Brittany Hailer and Joshua Vaughn
Editor’s Note: This investigation was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.
The lack of proper reporting by Pennsylvania jails is widespread, resulting in severe undercounting of in-custody deaths in the Commonwealth.
PennLive and the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism spent 6-months investigating in-custody deaths to create the first comprehensive database in Pa.
Toggle over any county on this interactive map to see the number of deaths and details about those deaths. The database will continue to be updated as we learn of new deaths.
Some key findings from the database:
- The investigation identified at least 65 deaths in custody across the state last year. Only 40 were reported as required.
- Allegheny and Dauphin counties both ranked above the statewide and national average jail death rates.
- Delaware county, the state’s fifth largest, reported five deaths with an average daily jail population of about 1,450 people.
- Nine counties with populations ranging from 150 to nearly 1,000 had at least two people die in jail last year and 15 counties reported at least one death.
- In all, at least 28 counties had someone die while in custody. That means 39 counties reported no deaths.
- The county with the highest death rate had one death in 2022: Potter County. The county’s daily jail population is low, about 33 people per day.
- Suicide was the most common manner of death in all counties except Allegheny, accounting for roughly 40 percent of all deaths in jails.
- Nine deaths were classified as accidental, most of which were overdoses, but one person choked and one man drowned in his cell in Philadelphia.
- Two men died by homicide in jails last year.
- Only one death among the 66 across the state was listed as undetermined, which means the coroner could not decide on one of the four other manners of death – natural, homicide, suicide or accidental. That individual was Jamal Crummel, a 45-year-old man who died in Dauphin County Prison in January after developing hypothermia twice in his cell.
The database is available for other media sites to use for free.