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Rising Inmate Deaths Prompt Calls for Oversight in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has seen a significant rise in inmate deaths within its state prisons and county jails, with oversight described as minimal. Deaths in state prisons increased from 171 in 2019 to 239 in 2020, while 56 prisoners died in county jails in 2020, marking the highest count in two decades. Reporting requirements for both state prisons and county jails are criticized for being inadequate, which could mean the actual number of deaths is higher than reported. Despite laws requiring the reporting of deaths in custody, enforcement is lax, and penalties for non-compliance are rare.

Investigations have uncovered instances of underreporting and concealment of deaths within the prison system, including tactics like releasing prisoners to bypass reporting mandates. In 2022, only 40 out of 65 deaths in custody were correctly reported to the federal government, highlighting the issue of incomplete data collection. Additionally, a significant portion of deaths in county jails were due to suicides, and many natural deaths were linked to insufficient medical care.

Experts and officials advocate for the creation of a death in custody review committee to better monitor and prevent deaths, emphasizing the need for accurate data and accountability. Staffing shortages in county jails exacerbate the problem, leading to reduced access to outdoor and recreational activities for inmates. The Pennsylvania Prison Society highlights the lack of prioritization of inmate deaths compared to other areas, pointing out an alarming rise in homicides within the Philadelphia jail system since 2020.

Legislation has been proposed to improve the reporting of deaths in custody, aiming to enhance transparency and accountability. However, the current lack of comprehensive reporting hampers legislators’ ability to identify and address issues effectively across the state’s correctional facilities.


Pamela K Coyle 1949-2024

Pam received her Master’s degree in library science from Clarion University in 1978. She never lost her love of reading or her enthusiasm for libraries.

Daily Forecast, April 21, 2024

Franklin County Forecast: In the forecast for today, we are expecting overcast clouds, with a high of 52.23°F and a low of 35.2°F. The humidity

Candie Sue Diffenderfer 1963-2024

Candie worked in the Prothonotary’s office at the Fulton County Courthouse, and later at Irving Accounting and U.S.A. Cartage in Williamsport, MD.

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The Franklin County Free Press, established by Vicky Taylor in 2019, emerged as a beacon of local journalism for the residents of Franklin County. Under Vicky's leadership, it quickly became an essential source of news, particularly at a time when major newspaper publications were increasingly overlooking local coverage.

On January 1, 2022, the torch was passed to Nathan Neil and his firm, Neil Publishing, LLC. Neil, a local entrepreneur with multiple thriving businesses in Chambersburg, shares Vicky's fervent commitment to both the community and the world of local journalism.

Rooted in the heart of Franklin County and powered by its residents, the Franklin County Free Press continues to bridge the gap, ensuring that the local stories, events, and issues that matter most to the community remain in the spotlight.