Each year an untold number of people die in jails across Pennsylvania. Their stories often go untold and their deaths uncounted. This project aims to give voice to those lives lost as a result of incarceration.
Brittany Hailer and Joshua Vaughn are building a 2022 death-in-jail-custody website of who died in Pennsylvania. Those findings—stories that examine trends that emerge from counties regarding cause of death, race, or facility—will be published by PennLive and PINJnews.org. The state-wide website will be free for anyone to use.
Hailer and Vaughn are building on their work that has been revelatory in Pennsylvania. Each has investigated and reported stories that local media, newspaper, television, and radio have had to follow: the uncounted deaths and lack of accountability of prisoners who died while in Allegheny and Dauphin county jails.
Deaths in jails are a particular blindspot. Officials will release an individual from custody to avoid reporting. Autopsies are not public record in every county in Pennsylvania. All court records for people who die pretrial are sealed from public view within 30 days of their death.
By developing the database and telling the stories of the people who died, Hailer and Vaughn hope to provide much-needed information the public is entitled to but the government has failed to provide thus far.