COCHS Weekly Update: December 20, 2022
The Weekly Update is taking a holiday break and will resume after the new year.
Washington Post: Conservatives complain abortion bans not enforced, want jail time for pill ‘trafficking’
The largest antiabortion organization in Texas has created a team of advocates assigned to investigate citizens who might be distributing abortion pills illegally. Republican lawmakers in Texas are preparing to introduce legislation that would require internet providers to block abortion pill websites in the same way they can censor child pornography. “Everyone who is trafficking these pills should be in jail for trafficking,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
NY Times: Justice Dept. Revises Rules for Drug Cases to Address Racial Disparities
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland told federal prosecutors on Friday to pursue the same charges and to seek equivalent sentences for powder as crack cocaine offenses, part of an effort to address glaring racial disparities in the criminal justice system. A report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2022 showed that 78 percent of people convicted of crack trafficking were Black. By comparison, 25 percent of those convicted of trafficking powder cocaine were Black, according to the commission.
Safety + Health: $2M grant aimed at improving safety for jail workers
A $2 million federal grant will be used to establish the Department of Justice Jails and Justice Support Center, intended to create and maintain safe environments for workers and others in jail facilities. According to a DOJ press release, the center will provide jail workers with specialized training, core competency development, expert assessments and consultation on issues related to jail administration, and other professional development resources.
The Hill: A healthier path out of prison leads to safer communities
Marc A. Levin and Khalil A. Cumberbatch write: People leaving our jails and prisons are handcuffed by a lack of resources and a stigma that makes it hard to find gainful employment and stable housing. Upon incarceration, individuals lose federal health benefits under programs such as Medicaid. Pending bipartisan legislation known as the Medicaid Reentry Act would promote continuity of care by ensuring that those eligible for coverage can begin to receive health benefits up to 30 days prior to release.
Black Enterprise: Bureau Of Prisons Official With History Of Abusing Black Inmates Has Been Promoted Nine Times
A new report reveals Bureau of Prisons official Thomas Ray Hinkle has been promoted nine times despite allegations of abusing Black inmates dating back to the mid-1990s. According to an Associated Press investigation, Hinkle, a high-ranking official, was sent to the federal correctional institution in Dublin, California, to restore order and trust. Instead, employees said things got significantly worse during Hinkle’s leadership. Prison employees called Hinkle a bully and considered his appointment at the facility a slap in the face from the Bureau of Prisons, which pledged to end abuse and corruption.
NPR: Senate probe found some federal prison staff abused female inmates without discipline
A bipartisan Senate investigation has found widespread sexual abuse of women in prison by the male wardens, officers and volunteers tasked to protect them, uncovering incidents inside at least two-thirds of the federal facilities that housed women over the past decade. "Our findings are deeply disturbing and demonstrate in my view that BOP is failing systemically to prevent, detect and address sexual abuse of prisoners by its own employees," said Sen. Jon Ossoff.
NY Times: Justice Dept. Considers Early Release for Female Inmates Sexually Abused Behind Bars
The epidemic of sexual assaults against female prisoners in federal custody has prompted the Justice Department to expand the use of a program to provide early releases to women abused behind bars, according to people familiar with the situation. In recent weeks, the deputy attorney general, Lisa O. Monaco, has pressed top officials at the Bureau of Prisons to encourage inmates who have been assaulted by prison employees, and might qualify for the department’s underused compassionate release program, to apply.
Marshall Project: Federal Prisons Were Told to Provide Addiction Medications. Instead, They Punish People Who Use Them.
The Marshall Project spoke to more than 20 people struggling with addictions in federal prison, and they described the dire consequences of being unable to safely access a treatment that Congress has instructed prisons to provide. Many have gotten involved in dangerous and illicit money-making schemes to pay for Suboxone, which costs about $20 for a small fraction of a daily dose on the illegal market. Last year, the Bureau of Prisons disciplined more than 500 people for using Suboxone without a prescription.
Data & Statistics
BJS: Federal Prisoner Statistics Collected under the First Step Act, 2022
This is the fourth report as required under the First Step Act of 2018 (FSA; P.L. 115-391). It includes data on federal prisoners provided to BJS by the Federal Bureau of Prisons for calendar year 2021. Under the FSA, BJS is required to report on selected characteristics of persons in prison, including marital, veteran, citizenship, and English-speaking status; education levels; medical conditions; and participation in treatment programs.
SAMHSA: Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN): Findings From Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits, 2021
An analysis of final 2021 DAWN data presents: (1) nationally representative weighted estimates, including percent and unadjusted rates per 100,000, for all drug-related ED visits, (2) nationally representative weighted estimates for the top five drugs in drug-related ED visits, (3) the assessment of monthly trends and drugs involved in polysubstance ED visits in a subset of sentinel hospitals, and (4) the identification of drugs new to DAWN’s Drug Reference Vocabulary.
Law 360: Data Is Top Priority For Group Studying Vets In Justice System
A new commission established by the Council on Criminal Justice think tank is working to help change policies that may have led to a surprisingly high number of military veterans winding up behind bars, with getting better data on former service members a top priority for the group. The nonpartisan Veterans Justice Commission, which was launched in August, will spend the next two years examining the risk factors that lead to veterans' involvement in the justice system.
Stat: Hundreds of incarcerated people are dying of hep C — even though we have a simple cure
STAT’s investigation found that 1,013 people died of hepatitis C-related complications in states’ custody in the six years after the first cure, a Gilead antiviral drug called Sovaldi, hit the market in late 2013. This tally, based on an analysis of 27,674 highly restricted death records, has never before been reported. Many of those 1,013 people were not serving life sentences; they would likely have had the chance to return home, reapply for jobs, and reconnect with parents, spouses, and children.
Stat: With little more than a typewriter, an Idaho man overturns the entire state’s policy on hepatitis C treatment in prison
For two weeks, hunched around bankers boxes in the Idaho State Correctional Center’s multipurpose room, Phil Turney toiled on his Smith Corona Wordsmith 200 typewriter, lifting legalese from a copy of the Prisoner’s Self-Help Litigation Manual and an earlier lawsuit in Minnesota.The lawsuits demonstrate how much people in prison can achieve. Turney argued, across 59 painstaking pages of his 2018 complaint, that Idaho’s policy of treating only the sickest people in its custody for hepatitis C constituted cruel and unusual punishment for prisoners with the virus, like him.
Axios: Biden admin extends pandemic-era flexibilities on opioid use treatments
The Biden administration is moving to make permanent the pandemic rules that allowed take-home drugs to help fight opioid addiction. The proposed rule from HHS would make it easier for patients with opioid use disorder to access drugs like methadone for home use and for providers to prescribe them via telehealth for patients with opioid use disorder.
SAMHSA: Medications for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder
SAMHSA has published a proposed rule (full analysis) that expands access to medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD). The Proposed Rule would update overdose treatment program (OTP) accreditation and treatment standards that have evolved since the regulation’s initial issuance in 2001, as well as extend several COVID-19 flexibilities permanently.
NHPR: Defendants' access to medical treatment in jail not a factor in bail decisions, NH Supreme Court rules
Judges in New Hampshire are not allowed to consider whether denying bail to a defendant with medical conditions jeopardizes their safety while incarcerated, according to an unanimous opinion released Friday by the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The justices rejected an appeal from a defendant held inside Valley Street Jail in Manchester who claimed he was not receiving appropriate medical treatment for “a series of complex medical issues,” and that under the existing bail statute, his safety should be a factor in his release on bail.
LAW 360: Understanding Illinois' First-Of-Its-Kind Law Nixing Cash Bail
On Jan. 1, 2023, Illinois is set to become the first state in the nation to completely eliminate cash bail statewide in what has been titled the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today, or SAFE-T, Act. The omnibus bill made sweeping changes to how criminal justice operates in Illinois, aside from it all but eliminating cash bail. The law revises police use of force standards and procedures, reforms complaints and misconduct proceedings for police officers, amends the police officer certification and decertification process, and amends both pretrial and correctional proceedings.
NY Times: Rikers Has a Deadly Contraband Problem. Are Cargo Pants to Blame?
Eight years ago, the New York City Department of Investigation conducted an extensive undercover operation to determine how drugs and weapons were getting onto Rikers Island. In the three years following the investigation, 27 correction employees were arrested on charges of smuggling contraband and a ban was implemented on what was viewed by investigators as a primary means of delivery — the cargo pants.
Gothamist: Close Rikers? Correction officials say they may have too many New Yorkers to incarcerate.
Correction officials are forecasting that the population at the dangerous Rikers Island complex will balloon in the coming years, seriously complicating the legal mandate to close the jails there by 2027. The jailed population, which was at 5,940 last month, is growing, and an internal Correction Department forecast indicates the population will be higher than 7,000 in less than two years. In order for Rikers to close and pre-trial detainees to be moved to four smaller jails in the boroughs, as a 2019 law requires, there cannot be more than 3,300 people incarcerated.
PIX: Rikers jail inmate, 39, dies in custody
A 39-year-old detainee at the Rikers Island jail facility died on Sunday, officials said. He’s the 17th inmate to die while in custody this year, though two others died shortly after receiving compassionate release. There were 16 DOC-related deaths in 2021.
Conditions in Corrections
AP: Man ‘baked to death’ in overheated prison cell
A federal lawsuit against Alabama corrections officials charges that an inmate “baked to death” in an overheated prison cell two winters ago. Thomas Lee Rutledge died of hyperthermia on Dec. 7, 2020, at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer. Rutledge had an internal temperature of 109 degrees when he was found unresponsive in the mental health cell, according to the lawsuit which was filed by the man’s sister and names prison staff, wardens and contractors as defendants.
New Jersey Monitor: Prison homicide shines light on inmate deaths
An inmate just one day away from freedom who was allegedly beaten to death in his cell last month was one of 48 who have died in New Jersey state prisons this year. The number represents a sharp increase from 2021, when 39 people died behind bars, but it’s down from 100 in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to state Department of Corrections. The Prison Policy Institute found that deaths in state prisons rose 41% from 2001 to 2018, even though the state prison population only grew by 1% during the same period.
Desert Sun: COVID outbreaks shouldn't stop rehabilitative programming in prison
I watched the debates over people’s rights during the COVID emergency from behind California prison walls. Here inside Ironwood State Prison, prisoners are afforded a narrow range of “rights,” which can be suspended to preserve institutional security. So, in March 2020, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) denied prisoners all their visiting privileges, educational and vocational classes, self-help groups, religious service gatherings, and many work assignments. In effect, CDCR closed the system to the outside world and put prisoner rehabilitation on indefinite hold.
3 News: Ely State Prison hunger strike sparks health concerns
More than a dozen inmates at a maximum-security prison in Nevada remain on a hunger strike which remains concerning for health experts. According to The Nevada Department of Corrections, 20 offenders were participating in the hunger strike as of Wednesday afternoon. Of those, 15 have refused food for 14 days straight since December 1.
The Sentencing Project: Why Youth Incarceration Fails: An Updated Review of the Evidence
Though the number of youth confined nationwide has declined significantly over the past two decades, our country still incarcerates far too many young people. It does so despite overwhelming evidence showing that incarceration is an ineffective strategy for steering youth away from delinquent behavior and that high rates of youth incarceration do not improve public safety.
Juvenile Justice Exchange: Connecticut’s turnaround of troubled juvenile system sets a standard, says justice-equity organization
Connecticut has turned its troubled juvenile facilities into what federal officials have cited as exemplary national models. Staffing is up dramatically, in part because directors talked to employees about their worries and took steps to solve them. The focus on intensive counseling is part of Connecticut’s Re-Entry, Goal-oriented, Individualized, Opportunity to Nurture Success program, or REGIONS. The program’s secure portion, for children convicted of serious crimes, has room for 34 boys at a time spread across Hartford, Bridgeport and Hamden, plus 12 spots for girls at a facility in Mansfield Center.
Correctional Officer Shortage
Gothamist: No weekends, not enough evenings—the long, frustrating process of visiting loved ones in Nassau’s jail
Nassau County lawmakers will hear testimony Wednesday on a staffing shortage at the county’s jail that critics say has created a frustratingly restrictive visiting policy—with no weekend visits, no televisits for family, and evening visits just two days a week. Visits at the jail are more restricted than in New York City, Suffolk and Westchester counties. Nassau has three hours of after-work visiting slots, but only on Thursday and Friday. Most other jails in the region have more evening hours, plus weekends.
Public Defender Shortage
Law 360: The Cases That Most Affected Access To Justice In 2022
The public defender shortage isn't new, but criminal defendants in several states took legal action this year to address it. Wisconsinites charged with crimes filed a proposed class action lawsuit in August over what they called the "devastating" impact of the state's dearth of public defenders. A similar suit was filed in May by criminal defendants in Oregon. And in July, a Maine judge granted class certification to a suit over that state's alleged failure to provide adequate legal counsel to indigent defendants.
Honolulu Civil Beat: Hawaii’s Prison Medical Records System Has Reached A Point of ‘Absolute Crisis’
The state correctional system is struggling with an electronic medical records system (eClinicalWorks), that hasn’t worked properly since June, and medical staff at Hawaii prisons and jails are unable to access medical records including vaccination data for many inmates, according to corrections workers. That last point is particularly frustrating because the Department of Public Safety began offering $50 incentive payments to prisoners more than a year ago to encourage them to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health
Law 360: 3rd Circ. Grapples With Solitary Confinement Of Mentally Ill
At the Third Circuit, a late prisoner's lawsuit has placed a spotlight on Eighth Amendment concerns with placing mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement. Delaware officials are requesting a rehearing en banc after a Third Circuit panel recently revived a lawsuit brought by a mentally ill prisoner who spent seven months in solitary confinement, with the panel finding that qualified immunity did not apply.
Observer: Risks behind bars: Suicide attempts have increased at county jail
The number of inmates who have attempted suicide at the Chautauqua County Jail has increased significantly in the last two and a half years. Sheriff James Quattrone believes the spike can be directly linked to the restrictions imposed during the COVID pandemic. Quattrone did confirm that two inmates have died by suicide since 2018, one that was reported in 2021. The other occurred this month — on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Cal Matters: Why a mentally disabled man was jailed nine years awaiting a murder trial that never happened
Arrested at age 27, Mays’ intellectual disability made it hard for him to make sense of terms like “no contest” or “plea bargain” or even the role of a judge and jury. He told one psychologist he thought he was in jail for witnessing a murder. His disability left him vulnerable to brutal assaults, documented in Sacramento County criminal court and jail medical records. He spent so many years in solitary confinement he developed a severe vitamin D deficiency, according to a class action lawsuit.
Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections
NY Times: D.A. to Fund Mental Health Care for People Arrested in Manhattan
Many New Yorkers charged with crimes will be connected with mental health and housing services soon after their first court appearances in an effort to speed treatment, Manhattan’s district attorney said on Wednesday. The $9 million initiative, which will also include community outreach that is separate from the court system, will help defendants, some of whom now wait weeks or months before gaining access to care, said Alvin Bragg, the district attorney.
The Olympian: Thurston County commits to reducing number of people with mental illness in its jail
Thurston County has made a commitment to reduce the number of people experiencing mental illness at its county jail. Last Tuesday, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to join the Stepping Up Initiative. This nationwide program connects hundreds of counties and provides resources to further its goal.
CFPB: Consumers harmed by prison financial services company JPay to receive compensation
The CFPB penalized the prison financial services company JPay for violating the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) by charging consumers fees to access their own money on prepaid debit cards that consumers were forced to use. JPay also violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) when it required consumers to receive their government benefits through a JPay debit card, including their “gate money,” which is money provided under state law to help people meet their essential needs as they are released from incarceration.
Correctional Health Care Vendors
Brainerd dispatch: Crow Wing County Jail medical staff working without pay after provider bankruptcy
Crow Wing County officials are scrambling to make sure medical treatment for people housed in the county jail is not interrupted and the staff members providing care are paid. Described as an emergency situation by County Administrator Tim Houle, the Sartell-based medical services provider MEnD Correctional Care quit paying its staff after declaring bankruptcy late last month.
Yahoo: Buckfire Law Wins Jail Death Trial Against Corizon Health’s Employees
A six-person jury handed down a $6.4 million verdict against Corizon Health’s employees in a federal court trial in Lansing, Mich. The wrongful death lawsuit was filed Jan. 14, 2020, and the verdict was rendered on Dec. 1, 2022. Attorneys Jennifer Damico and Sarah Gorski of The Buckfire Law Firm tried the case to verdict after three weeks of witness testimony. Mr. Jones was serving a five-day sentence for third-degree retail fraud (theft of under $100.00).
11 News: Inmate health care provider explains withdrawal protocols
There is new information about detox procedures in the Mesa County jails days after an inmate died in custody while on a special medical watch. Mesa County contracts with NaphCare—a national inmate health provider. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office tells us staff follows the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare protocols.
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Jury awards $4 million in Virginia prison death case
On the day before Robert Boley’s death, the prison nurse wouldn’t see him. Court records detail how, at the urging of his fellow inmates, Boley lay down in front of the prison medical bay, in the hopes that Arleathia Peck, the on-duty nurse, would take his chest pain seriously. Last week, jurors in a civil trial found the prison’s private health care provider, Armor Correctional Healthcare, as well as the prison’s nurse and on-duty sergeant, liable in Boley’s death.