What you need to know when (before) an inmate dies
When family members are notified by administrators from a department of corrections of an inmate death, it's essential they understand what authority they have with respect to all issues surrounding the deceased inmate's body and his/her personal belongings. More oftentimes than not, they have no information or understand the procedures regarding an inmate date. Making decisions without accurate information in any situation is irresponsible and unnecessary.
As a result of your lack of information on policy, procedure and protocols, in addition to poor, biased and ineffectual death investigations of inmate deaths, it's no surprise families attempt to do too little too late; and talk to the wrong individuals at the wrong time. As a result, evidence is often lost or destroyed that would support questionable practices, policies and procedures.
The Wrongful Death Institute & Injury Institute's consulting services provide key information and guidance regarding the handling of inmate deaths, investigation of those deaths, state autopsies and second (forensic) autopsies.
If you have been notified of an inmate death or death is imminent for an inmate there are specific issues you must address immediately. There are specific questions that must be asked. There are certain things that you should and should not do. It is vital that families understand the steps that need to be taken immediately when notified of an inmate death.
It is important that families understand:
Do's and Don'ts
The following information is provided as a courtesy only, should you not be able to contact the Institute. It is not exhaustive information. It is basic information only. It is provided as a guideline of what you need to do and not do in order to obtain and/or retain control of the deceased's body.
Do not agree to allow the department of corrections to "take care of the inmate's funeral arrangements". This is a tactic that is used on many that do not have the finances to bury their loved one. Inmate deaths sometimes are sudden and unexpected. Funerals are expensive. Departments of correction are fully aware of the financial burden. If the death is perceived as a potential problem for the department of corrections, they may offer to "handle" the funeral arrangements for you. Say no. Their offer is not out of concern or sympathy. There is a reason they offer. Sympathy is not one of the reasons they do so. Specifically, if you agree to let the department handle the funeral arrangements the following can (may) happen:
The Wrongful Death & Injury Institute can assist you in navigating through the procedural landmines and pitfalls. What you don't know, refuse to know, and choose not to do could very well prevent you from ever knowing the facts surrounding the death of your loved one. And so unnecessary.