As chief medical officer for New York City jails, Homer Venters realized early in his tenure that for many people dying in jail, the primary cause of death was jail itself. To document these deaths, Venters and his team created a statistical category no one had dared to track before: “jail-attributable deaths.” His work led him into frequent opposition with the security services. It also led to his book, Life and Death in Rikers Island, about New York City’s notoriously violent jail facility.
Venters talks about what he learned on Rikers, his thoughts on the debate over its future, and his current work investigating questionable deaths in jails across the country.
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