What is the Death in Custody Reporting Act?
The Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA; Public Law 113-242) requires states to report to the Attorney General information regarding the death of any person who is either detained, under arrest, in the process of being arrested, en route to be incarcerated, or is incarcerated at a municipal or county jail, state prison, state-run boot camp prison, boot camp prison that is contracted out by the state, or any state or local contract facility, or other local or state correctional facility (including any juvenile facility). These death-in-custody data were previously captured by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
In 2019, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) took over the aggregation of state and local mortality data on behalf of the Department of Justice. State Administering Agencies (SAAs) continue to be responsible for collecting these data on a quarterly basis from state and local entities including law enforcement agencies, local jails, correctional institutions, medical examiners, and other state agencies. SAAs then compile and submit the data to BJA as part of their Justice Assistance Grant reporting.
Federal law enforcement and correctional agencies continue to report deaths that occur in their custody to BJS on an annual basis.
Why are the DCRA Requirements Important?
The requirements set forth in DCRA provide an opportunity to improve understanding of why deaths occur in custody and develop solutions to prevent avoidable deaths. Knowledge of the circumstances leading to death and the number of fatalities is crucial to developing policies and program changes that could reduce the number of deaths in custody.
What are the Reporting Requirements?
- SAAs are responsible for compiling and submitting data to BJA on a quarterly basis to comply with DCRA requirements as follows:
|What measures do I report?||Information about the DCRA reporting elements can be found here: Death in Custody Reporting Act Performance Measures Questionnaire.|
|Where do I report?||
Directly to BJA via the Performance Measurement Tool (PMT).
Contact the PMT Helpdesk for assistance with your PMT account at: [email protected].
|When do I report?||
- State departments of corrections, local jails, juvenile detention facilities, and state and local law enforcement agencies should report death in custody information on a quarterly basis to a centralized state agency. Contact your SAA for more information about the reporting guidelines at: https://www.ojp.gov/funding/state-administering-agencies/overview.
- Federal law enforcement and corrections agencies are required under DCRA to report deaths that occur in your custody directly to BJS on an annual basis. Additional information can be found at: https://bjs.ojp.gov/programs/dicra.
What Data Must State Administering Agencies Report?
SAAs must answer the questions related to deaths in custody in the Performance Measurement Tool and submit the information by the reporting deadline. The reporting deadline is the last day of the month following the close of the quarter.
For each quarter, SAAs must either (1) report the number of deaths in custody that occurred in their jurisdictions or (2) affirm that no deaths in custody occurred.
Specifically, for each death in custody, SAAs must enter the following information into the PMT:
- The decedent’s name, date of birth, gender, race, and ethnicity
- The date, time, and location of the death
- The law enforcement or correctional agency that detained, arrested, or was in the process of arresting the deceased
- A brief description of the circumstances surrounding the death
If SAAs do not have sufficient information to complete certain data elements, they may enter “unknown” for those data values (when allowed in the PMT). For cases that remain under investigation, the “manner of death” should be reported as “unavailable, investigation pending,” and the SAAs should specify when they anticipate obtaining the information. Once the information is available, SAAs will ask the PMT Helpdesk to unlock their reports to update them. If the SAAs do not update the information, BJA will follow up with the SAAs in subsequent reporting periods to ensure they update their previous entries.
- Death in Custody Reporting Act: Updating Previously Submitted Decedents (January 2023)
- DCRA Implementation Report (September 2022)
- DCRA Frequently Asked Questions
- DCRA State Implementation Plan Guidance
- Best Practices and Reporting: The Death in Custody Reporting Act (January 2022 training)
- Death in Custody Reporting Act Performance Measures Training (November 2019 training)
- Required Elements for DCRA Reporting
- User Guide: Death in Custody Reporting Act Performance Measurement Tool Import Feature