Weekly Update: July 12, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: July 12, 2022

Highlighted Stories

azcentral: 'Plainly grossly inadequate': Arizona prison health care system ruled unconstitutional
In an emphatic rebuke of Arizona's privatized prison health care model, U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver found that Arizona is denying the constitutional rights of people in state prisons by failing to provide minimally adequate health care. In a ruling, Judge Silver also condemned the state for improperly detaining a subset of prisoners in restrictive housing units. The ruling comes after Silver rescinded a long-standing settlement agreement reached in the Jensen v. Shinn prison health care lawsuit between prisoners and the state of Arizona. Federal judges have twice held the Department in contempt, fining the agency millions of dollars.

azcentral: Arizona prisoners, advocates call for change after health care system ruled unconstitutional
An Arizona prisoner suffering from mental illness was pepper sprayed more than 40 times within an eight-month period. Sometimes, officers gassed him twice in one day. Another incarcerated man told the court that corrections officers have taunted him toward self-harm. Speaking of Arizona's history of private correctional health care contractors, plaintiff Shawn Jensen said, "Wexford, Corizon, and now Centurion all have a vested interest, to not diagnose, to not treat, to not send anyone out to a hospital. By doing so, they retain and make more money."

ABC: 'No one's paying attention': Sister of murdered prison inmate begs for system changes
"No one's paying attention. I didn't pay attention either until this happened to my brother," Marli Williams said about her youngest brother who was killed inside a Georgia state prison. "For a 17-year-old boy to be placed with child molesters and murderers who were doing life, he was a very easy target.” In September 2021, the U.S. Dept of Justice launched a civil rights investigation into conditions in Georgia prisons. The DOJ is looking into whether the state of Georgia adequately protects its prisoners. The department reported 26 confirmed or suspected homicides in GA prisons in 2020 and by the start of the investigation in 2021-- 18 were reported.

KQED: Grand Jury: Major Health and Safety Violations at Santa Rita Jail Require 'Urgent Attention'
Serious safety violations, inadequate medical services and poor sanitation are among a host of critical issues plaguing Santa Rita Jail, Alameda County's notorious lockup. That's according to a civil grand jury investigation of the long-troubled Dublin-based jail, the county's main adult detention facility. The report details a litany of major problems at the jail that have resulted in unsafe conditions for its detainees and staff, and spurred a “multiple-year pattern of lawsuits concerning conditions.”

Vox: Health care in jails and prisons is terrible. The pandemic made it even worse.
Health care in US jails and prisons was generally abysmal before the pandemic, and it appears to have fallen further, even for those who were not among the astronomical number of people sickened or killed by Covid-19 while incarcerated. Basic requests for medical treatment often went unanswered as facilities stopped outside and specialist appointments and attempted to navigate severe staffing shortages. Even as the initial crisis of the pandemic’s arrival has waned, many behind bars are still suffering the effects of denied or postponed care.

Medicaid News

NC Policy Watch: Medicaid expansion would help people incarcerated in jails and prisons — the ‘black hole of the mental health system’
Thousands of people currently cycling in and out of jails and prisons are among the roughly 600,000 who would get health coverage under Medicaid expansion, potentially transforming North Carolina’s justice system. Unless state legislators vote to make North Carolina one of the 39 other states that have expanded Medicaid since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, they’ll leave a small fortune in federal money on the table.

California Healthline: Medi-Cal’s Reliance on Prisoners to Make Cheaper Eyeglasses Proves Shortsighted
To dodge hefty costs for eyewear, California’s health insurance program for low-income people, Medi-Cal, has an innovative strategy: It contracts exclusively with the state’s prisons, and inmates make glasses for its beneficiaries. But the partnership that began more than 30 years ago has fractured. Medi-Cal enrollees, many of whom are children, and their eye care providers say that they often wait months for the glasses and that sometimes they arrive broken.


New Medical Life Sciences: COVID-19 mortality rates by race and ethnicity in U.S. state prisons
In the U.S., Blacks, Hispanics, and other indigenous populations have been historically marginalized. Compared to White individuals, these racial and ethnic (RE) groups have also been at two to three times greater risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization and nearly two times greater COVID-19 mortality risk. Even for the general population, incarceration increases the COVID-19 mortality rate by three-fold and case rates by 5.5-fold. Hence, it is not surprising that incarceration has emerged as a critical risk factor for COVID-19 morbidity and mortality in these RE groups.

HRH: A Human Rights Framework for Advancing the Standard of Medical Care for Incarcerated People in the United States in the Time of COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis has no contemporary precedent in modern carceral health in the United States, yet many of the harms were predictable and avoidable. Conditions that allowed COVID-19 to proliferate inside were exacerbated by the understaffing of medical providers in many facilities, inconsistent testing, and a lack of access by staff and residents to basic prevention measures early in the pandemic, including face masks and hygiene supplies. Fully confronting these structural problems will require addressing mass incarceration and the attendant overcrowding present in many facilities. This overcrowding is the result of decades of growth in a punitive system that disproportionately affects poor people of color.

Honolulu Civil Beat: Civil Beat Law Center Goes To Court To Make Prison Covid-19 Reports Public
The state is refusing to release six reports on the correctional system’s efforts to cope with the pandemic inside Hawaii prisons and jails, and the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest has filed a lawsuit in Honolulu Circuit Court to try to force the state to make those records public. The reports grew out of a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of state inmates last year alleging that corrections officials “failed to implement most, if not all, of the precautions public health experts have issued to prevent the spread of COVID-19” in prisons and jails.

Racial Disparities

AfroTech: He Was Born In A Prison To An Incarcerated Mom And Faced Mental Issues — Now, Lorenzo Lewis Is Behind A Mental Health Barbershop Movement
“Being born in a prison to an incarcerated mother and facing my challenges throughout my childhood by going to a behavioral health hospital and being incarcerated at the age of 17, I recognized my challenges were unique,” Lorenzo Lewis explained. Before launching what has now become a national grassroots movement, Lorenzo acquired a decade of experience, serving as a behavioral health technician. He recognized a lack of diversity among psychiatrists led to a lack of cultural competency, which would be vital to engage intentionally with patients.

MedRxiv: The COVID-19 pandemic amplified long-standing racial disparities in the United States criminal justice system
During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of incarcerated people in the United States decreased by at least 16%. Using an original dataset curated from public sources on prison demographics across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, we show that incarcerated white people benefited disproportionately from this decrease in the U.S. prison population, and the fraction of incarcerated Black and Latino people sharply increased.

Opioid Epidemic

Corrections 1: N.Y. counties preparing mandatory in-jail medication treatment programs
Amendments to state correction and mental hygiene laws signed by Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul in October, require prisons and county jails statewide to provide addiction treatment that includes Food and Drug Administration-approved medications whenever possible. Medication treatment for opioid addiction is already available through a county clinic so those services will be extended to the jail. The medications — along with peer support, individual and group counseling, discharge planning and assistance-finding services for more successful community integration, affordable housing and employment resources — will be part of a customized plan created for each person participating in the program.

Health Affairs: To Save Lives, Prioritize Treatment For Opioid Use Disorder In Correctional Facilities
People leaving jails and prisons are up to 40 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than the average American within the first few weeks following release. Yet, this doesn’t have to be the case: Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) such as buprenorphine and methadone are a highly effective, evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder. The research is clear that these medications not only significantly decrease overdose mortality but reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis c.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Addiction medication in Pennsylvania’s jails is often inadequate or nonexistent, new report finds
Treatment for opioid addiction in Pennsylvania jails is so haphazard that one woman went into withdrawal waiting for access to medication. A man was refused medication because staff said he hadn’t shown enough “motivation to be sober.” These are among the stories shared by incarcerated clients of the legal aid group Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project (PILP) in a new report that found access to opioid addiction medication in the state’s county jails is scattershot, often inadequate, and in many jails nonexistent — putting incarcerated people at risk for overdose when they’re released.

Rikers Island

The City: At the Last Minute, City Officials Put Brakes on Alternative to Solitary Confinement at Rikers
The city’s embattled Department of Correction is once again delaying its highly anticipated plan to limit the use of solitary confinement. The changes — which would give detainees a minimum of 10 hours outside their cell each day — were set to start inside the all-male George R. Vierno Center on Rikers Island on July 1. However, the federal monitor overseeing the department strongly urged the city to postpone the plan, saying it “poses significant safety concerns.”

gothamist: New York City Council avoids thorniest issues during jails hearing
New York City Council members had 90 minutes on Tuesday to question the city’s jails chief and Mayor Eric Adams' chief counsel about the ongoing humanitarian crisis at Rikers Island, but they declined to ask specific questions or follow-ups about the issues facing the jails complex that have garnered the most public attention. Among the issues not raised by members of the Council’s committee on criminal justice were systemic problems which may have led to the deaths of nine detainees at city jails so far this year, plus 16 last year.

Conditions In Corrections

Prison Policy Initiative: Chronic Punishment: The unmet health needs of people in state prisons
Over 1 million people sit in U.S. state prisons on any given day. These individuals are overwhelmingly poor, disproportionately Black, Native, Hispanic, and/or LGBTQ, and often targeted by law enforcement from a young age, as we detailed recently in our report Beyond the Count. And all too often, they are also suffering from physical and mental illnesses, or navigating prison life with disabilities or even pregnancy.

Desert Sun: In my California prison, you can't shower daily unless you work or study. That's wrong
The use of water as a weapon over prisoners by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation violates basic human decency and endangers health — especially during a deadly pandemic. For five years, I got up at 2 every morning and labored in the San Quentin State Prison kitchen, stirring kettles, scraping grills and scrubbing countertops and floors — covering myself in kitchen slime — just to get a five-minute shower. I learned to keep a job if I wanted a daily shower. But hundreds of prisoners who live near me are unable to shower daily.

Patch: Deputy's Gun Discharged During Struggle With Inmate At Hospital
A sheriff's deputy's service weapon was discharged at San Diego's Scripps Mercy Hospital Saturday during a struggle with an inmate treated and released for booking who tried to take the deputy's gun. While preparing to depart the hospital room, a struggle ensued and the incarcerated person assaulted the deputy and tried to gain control of his firearm. At some point during the fight, the deputy's firearm became unholstered and the incarcerated person was able to grab it and discharge it.

New Construction

US News and World Report: Appeals Court Won't Block New Health Facilities for Jail
A federal appeals court Thursday upheld an order that the city of New Orleans build new facilities for people jailed with mental health and medical needs. Mayor LaToya Cantrell's administration had appealed U.S. District Judge Lance Africk's order. And the new New Orleans sheriff, Susan Hutson, also had opposed the new facility. Hutson defeated the former sheriff, Marlin Gusman, who had supported building the new facilities. The jail, known as the Orleans Justice Center, is under court oversight as it works to implement improvements under an agreement, approved in 2013, to settle a 2012 lawsuit over dangerous conditions.

Correctional Staffing Shortage

VT Digger: Corrections commissioner calls for longer shifts and 60-hour work weeks; union leader slams plan
the leader of the Vermont Department of Corrections plans to move frontline staff at the state’s six prisons to longer scheduled shifts and 60-hour work weeks later this summer to address staffing shortages and safety issues. Nicholas Deml, the corrections commissioner, said correctional officers currently work five eight-hour shifts a week, frequently with additional required overtime due to lack of staff. His plan calls for a move to five 12-hour shifts a week, starting late next month.

Labor in Corrections

ACLU: Captive Labor: Exploitation of Incarcerated Workers
This report includes interviews and surveys of incarcerated workers, analysis of government data, desk research, and policy review documenting the harsh conditions and unfair practices and highlighting how incarcerated workers’ labor helps maintain prisons and provides vital public services. The report also includes a focus on prison labor during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report calls for far-reaching reforms to ensure prison labor is truly voluntary and that incarcerated workers are paid fairly, properly trained, and able to gain transferable skills.

Early Release & Reentry

wtop: Virginia law stops early inmate releases, angering families
Virginia lawmakers approved a budget amendment from Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin that excluded Ford and thousands of other inmates with violent offenses from receiving the expanded earned sentence credits, meaning they would have to serve more time. As lawmakers debated the amendment, they discussed the approximately 560 inmates who were set to be released in the first 60 days of the program. But the impact is far larger. A spokesman for the Department of Corrections confirmed that about 8,000 inmates will now be ineligible for the expanded credits. Relatives and other advocates for the affected inmates said the reversal cruelly upended reunion and homecoming plans, devastating families and the inmates themselves.

New York Times: For People Just Leaving Prison, a Novel Kind of Support: Cash
Roughly one in three American adults have criminal records. Even in the best of times, those who have been incarcerated face stigma and significant hurdles in the job market. They return home without savings or other financial resources. The pandemic, which devastated inmates in prisons and jails, made employment even tougher as thousands were released at the very moment that entry-level jobs evaporated. A novel initiative known as the Returning Citizen Stimulus began offering money to people just released from prison. The cash transfers — an average of $2,750 over three months — have been contingent on achieving certain goals on the way to employment.


The Marshall Project: I Joined the Parole Board to Make a Difference. Now I Call It ‘Conveyor Belt Justice.’
The purpose of parole is not to focus on a static event; that is the purpose of sentencing. Parole should consider primarily who the person is today. But New York parole laws have a “deprecation” clause, which basically means that the seriousness of the crime justifies keeping you in prison. This gives commissioners an easy out, even when someone has been before the board three, five or seven times, or they committed the crime at 17, and they’re now 70.

Data & Statistics

NIJ: Addressing Trauma in Women's Prisons
The number of incarcerated women increased by more than 750% from 1980 through 2017, with women of color being disproportionately incarcerated at 1.3 (for Hispanic women) to 2 (for Black women) times the rate of white women in 2017.

BJS: Annual Survey of Jails, 2020
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released the 2020 Annual Survey of Jails dataset through the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. The survey collects data from a sample of approximately 950 local jails (city, county, regional, and private) nationwide.

Prison Policy Initiative: Older Incarcerated People
Older people in prison are plagued with chronic health conditions.

KFF: Recent Trends in Mental Health and Substance Use Concerns Among Adolescents
Concerns about adolescent mental health and substance use have increased recently, particularly in light of gun violence and the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent years, many adolescents have experienced worsened emotional health, increased stress, and a lack of peer connection. Other mental health and substance use concerns are on the rise – including drug overdose deaths, self-harm, and eating disorders.

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

News 4: New mental health program helping Washoe County jail inmates
Mental health cases have increased exponentially. That's especially true in our northern Nevada jails and prisons. Staff at the Washoe County Detention Center just implemented a new program that's helping these individuals.The mental health inmates used to only be let out of their cells an hour and 15 minutes every day-and-a-half and they never socialized as a group. The exercise program allows them many more benefits. Inmates are now more likely to take their medications, take pride in their hygiene, follow the rules and be respectful.

Albany Herald: CIT bracelets help ease encounters between Albany police, mental health sufferers
The Change Center, a substance abuse recovery center in downtown Albany, and other facilities related to Aspire Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Services of Albany distribute the bracelets to those who have mental health issues. The bracelets, which have CIT on one side and Mental Health Alert on the other, can let police know how to better handle a situation when they encounter someone who is wearing one.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

GPB: With few other resources, people with behavioral health issues find treatment in jails and prisons
Georgia has consistently ranked at the bottom in the nation for access to mental health care. The Fulton County Accountability Court says one-third of all defendants housed in its jail receive some type of psychotropic medication, and more than 75% test positive for illegal drugs upon arrival (or refuse to take the test). The jail’s former medical administrator, George Herron, estimated as many as 60 to 80% of people incarcerated in the county’s jail system suffer from psychiatric disabilities.

Private Prisons

Intercept: Green-Colored Glasses
The private prison corporation’s stock price and access to bond markets had been battered by pressure over its role in profiting from immigrant detention and for providing financial support to Donald Trump’s presidency. The company is currently facing a class-action lawsuit brought by immigration detainees claiming that they were forced to work with little or no pay. The racial equity audit was a conscious effort by CoreCivic not only to mend its poor public image, but also to harness public interest in racial justice to bring the company back into the good graces of Wall Street investors. Those supposed strides elicited eye rolls among its critics. “They put children’s murals on the wall while incarcerating infants. That doesn’t mean they have positive impacts for children,” said Bob Libal, a longtime watchdog of the private prison industry.

Daily Caller: Man Allegedly Built Massive Drug Ring In Tennessee Prison With Cartel Supplied Fentanyl
A Tennessee inmate orchestrated an advanced drug smuggling network that brought Sinaloa Cartel supplied fentanyl into a prison, the Louisville Courier Journal reported. Humberto Morales allegedly recruited his own allies to work as prison guards, and they were the ones that brought the drugs and illegal cell phones into the facility. Morales allegedly took advantage of a security breach within CoreCivic, a company that manages prison facilities, in order to obtain illegal cellphones.

NewsBreak: Public perception of CoreCivic differs from the company’s view of itself
Complaints and accusations against CoreCivic are numerous and stem from a variety of perspectives; Department of Homeland Security, stockholders, employees and detainees. However CoreCivic’s revenue remains 1.981 billion and the company continues to win new contracts like one for La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ. In a CoreCivic pdf called, “What We Do, What We DON’T Do” — that can be found on their website — CoreCivic outlines the specific corrections and managerial practices in and outside the agency’s tool kit. However, many of the claims made in the pdf have correlating accusations that suggest the opposite of stances CoreCivic takes.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Bloomberg Law: Philly Prison Medical Provider Ordered to Produce Death Review
Corizon Health Inc. (now YesCare) failed to shut down a subpoena for records resulting from its investigation into a Pennsylvania prisoner’s death because federal law didn’t shield them from discovery, a US court said. The prison health-care provider argued that the Patient Safety Quality Improvement Act’s privilege shielded the documents from discovery, but it didn’t show that they were prepared solely to be submitted to a patient safety organization, or PSO, as required by the law, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said.

yahoo! news: Company ends medical service contract with Lawrence jail
Already faced with skyrocketing medical costs for inmates, the Lawrence County Jail is having to switch medical providers after the current one unexpectedly canceled its contract. Quality Correctional Health Care (QCHC) will terminate services after July 13, and the County Commission last week voted unanimously to hire Chattanooga-based Southern Health Care. Spiraling inmate health care costs have surpassed this year's budgeted amount by more than $4,000, according to sheriff's department records, with more than three months remaining in the fiscal year.

Courier Times: Family of Bucks man who died in jail to receive $1M in settlement with county, medical provider
The family of a Bucks County man who died less than a day after he was incarcerated in Bucks County Correctional Center has been awarded more than $1 million in a recently approved settlement. It's the largest payout from Bucks County in nearly a decade. PrimeCare Medical, the county contracted medical provider for the jail, will pay the remaining $750,000, according to court documents. At the same meeting, the commissioners approved two contracts totaling $210,660 with PrimeCare Medical to provide services and programming related to medication-assisted treatment for inmates with substance abuse disorder.