professor armstrong. thank you again to all three for your powerful testimony today. i will begin with questions. i would like to begin with you, professor armstrong. unless senator protea, do you have -- professor armstrong, i'd like to begin with you. explain how deaths in custody,
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as data, can be a proxy or an indicator for conditions in specifics facilities. >> so, what we know when we look at the data is we look for patterns in what is happening, right? for example, this line that i shared on suicides, what that tells us is that there are deep, defenses were suicides are occurring, which makes me want to look at the policies that are in place. so, doing observation rounds near the area of segregation, discipline, why were people put in solitary confinement? for what types of offenses? for how long. we know the harmful effects of solitary confinement and the ways in which it can both create and aggravate existing serious mental illness. in manna cases, leading to suicide. we also want to think about what the mental health protocols are. are they doing visual checks?
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are they doing suicide watch observations that are required under best practices? so, doesn't that we can be the tip of the iceberg for understanding what is happening in that facility and their adherence to best practices. >> professor, you're the founder of incarceration transparency. what does this organization do not share? >> it is more of a project that an organization. it is my students and i. for the past three years, now 60 students, we collect, publish, analyze individual records of death that, in terms of transparency, the goal is we have a searchable database where you can go and look up any record of death and try and understand what is happening at your local facility in particular. it's often because of this database that family members reach out to me for information about the death of their loved ones. >> law students making public records requests are able to
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capture this data, correct? >> yes. technically you don't have to be a lawyer to file a public records request. it certainly helps. so, my students do this every single year. >> your view is that this work that the four government should be doing? >> absolutely. it's me and 20 law students once a year. it would be much better if the federal government led to this information. >> therefore, any work that is eminently within the capacity of the united states department of justice? >> absolutely. >> thank you, professor. >> miss maley, thank you again for sharing your families personal tragedy with the public today. i'd like to ask you, what has
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motivated you to take a step? >> the biggest motivation, and it will serve no justice for my son, there is none. the biggest motivation i have is everyone knows, or knows somebody that is affected by a drug use, alcohol use, mental ill lands, sometimes pure carelessness that can and you being pulled over by your local law enforcement agents and put in jail. it's a horrible thing for me to think of maybe my next door neighbor, maybe going to the store and getting pulled over for something, a minor
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infraction, as we all know, can put you in jail and jeopardize your life. i would like some transparency. i would like to be able to know that our justice system is doing the right thing according to our health care providers and these institutions. >> thank you miss maley. miss fano, thank you as well for sharing your family story, as difficult as it must be and your powerful testimony. what is your message for demand or call to action for members of this subcommittee and the senate and for the folks of the department of justice? >> had adequate care been given to my brother, jonathan louis fano, i do believe i would still have him in my life. i believe that if we provide
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the resources that are necessary to inmates who struggle with mental illness, or less tragedies will occur. it is just a matter of acknowledging those mistakes and acknowledging that we can improve and be better so that search traumatic incidents will not occur. so that families will not have to deal with the horrible reality of rather than a loved one coming out of an institution more well-established and aware of how to integrate back into society, they come back and a casket. so, i ask that we acknowledge our mistakes and move towards a
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better future for everyone. >> thank you miss fano. at this time, with the ranking member's permission i will yield to senator idea for his questions? thank you mister chair. thank you for the accommodation. i have a meeting to get to in a few minutes but i wanted to first of all thank you mister chair for your ongoing diligence and oversight here. i think all three witnesses were participating to have a couple questions for professor armstrong, but i want to begin with miss fano. as a follow-up to the chairman's question. the follow-up and then -- if some of the clear recommendations were to be followed bow and there is more transparency, more true data sharing, how could that help your family, so many other families across the country who
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have experienced similar tragedies? >> a big part in what had occurred with our family involved our trust. consistently we were told to do things a certain way and that things were going correctly. we did not know about how many incidents had occurred. had we known, had we've been disclosing disclosed the information about how horrendous and how few actually received adequate care we would have insisted upon a different outcome. a lot of our decisions came from pure trust towards our system, towards the appointed attorney that we had, as well as the staff members at that correctional facility.
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so should we change that? i do believe that other families might make the right decisions, might have more acknowledgment of the potential dangers, and with that acknowledgment can come change. >> thank you for sharing. the data in front of us, the report that is being discussed, spans from jail, folks at pretrial to folks had been convicted of a wide range of crimes, short sentences, long sentences, and everything in between, but that does nothing to take away fundamental human rights. when i mentioned a minute ago, a couple of personal comments i wanted to share. it begins with applying applauding you for being so forthcoming about mental health
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issues. were big on making sure we're undoing stigma and raising awareness. it is one thing to talk about it and the ptsd in the military context, another when it comes to mothers suffering from postpartum depression. the higher educations base, on college campuses, across the board mental health is a big concern prior to the pandemic. we've all experienced a huge uptick during the covid-19 pandemic and it is important to recognize that whether it's jails, prisons, other institutions, are no exception to that. again we come back to the human rights people in terms of access to care, quality of care and truth. the other piece, you grew up not far from where i grew up. very similar communities. so your story resonates. and i appreciate your courage to be here and to share. professor armstrong is
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following up on some of your work in some of your testimony. in 2020 reuters completed an investigation into how an estimated 5000 people died in jails throughout the country in a single year. that is jails. that's not counting prisons. so these people died without ever having their case even heard at trial. the data sadly is clear and compelling. the u.s. correctional system occupies a space for a class race and gender and a host of other factors influence how long or how demanding your time in custody will be. however, pretrial time spent in a correctional facility should never be a de facto death sentence. i noticed in your written testimony and i will quote, lack of transparency on destined custody undermines our nations commitment to public safety.
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could you walk the subcommittee through how a detailed accounting of deaths in custody would make us better for our policy making? >> absolutely. so first, the nationwide data from 2000 to 2019 shows that 20% of deaths in custody were actually of people facing charges, meaning they had never had a trial. in louisiana that was 14% of our deaths were pre trial. but think about it this way. if community members don't trust the policing, the sheriff's, the facilities, and the fact that our system is capable of delivering justice, they are less likely to report crime. they are less likely to serve as a witness or to provide testimony in a criminal trial. and they are less likely to themselves feel protected by the same systems when they are
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a victim of trial. so public trust in our criminal justice institutions is fundamental. when we see the death penalty exacted without a judicial sentence and where persons probability of death is simply a factor of which facility they are assigned to that undermines their trust and undermines all of our safety. >> thank you. and a final question, in your written testimony, you listed a number of suggested amendments that you believe could be useful for better collecting data. it's one thing to share data, collecting it on the front and, that's another issue. among the suggestions you have made is that the bureau of justices assistants collects information on peoples specific mental illnesses and pre-existing conditions. did you mean to include mental health conditions as well and
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just briefly elaborate on that? >> what we know from the prior, from ej ass, the earlier data is, they did collect mental health observation in practices. medical illnesses as well, although they only asked pre-existing conditions. they did not ask for mental. when i proposed reverting back to those categories that we used to collect data on, yes, that would include mental health as well as medical health. >> thank you very much. thank you mister chair. >> thank you, senator padilla, ranking member johnson. >> again miss fano, ms. maley, i can't imagine how hard it is for you to really relive this. i couldn't imagine losing a child or a sibling. so, again, thank you. i want to try and find out, because it sounds in both of
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your cases, you were not given the kind of contact you wanted with a loved one in trouble. you are pretty well blocked out. let's start there. while your son, while your brother were alive, how many times were you able to see them or talk to them? we'll start with ms. fano. approximately. >> of course. sorry. what i meant to say was, the only occasion where we were able to get a phone call through to my brother after multiple attempts from multiple phone numbers, as my father, mother, siblings, myself, and made attempts throughout the weeks most likely every other day, essentially, we would call and be told he did not want to call us. it was on christmas. that was the only time that we ever received a phone call. and it was not even longer than
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two minutes. >> he's total time in custody was how long? >> the total time in custody was from -- can i just review? >> again, just approximately. >> 91 days. >> 91 days. so you believe he did want to talk to you, though? >> he had stated that he wanted to call. >> so you believe the prison officials were simply lying to you? >> my brother had stated he had made attempts and he had also written one letter to us where he had stated that he was not allowed to call us and he wanted to talk to us. >> miss maley, what about in your case. how long was your son in custody, and how many times, i mean, you obviously knew, when he went into custody he already had his health condition, correct? >> i'm going to assume so because cardiomyopathy doesn't
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happen overnight. it's a condition that alcoholics and drug addicts get for, not for, because of the wear and tear on your heart. you are vascular system. so with one i know and what i have investigated, the and treated cardiomyopathy can advance rapidly. there are medications which, i mean, it's not funny and i'm shaking my head because it's just unbelievable, it's also due to a fluid buildup. and people with heart issues and fluid retention issues are given a diuretic. >> right.
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your son should be alive today. but again, were you aware of this condition when he went into custody? >> now. >> so this developed while he was in custody. >> yes. >> how many times were you able to see him or talk to him when he was in custody? >> one time. >> over the span of how long? >> two and a half months. >> so now, following the death of your son and your brother, who are you able to talk to within the prison system, within government, what kind of conversations have you head. i'll go back to miss fano. you or your family members. >> my mother and sister had actually been able to see him one time and they had talked to the front desk staff. i'm not quite sure the exact names for those individuals. following when he's hung
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himself we were in contact with numerous members from the facility is they had to follow through in an investigation. i'm not quite sure the exact names of all of those individuals that is why focus at the time was war on my brother rather than retaining those names. but we were in contact with those individuals following him hanging himself. the most consistent contact we did have with that facility was after he had done that. >> did you feel that they gave you information? did they give you answers to what happened? let me cut to the chase. did they show compassion? >> no. >> so you didn't get any information. >> they had called us because we are in l.a., they have an lapd officer coming in the lapd
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officer had a phone with him, and the other individual on the other line only spoke english. my mother speaks spanish. he bluntly stated, your brother hung himself. i asked him is he going to be all right? and he said you have to get here. he most likely isn't. i asked for more details but he stated they were going under investigation at this time. when we arrived my mother and i were the first to arrive and they are wise on all fronts no compassion whatsoever. the individual who was granting him had no compassion. the staff member who led us to the facility had no compassion, just presented us to his body, connected to multiple wires and machines that assured he could
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still function bodily wise. they had stated that only his brain stem was functional to how long he and hung himself and how little oxygen his brain had received. every other part of him, every bit of him that would retain memory that was ham, essentially, was no longer present. >> i am sorry to be asking you to relive this. i really am. i wish i didn't have to do this. following that horrible day, did you have further conversations with any officials? was that pretty much your last contact? >> we had stayed a few days as we were waiting for awry results, so they were in bit of contact with us. there's always a security by his bedside. he was handcuffed to the bed, despite the results of him being brain dead.
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at the time of passing a staff member had to be in the room with us to a sure he did die. i do believe we had even wait for him to come even though we were all present and ready. we had to wait for him. following this received a call. i'm unsure of how many days or maybe that was a few weeks, but we received a call stating that they had found that there was nothing that went wrong. that the investigation was just clear. they did nothing wrong with his case. following this my family and i couldn't quite accept and we saw what more under investigation for our own means. but the last real statement that they said to us was that
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they did nothing wrong. >> they played it by the book. >> yes. >> mister chairman, would you like me to continue? >> reluctantly. >> yes maley, have you talked to authorities following the passing of your son? >> no. >> no thorns, whatsoever? >> no, sir. >> no one ratio to? you >> know, sir. >> have you tried to contact people? >> no, sir. now. they ignored our phone calls. the only person that talk to us was before he passed, the only person that told us anything and very little at that, was the man that worked for the health care. i would call there every day,
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maybe twice a day to check on him, and his only response was he has 24-hour care act he is doing fine. >> to try to reassure you. >> excuse me? >> he tried to reassure you, basically? >> yes, sir. which, now, i know that is not true. >> again, no expression of sympathy, no demonstration of any compassion whatsoever in any way or cases? >> no, sir. >> i do not have any further questions right now. >> thank you, senator johnson. and part, miss fano and miss maley, i think that the subcommittee should help insofar as we can to honor have to remember jonathan and matthew and their lives are
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having an impact here today. and i hope the ranking member and i will assure results and change. remembering and honoring their lives, this fano, can you just tell us a little more about jonathan. what he was like, what he loved, how he left. >> jonathan was my older brother. with that, he was very protective of me. anytime i had problems, he would talk to me about things. give me tips and tricks. how to go about school and projects, how to make friends. we used to play silly little games to gather and i would always get stuck and he would always jump in and help me.
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we used to be so into marvel and d.c.. even now, i think of all the amazing things that i never got to witness, that he said he wanted to. he want to see adoptions of different comments that he liked. he was incredibly, incredibly empathetic towards other people and animals even. he was vegetarian for a good portion of his life. he didn't like the concept of eating an animal even with that, he would still, for us that weren't vegetarian, would make us vote and make sure we were eating properly. he was the glue that held us together. even when we were frustrated at each other, he would attempt to keep in peace when he could.
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now, we know there is a whole missing. nothing will ever properly fill that hole again. that was the kind of person that he was. even despite his mental illness, he had a story. he had a life. he had a home. he had wanted so badly to come home. peak oz we were a family. and he loved his family. and over and over again, when i was younger, one of my biggest fears was losing him. and he promised me over and over that he wouldn't --
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that he wouldn't. now, rather than vanessa and jonathan, it is just me. i'm here because of him and his legacy. >> miss fano, how old are you when all this happened? >> i was still in college. it was happening entering a finals. it was one of the reasons i wasn't able to see him that last time. i regret it. because i didn't think it was going to be my last chance to see him. i believe i was 19 at the time, as it was five years ago.
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>> miss fano, you mentioned that your mother did not speak english, so you were translating for your family 19 years old, throughout this ordeal. is that right? >> i was the one that had to tell her because she could not understand what he was saying. so, i had to tell her that jonathan hung himself and that he wasn't going to be okay because she kept asking, is he going to get better? what are they saying? and i had to explain to her that he wasn't. and that when we were going to get there, he was not going to be well. i had to explain that we arrived, because even then they did not have anyone else ever
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tried to bring anyone on staff that could speak spanish. essentially, through that time, it was just us having to translate things about his condition, about his state, about what happened. and i remember asking, what do you mean that he hung himself for that long? and they didn't know. how did they not know? >> thank you, miss fano. miss maley, would you be willing to share a few words about matthew? >> of course. i was very proud of my son. he was my heart. growing up, he was rambunctious, amazed by things, involved.
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he was raised in the church. he participated in the church. he loved working on cars. he was involved and carson's. he liked camping around water skiing, traveling. matthew is not perfect by any means, he was a drug addict. i tried to get him help, and for that, there was heck. matthew was unwilling. just for some reason. he found it easier, maybe he had mental illness that brought that on.
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in saying that, we all know people that have problems. you are there for them, unconditionally. and i would have given my life for him. i begged god to take me instead of my son. he had a lot to offer. like vanessa's brother, and linda's son, he never met the love of his life. he never had children. there were so many things that he is never going to experience in his life. i look at my friends and i'm jealous of what they have and what i could have had, what matthew could have had. but he made poor choices and
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the choices that he made, i have to live with. and it is the most difficult thing that a person can go through. i am lost without him. i have pictures. i lost all my voice mails from him. so, the shot of listen to his voice again, in the worst way possible, it is just pretty much too much. >> ms. maley, thank you for honoring him with your testimony today. professor, you've studied
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policy. you study statistics. this isn't about statistics. the statistics well collected and analyzed, can be a tool to save lives, to spare other parents and brothers and sisters this agony. so i would like for you, please, to reflect on that. share why you believe it is so essential for the federal government to fix this. >> i think the first part is one of the things that we do, in addition to collecting these records, is we try to do something of what y'all are
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doing here today. we memorialize the lives of people who died in the new orleans jail without talking necessarily about their death but understanding, the public understanding of who these people are. and they were overwhelmingly saints fans. they were poets. they were football players. they had job opportunities. and it's important to recognize what we as a community lose, all of us, when people die in custody. the other part of this that is important in terms of the federal data collection is both of these deaths that we are talking about today happened in jails. jails, there's over, we think, about 3000 of them, and i have yet to see an exact list of
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every jail that we have in this country. the report only to themselves. the federal government has unique authority to be able to collect this information from the jails in ways that members of the community cannot because they're so spread out, because they're all individual fiefdom 's doing their own rules, their own policies, their own practices which may differ from facility to facility. it is the unique power the federal government to be able to collect that information, and jails are where the conditions of incarceration are most hidden from our communities. >> is it fair to say, professor, better generally speaking, for each death there is more suffering, more illness, perhaps poorly treated, more folks inside?
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in agony? >> yes, i think the suffering we are all experiencing today my honoring the lives lost is not just the families. it's not just the people. i am also reminded that we have large numbers of members of our community who work in these facilities, who witnessed these traumatic incidents, because that is their employment. they also are traumatized. other incarcerated people often witness these deaths. they may be the ones who first report it, who sound the alarm, bang on the steel door, to alert somebody that the person next to them or in their cell is also dead. that is also continuing trauma
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that accrues. so i would suggest the harm to the families is enormous. but it is actually a harm that we all suffer as a community and society. >> ms. fano, before your brother was jailed, did you know anything about east baton rouge parish prison, the jail? >> no. i didn't know. >> what reuters, the news organization, conducted a study of jail deaths over the last decade, and they found that from 2009 to 2019 there were 45 deaths in that facility. an average of four and a half per year, more than double the national average. do you think that is information that should be made
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problematic and transparent? >> yes. absolutely. >> ms. maley, the same news organization, reuters, in the same study, found that 22 people over the same period died in custody at chatham county detention center in our home state of georgia, and 50% of those deaths were due to illness. we know from your son's story that death due to illness can also be yes due to illness and treated or neglected. do you believe that is the kind of information the should be made public, transparently? >> yes. >> ranking member johnson, you have another questions? >> yes i do, mister chairman. professor armstrong, you say you have 20 students, and you do this over -- how many manners to put into the report you're generating? >> i can't even count them.
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>> is it over the course of the week, two weeks, to the entire semester? >> for every fall semester i have approximately 20 students. this semester i have 23. this is a semester long project because they filed a public records request but often there is not a response under the public records law of louisiana, so they have to constantly go after these facilities by email, phone call, sometimes driving there to get them. >> we understand the process. >> fine. >> you do this, do you focus on one state, one county? what are you doing here? >> we only do it in the state of louisiana. and we do every single detention facility in the state that we are aware of. >> so whenever anybody dies there is a coronal report, a death report, there's something. is that what you are doing?
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>> no. the jails have to report to the local coroner, but unless you know to file the public records request for that, that is difficult to get, one, and two, when we file public records request on corners they often don't categorize them is in custody death so the difficult for the coroner themselves to identify and then respond. what we do is file directly with the administrator of that facility, and what we ask for is the information that they reported to the federal government. >> so have you seen the 2002, 2019? it's got a lot of statistics to it. what we really do need is those individual death reports that show what actually happened. we are talking, i think at most,
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3000? senator padilla said 5000 deaths for a year. population of 1.5 million people there will be just deaths to natural causes and that sort of thing. you're probably talking about a universe of a couple thousand deaths that you're researching here, deaths in custody, correct? >> that is correct. about 200 deaths per year is what we find in louisiana. >> in louisiana, but i'm talking about nationally. the reason i'm asking how many man hours you put in this, i obviously i'm a data driven kind of guy. so if you get a set of problems you have to understand what the information is and how difficult it is to gather. i wouldn't think, for the department of justice, does anybody know how many employees it's got? quite a few. so you put a couple folks doing this, obviously we gave them resources to do this, it would
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wouldn't be that difficult to gather the deaf reports on a couple thousand individuals. if you're not getting it, starting to do this in the year 2000. start refining the process. we'll say okay, this isn't working, or were not getting -- into this day we don't have, how many states report? we don't know which states. the department of justice will tell us which states they got information from. go figure. what is that, a national security issue? the point i'm trying to make here is, i think, to agree with all you in the chairman, this is an important information to have. it really shouldn't be that difficult to gather. particularly when you but added for 22 years. there was a break, again, we will expand, analyze why this break occurred, quite honestly how ridiculous if it did occur, and why the ball was dropped here.
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>> mister chairman, i think i've got what i need from professor armstrong. without the next panel. again, i just want to close with my sincere condolences, my sons sear thanks for sharing your tragic stories with us. it is important. we need to know these things. thank you. >> thank you, member ranking johnson. miss fano and miss maley, please extend our gratitude and presents for your courage and your -- condolences for the loss that union families have suffered. so appreciative of the extraordinary open and honest conversation that we've had today. as you've helped to support our efforts to bring compassion and accountability and respect for human life into public policy. please know that jonathan and matthew are having a tremendous impact here in this room today
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and on behalf of the staff and members of the committee, we will continue working to ensure that impact is magnified through change. professor, thank you for sharing your expertise with us today and for your ongoing work to bring transparency and accountability to this system. it is deeply appreciated. that will conclude the first panel and witnesses are excused with the subcommittees gratitude. subcommittee will take a brief recess and prepare for a second panel. thank you. [inaudible] >> you both are the
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only two that have recognized and [inaudible] in a professional matter. [inaudible] >> let me tell you [inaudible] shortly after matthew passed away, our anchor sheriff who was explained to him [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible]
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[inaudible] [inaudible] >> they didn't have the same person every single day. they were like your say. their mental health [inaudible] their mental health is at stake, as well. really, truly [inaudible] it
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hurts. that hurts. what they're going to do? they have to do something to detach from the situation. for that, it was torture as well. why did the same thing. exactly. [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible]
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