September 26, 2021

Texas: New Database From UT Austin Promotes Transparency on Deaths in State Custody

From the University of Texas at Austin:

A new interactive, online database provides the public full access to records on 6,913 deaths that have occurred in Texas state custody since 2005. The database, launched by The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis (IUPRA), is designed to provide transparency of the state’s justice system and inform public policy.

The 11-year data set includes information about deaths in police interactions, jails and prisons, along with the deceased’s name, demographic information, time and place of death, cause of death, length of time in custody and a narrative submitted by the local custodian, such as the local sheriff or prison director. The website launched July 27 and is accessible at http://texasjusticeinitiative.org.

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The interactive site allows users to filter through categories, such as demographics or cause of death, and isolate data sets in order to answer their own research questions. Woog reported some of her findings in a Texas Custodial Death Report:

  • Latinos accounted for 28 percent of the deaths in custody, black people accounted for 30 percent of the deaths in custody, and white people accounted for 42 percent.
  • More than 1,900 of those who died had not been convicted of a crime.
  • Natural causes or illness, suicide and justifiable homicide were the leading causes of death, accounting for 70, 11 and 8 percent of deaths, respectively.
  • Justifiable homicide was the leading cause of nonnatural deaths for both black and Latino men, accounting for 30 and 34 percent of nonnatural deaths, respectively.
  • Suicide was the leading cause of nonnatural deaths for whites, accounting for nearly 50 percent of nonnatural deaths for both white men and women.
  • Alcohol or drug intoxication was the leading cause of nonnatural deaths for black and Latina women, accounting for 37 and 32 percent of nonnatural deaths, respectively.

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California is the only other state to offer such a resource; last year its Attorney General’s Office debuted Open Justice, which included broad information about the state’s deaths in custody. The Texas Justice Initiative includes both identifying and narrative information for each death to encourage research into complexities in the criminal justice system, Woog said.

Read the Complete Launch Announcement

See Also:  California’s Department of Justice Launches First of-its-Kind Criminal Justice Open Data Initiative (September 3, 2015)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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