Weekly Update: July 26, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: July 26, 2022

Highlighted Stories

New York Times: 2020 Election Deniers Seek Out Powerful Allies: County Sheriffs
An influential network of conservative activists fixated on the idea that former President Donald J. Trump won the 2020 election is working to recruit county sheriffs to investigate elections based on the false notion that voter fraud is widespread. The push, which two right-wing sheriffs’ groups have already endorsed, seeks to lend law enforcement credibility to the false claims.

GreenWire: BIA faulted for neglecting inmates’ health in jail deaths
The systemic problems that prompted an Interior Department overhaul of Bureau of Indian Affairs detention programs are vividly detailed in a report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The study of 16 in-custody deaths found correctional officers disbelieving inmates’ health complaints. Cells weren’t checked. Emergency medical care came late. Equally important, subsequent BIA investigations seemed perfunctory. Names were spelled wrong. Lab tests, photographs and interviews were lacking.

OJP: Special Feature - Community Corrections
Of the 5.5 million adults under some type of correctional supervision at the end of 2020, nearly 70 percent (3.89 million) were under community supervision—3 million on probation and the remainder on parole—according to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Digital technology offers community corrections officials new tools to monitor individuals on probation or parole and help keep them on track. Transitioning back into the community following a period of incarceration can be challenging, for reasons ranging from substance use to lack of employment options.

The Crime Report: Memo to Prosecutors: Visit Your Local Prison
Every day, prosecutors across the country assume the immense responsibility of asking courts to take away people’s freedom and separate them from family and loved ones. Yet, many prosecutors have never stepped foot in the jails and prisons these individuals are sent to, or in any correctional facility at all.

Brennan Center For Justice: Perverse Financial Incentives in Criminal Justice
Since peaking at over 1.5 million people in 2009, the U.S. prison population has declined, but at the achingly slow pace of 1 percent annually. At this rate, it will take until nearly the end of the century to get back to the incarceration levels of the late 1980s. What’s the holdup? It pays to punish. The examples of perverse financial incentives are many. Some local governments collect fees for acting as intermediaries between the federal government and for-profit detention facilities. Local govern­ments have also overindulged in fines and fees, sometimes building budgets around them.


JAMA: Access to Primary and Specialty Health Care in the California State Prison Population During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Incarceration is a social determinant of health, and most justice-involved people have a higher burden of chronic illness. This is on top of the higher acuity at which the incarcerated population experienced COVID-19, the researchers pointed out. During the first few waves of the pandemic, incarcerated people in the state of California saw decreases in access to routine primary care and specialty care, the analysis of the over 110,000 incarcerated individuals showed.

Oregon Capital Chronicle: Nearly half of Oregon’s inmate population included in first class action suit of its kind
A federal lawsuit involving current or former Oregon inmates infected with Covid, including one who died, is moving forward with notification of nearly half of the state’s prison population of their inclusion in the class-action suit. The U.S. District Court in Eugene certified the class-action status of the suit in April. Since then, an administrator appointed by the court has been reaching out to the class-action members. They include about 5,000 people who were infected with Covid and incarcerated in Oregon.

Opioid Epidemic

New York Times: Soaring Overdose Rates in the Pandemic Reflected Widening Racial Disparities
The pandemic’s devastating impact on drug overdose deaths in the United States hit people of color the hardest, with rates among young Black people rising the most sharply, according to a federal report that was released on Tuesday and that analyzed overdose data by race, age and income. Overall, overdose deaths jumped 30 percent from 2019 to 2020.

Fair and Just Prosecutions: Drug-Induced Homicide Prosecutions
Despite growing public recognition that the overdose crisis requires public health solutions, not carceral and punitive responses,8 some local and federal prosecutors have responded to this rise in overdose deaths by dramatically increasing the rate at which they pursue drug-induced homicide charges (also known as “drug delivery resulting in death” in some jurisdictions).

JDSupra: White House Issues Telehealth Guidance on Substance Use Disorder Services
On June 22, 2022, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) issued guidance advocating for Congress and federal agencies to make permanent certain telehealth access measures for people struggling with substance use disorders (SUD). ONDCP specifically examined the impact of telehealth on individuals living with SUD and ultimately concluded that “individuals living with SUD are part of a particularly vulnerable group of people who would likely benefit from increased accessibility to health care providers through telehealth.”

CIProud.com: Relaxed methadone rules appear safe, researchers find
As the coronavirus pandemic shut down the nation in March of 2020, the U.S. government told methadone clinics they could allow stable patients with opioid addiction to take their medicine at home unsupervised. Methadone, an opioid itself, can be dangerous in large amounts and most patients are required to take the liquid medicine daily at clinics. It wasn’t clear whether the relaxed take-home policy would cause more harm than good. Now, a new study of fatal overdoses from January 2019 to August 2021 suggests that easing access was safe.

Bail Reform

NBC News: Bail reform emerges as new flashpoint in midterm messaging on crime
Amid a contentious midterm elections season and rising crime rates in some areas, longstanding political attacks on criminal justice reform have found a new foe: bail reform. Changes to the cash bail system in many states — which have allowed more people in jail awaiting trial to be released — have become a lightning rod for voter fears about crime.

New York Times: G.O.P. Assails N.Y. Bail Laws After Suspect in Zeldin Attack Is Released
An attempted assault on Representative Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for governor of New York, inflamed a fierce debate over the state’s public safety laws on Friday, hours after a man accused of charging the candidate with a pointed weapon was released without bail.

Detroit Free Press: Detroit's 36th District Court to limit the use of cash bail after settling lawsuit
Michigan's busiest district court will limit the use of cash bail, saying the practice disproportionately burdens poor people and puts them behind bars. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the National ACLU and law firm Covington & Burling joined 36th District Court judges on Tuesday to announce that the Detroit court will not detain people for being unable to pay bail unless a judge determines that their release poses a flight risk or danger to the public.

Pregnancy In Corrections

Justice Gap: ‘Urgent action’ required to address healthcare needs of women in prison, report finds
A report published this week by the Nuffield Trust called for ‘urgent action’ to address the ‘very real’ risks to pregnant prisoners. The research found that 11% of women in prison who gave birth between 2016 and 2019 experienced preterm labour and delivery, compared with 6.5% of the general population. Preterm labour and delivery carry significant health risks to both women and babies, increasing the likelihood of infection, blood loss, and death.

Corrections 1: Baby born in New York county jail
A baby boy was born in a Niagara County Jail cell Saturday evening as an ambulance rushed to the scene. "Within 30 to 40 minutes from the incarcerated individual saying they were having some pains, there was a baby born," Chief Daniel N. Greenwald said. "So it happened extremely quickly." It's not uncommon for jails and prisons to hold expectant mothers. A study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that 4% of women who entered a prison in the United States from 2016-17 were pregnant.


CalMatters: California counties siphon Social Security benefits from some foster kids
California county child welfare agencies regularly reimburse themselves for caring for foster youth by applying for and taking the children’s Social Security benefits — money that advocates say should instead be going to the children. Some children in foster care have disabilities and are from low-income families, qualifying them for a Social Security program called Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.

Daily Kos: Juvenile incarceration justice in America: Rehabilitation is key
The leadership of the United States of America has convinced us that punishment is the only acceptable solution to crime. Its “tough on crime” approach led to the problem that is mass incarceration. But perhaps the most sinister part is the failure of the system to offer rehabilitation and a second chance to youth offenders. According to the National Governors Association, 27 states “currently do not set forth a minimum age of prosecution through statute; however, several states recently have introduced some form of legislation related to the minimum age of juvenile prosecution.”


The Appeal: Why Elderly Incarcerated People Struggle to Find Care After Prison
As the chorus of voices pushing for elder release grows louder, another problem has emerged: It is incredibly difficult to secure eldercare for the formerly incarcerated. A recent study estimated that at least 60,000 people aged 50 or older will be released from prison annually, and advocates say states urgently need to scale up their capacity to provide compassionate care for these individuals, who often have nowhere else to turn.

Solitary Confinement

Medical Xpress: Rates of solitary confinement of incarcerated people with mental illness three times higher
Harsh prison conditions, including solitary confinement, affect the mental health of incarcerated people. But few studies have considered how the criminalization of mental health status contributes to harsh treatment in the criminal justice system. A new study examined inequities in the incidence and duration of solitary confinement by mental health status. The study found high rates of punitive isolation among those with serious mental illness.

Sacramento Bee: One of California’s worst human rights abuses is still taking place. It has to stop
In an op-ed, Chris Holden, a Democratic state assemblyman from Los Angeles County, writes: Although California has made progress on humane and effective rehabilitation of incarcerated people, solitary confinement stands out as an abysmal failure. I recently visited California State Prison, Sacramento, to see the conditions inside its solitary confinement units. The incarcerated frequently spend 23 hours a day in that dark and dehumanizing housing unit. Their hour or so of reprieve from their cells takes place in a series of locked cages. Their “outdoor recreation” takes place in 10-by-10-foot, chain-link cages arranged atop a concrete pad.

Heat Wave

Texas A&M Today: Extreme Heat At Texas Prisons An ‘Ongoing But Preventable Disaster,’ Report Says
As millions of Americans continue to sweat through triple-digit temperatures this week, the incarcerated population within most of Texas’ prisons are living without air conditioning. According to a new report, dying from heat is a common fear among inmates – and the failure to mitigate the issue is systemic. J. Carlee Purdum, a research assistant professor at Texas A&M University, presented the findings to lawmakers last week. The report says, the system will remain under extreme stress, putting the population at risk for health emergencies.

Mississippi Today: After 121 scalding Mississippi summers, Parchman prison is getting air conditioning
After 121 summers in the Mississippi Delta, the state’s oldest and largest prison (sParchman) is getting air conditioning. Cell blocks at Parchman, located in the scalding fields of the Delta, are made out of concrete. A U.S. Department of Justice report about poor conditions at Parchman said temperatures inside the prison sometimes reach up to 145 degrees.

Staffing Shortages

Axios: Arkansas prison system staffed on a shoestring
Almost one-third of Arkansas' Division of Corrections staff turned over during fiscal year 2021. Security staff alone — those interacting the most with inmates — saw a 37% turnover rate in 2021, up from about 30% the two years prior. Arkansas' Department of Corrections — the umbrella overseeing the division — has 156 job openings posted. The vacancy rate for corrections officers in the state is an astonishing 46%.

Patch: Staffing Woes Affect Mental Health Care At Essex County Prison
The Essex County Correctional Facility – which is accredited by the American Correctional Association – has seen vocal criticism in recent years from advocates, family members of inmates and staff members, who allege that a variety of health and safety risks have taken place at the jail. taffing across all sectors of the jail is spread thin. In the case of mental and behavioral health care, it only allows for attention to the most urgent cases.

Fines and Fees

Vera: Driver’s License Suspensions for Unpaid Debt: Punishing Poverty
More than half of U.S. states criminalize people who can’t pay up and punish them by taking away their driver’s license. This translates to an estimated 11 million people nationally with suspended driver’s licenses simply because they can’t afford to pay off their fines and fees. For too many people, driving on a suspended license is the only way to survive—even if it means risking additional fines, higher reinstatement fees, and jail time.


Prison Policy Initiative: New Correctional Contracts Library shows you what companies are profiting off of incarcerated people in your area
The Correctional Contracts Library contains documents that show how companies profit on the backs of incarcerated people and their families. This is a collection of hundreds of documents, including contracts, bids, evaluations, and more. The Library includes documents related to phone service, tablets, electronic messaging, commissary, and more.

Justice Clearing House: Police Accountability: Increasing Supervisor Expectations in Identifying and Responding to Slippery Slope Behaviors
To create a culture of accountability, it is essential that Police Executives emphasize and expect supervisor engagement, provide supervisors with the knowledge and skills needed to recognize conduct, behaviors, and actions which could lead to officer misconduct, and require supervisors to take action to improve and/or discipline those behaviors.

Denver 7: New report reveals where people in Colorado prisons come from
The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and the Prison Policy Initiative recently released a new report that details the Colorado communities most impacted by incarceration. Every Colorado legislative district — and nearly every county — is impacted, where a portion of its population is incarcerated in state prisons. However, the degree of that impact varies wildly when you drill down into the neighborhood level.

US News & World Report: Corrections Ranking
Corrections is worth one-half of the weight in ranking the Best States for crime and corrections. This subcategory is further broken into three metrics: incarceration rate, juvenile incarceration and racial equality in jailing. Corrections cost billions of dollars a year, with state and local spending increasing at triple the rate of public elementary and secondary education funding.

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

Corrections 1: 4 innovative approaches to inmate suicide prevention
Inmate suicide prevention is a huge focus in correctional training and day-to-day jail operations. And for good reason: Suicide makes up 1.7% of all deaths in the U.S., but 30% of all jail deaths. Nearly 10% of jails experienced a suicide in 2019 – a figure that doesn’t include suicide attempts. It’s not surprising, then, that the issue of inmate suicide was a focus at this year’s American Jail Association Conference & Jail Expo. Even in sessions focused on other topics, inmate suicide prevention kept coming up.

Los Angles Times: An L.A. program helps people get mental health care instead of jail time. Why not expand it?
In an op-ed, James Bianco, a California Superior Court judge, writes: As a mental health court judge, I work every day with people who are homeless and have serious mental illness. What works is the kind of help provided by the L.A. County Office of Diversion and Reentry. ODR has built a track record — supported by data — of moving people with mental health issues out of jail and onto a path to permanent supportive housing, keeping them off the streets and out of hospitals and incarceration long term. A 2019 Rand Corp. report found that a year after being served by ODR’s supportive housing programs, 74% had stable housing and 86% remained free of new felony convictions.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Altoona Mirror: Inmate challenges ‘harsh conditions’ at state prisons
A state prison inmate suffering from severe mental health issues is refusing to give up his attempts to address what he considers the harsh conditions and lack of treatment provided to him by state prisons. In a petition filed with the U.S. District Court in Johnstown, Troy Cooper, 51, said he was “subjected to extreme isolation and inadequate mental health care.” He stated that he was locked in his cell for 22 hours a day.

Private Prisons

ABC: Judge limits lawyer's tweets about prison firm he's suing
A federal magistrate judge has ordered an attorney suing a private prison firm over an inmate's death to delete certain tweets — one of which describes the company as a “death factory” — and restrict his public commentary going forward. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffery Frensley issued the order last week in response to an argument from Tennessee-based CoreCivic that the public posts put the company's right to a fair trial at risk.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Alabama Political Reporter: Alabama NaphCare hit with $27 million verdict for prison death
Alabama-based NaphCare was hit last week with a $27 million verdict for its role in the 2018 prison death of a 55-year-old woman at the Spokane County (Washington) jail. Cindy Lou Hill arrived at the Spokane Jail in August 2018, on heroin possession charges. On her fourth day at the jail, Hill was found shirtless and on a cell floor in pain.

Lompoc Record: Inmate overdose reversed inside Santa Barbara County's Northern Branch Jail
Custody deputies and a WellPath nurse used naloxone Tuesday to prevent the death of an inmate who was overdosing on fentanyl at the Northern Branch Jail near Santa Maria, a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said. At 4:13 p.m., custody deputies who noticed an inmate was unresponsive and lying on the floor in the intake area entered the cell and found the inmate pale and cold. Within minutes,WellPath staff administered two rounds of naloxone nasal spray to the inmate, who remained unresponsive.

People's World: Abuse by Wellpath LLC healthcare in Pennsylvania prisons spurs lawsuits
When Daniel Newberg arrived at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution, he informed the correctional officers and nurses that he had a history of attempted suicide and would need his prescribed medications for bipolar disorder and depression. Over the next several days, the staff ignored the obvious deterioration of Newberg’s mental state. They failed to follow procedure outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ contract with healthcare provider Wellpath. On his sixth day there, Newberg attempted suicide by jumping from the second tier of his cell block to the concrete floor below.

8 NewsNow: Mother files lawsuit following daughter’s death in Las Vegas jail cell
Susan Tucci’s struggles with substance abuse landed her in and out of jail over the past decade, but in June of 2021, Tucci did not leave the city jail alive. In a video, Tucci, 36, is shown having a seizure inside a jail cell. She is then shown facedown on the floor. It appears no one checked on Tucci for about two hours. Susan’s motherhas filed a lawsuit against companies Wellpath and NaphCare. According to the lawsuit, NaphCare provides medical services inside the city jail, while Wellpath provides medical care inside the Clark County Detention Center.

CBS Duluth: County Board to consider dropping controversial jail healthcare contract
The St. Louis County Board will consider dropping its contract with a controversial company providing healthcare to inmates in the county jail. According to the resolution on the County Board’s agenda for its Tuesday meeting, if approved, the county would end its contract with MEnD Correctional Care and partner with Duluth’s St. Luke’s Hospital instead.