Prisoners are dying in Missouri correctional facilities, and the truth behind these deaths is hard to come by in the “Show-Me State.” 
 
More than 51,000 people are behind bars in Missouri, with 11,000 of them residing in local jails alone. According to available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, deaths in-custody in Missouri between 2001 – 2014 have been steadily on the rise, with 97 reported deaths in state and federal prisons in 2014.  
 
More troubling are the local jails in St. Louis City and St. Louis County. 
 
According to an investigative report done by the Huffington Post, the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton, Mo., has ranked among the top ten jails in the United States with the most in-custody deaths in 2015 – 2016. According to the report, there were six deaths between July 2015 – July 2016. Two more occurred shortly after the article was published.
 
And yet, that is but an estimate for how many deaths have occurred. 
 
There is an intense secrecy of the circumstances surrounding deaths St. Louis County Justice Center, and most deaths that happen in custody. 
 
Missouri Department of Corrections facilities perform internal reviews of in-custody deaths, which results in a lack of transparency. Friends and family rarely know the circumstances surrounding their loved one’s death. More so, the Missouri Department of Corrections has a troubling past of violating the Sunshine Law.  
 
Another troubling trend we see happening in jails and prisons across the nation is the inhumane treatment of incarcerated, pregnant women. In the U.S., shackling has resulted in deaths of mothers and/or loss of pregnancy. The treatment that resulted in the termination of Tara Rhodes’ pregnancy in Mississippi County shows that it also happens in Missouri.  
 
That’s why we’ve started an investigative research project surrounding in-custody deaths and maternal health of women in custody. 
 
The report will be based upon research and in-person interviews investigating in-custody practices that result in in-custody deaths, as well as highlight policy barriers that restrict information surrounding these deaths. 
 
The report will be finished in winter 2020. 
 
Until then, you’ll find monthly blog updates on the project at www.aclu-mo.org.
 
We still need your help.
 
As we research, we’re looking to talk with those who have a friend or loved one die while incarcerated in a Missouri prison or jail. The ACLU of Missouri’s Intake Complaint Unit is open for calls at 314-652-3114, ext. 305, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. People can make requests for in-person interviews now. In-person interviews will be held on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. beginning Feb. 26.
 

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