‘I will always have this anger inside me’ - Georgia mother looks for answers after son’s prison death

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 9:19 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Some deaths in jails and prisons are going unreported according to a new Senate report. An oversight investigation found that data crucial to painting a picture as to how those in custody are treated has been missing for years.

“I will always have this anger inside of me,” said Belinda Maley from Midway, Georgia.

Maley lost her son Matthew when he was incarcerated in Chatham County Detention Center in Georgia. She says Matthew suffered from cardiomyopathy that went undiagnosed and untreated. Belinda was not getting answers from the prison, until it was too late.

“The end result was his death,” said Maley.

Belinda says people like her son simply get lost in the system. She spoke to a Senate committee Tuesday expressing her desire for change.

Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) led an investigation with the help of the Government Accountability Office into deaths in prisons and jails. The resulting report found the Justice Department failed to correctly implement the 2013 Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA), leading to a lapse in data collection, including nearly a thousand uncounted prison or jail-related deaths in 2021 alone.

“There’s urgency that the department fix this,” said Ossoff.

Ossoff brought his report to a Senate hearing room Tuesday where he confronted the Department of Justice, asking how these mistakes were made.

“Were these results concerning to the Department of Justice?” asked Ossoff.

“It’s very concerning that there is the underreporting,” said Maureen Henneberg, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Operations and Management at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Henneberg acknowledged the importance of the data that stems from the DCRA: identifying problems with incarceration in America, specifically how and why deaths happen. But Henneberg says the law’s reporting system at the state and local levels need reevaluation to help with accuracy.

“The states have no leverage to compel their local agencies to report the data,” said Henneberg.

At this point answers will not bring Maley’s son back or the thousands of others who suffer preventable deaths in prisons. But Maley hopes for the sake of others, change is coming.

“I don’t care why they’re in there…they still have rights and these rights have been ignored,” said Maley.

The senators’ report concludes by saying Congress should continue to monitor DOJs implementation efforts.

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