3 Counties Question U.S. Jail Mortality Report; TN Error Cited


Davidson County officials in Nashville and others across the nation are questioning a federal report that tracks mortality trends in the nation’s top 50 jails, reports The Tennessean. It listed Davidson County’s inmate death rate among the highest, but yesterday, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics admitted that the numbers are wrong. “What we’re talking about is error, and we all take responsibility for that,” said Allen Beck, a senior statistical adviser with the bureau. “We will be issuing a changed number once we have a firm, absolute count.”

Besides Davidson County, Oklahoma County, Ok., and San Diego County, Ca., challenged the report released this week analyzing inmate deaths from 2000 to 2007. The study was designed to track trends in overall mortality and different categories of deaths, such as homicide, suicide, accidents, and various illnesses. Davidson County sheriff’s officials said the federal agency included information on a private prison that should not have been included and may have included in-custody deaths that didn’t actually occur in jail. Some of the confusion may stem from the methodology. The bureau takes one year’s worth of jail deaths and compares it to an average daily inmate population. That comparison paints an inaccurate picture of inmate mortality, said Dr. Earl Goldstein, medical director with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.

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