COCHS Weekly Update: December 21, 2021
The Weekly Update is taking a holiday break and will resume after the new year.
The New York Times: This Bill Could Save the Lives of Formerly Incarcerated People
The Medicaid Re-entry Act, one of the many policy proposals thrown into limbo with the collapse of the Build Back Better Act this weekend, seeks to smooth this transition. The legislation would clear the way for states to use Medicaid to provide coverage for inmates up to 30 days before the inmates’ scheduled release. Studies have shown a decline in the health of the recently released, who experience significantly higher rates of death and hospitalization compared to the general populace. The first two weeks can be especially dangerous.
The Crime Report: Collapse of Biden Plan Leaves Medicaid Help for Ex-Incarcerees in Limbo
Incarcerees are currently excluded from federal health coverage because they are considered “inmates of a public institution. ” Thus, when someone is released, they have to start the enrollment process from the get-go — a time- and labor-intensive process that is draining and acts as a deterrent to getting help, according to the Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS) website .
Kaiser Family Foundation : State Policies Connecting Justice-Involved Populations to Medicaid Coverage and Care
An increasing number of states coordinate care for incarcerated Medicaid enrollees upon release through managed care organization (MCO) requirements and/or fee-for-service (FFS) initiatives. Some states are seeking Section 1115 waiver authority to partially waive the inmate exclusion and provide Medicaid coverage pre-release to certain groups of incarcerated individuals. In addition to requests to expand pre-release coverage and initiatives coordinating care upon release (discussed earlier in this brief), states also have approved and pending Section 1115 waivers targeting services and supports to no-longer-incarcerated enrollees with previous justice involvement.
Prison Policy Initiative: Recent studies shed light on what reproductive “choice” looks like in prisons and jails
Studies reveal that abortion and contraception access varies greatly between states — and that abortion access for incarcerated people is related to broader state policies. Even in states that officially allow abortion, many people may be effectively blocked from obtaining the care they need, thanks to insurmountable barriers like self-payment requirements and physical distance from abortion caregivers.
The Fresno Bee: ‘I probably cried every day.’ Tulare County jails denying prenatal care, ACLU says
The ACLU of Northern California last month sent a letter to Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, expressing its “deep concern over the severely inadequate and unlawful provision of prenatal care in the Tulare County jails.” The Nov. 18 letter details the stories of three pregnant women who were denied adequate prenatal care in Tulare County jails.
COVID-19 In Corrections
North Carolina Health News: Prisoners on work release fear bringing in COVID from the outside, then spreading it inside
Despite being at the end of their sentences, incarcerated people at work release camps have to deal with intersecting risks, such as repeatedly going to the outside world where COVID-19 is running rampant. Exposure could be deadly because it means bringing the disease back to the camp, where it could potentially spread and sicken others. Introducing any form of transportation, such as transfers in between prisons or transport via bus to a work release program just increases the chance of getting sick.
North Coast Journal: Six More Jail Inmates Test Positive for COVID-19
Another six Humboldt County jail inmates tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday amid an outbreak that has now infected 21 people, including six correctional officers. Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Samantha Karges said in an email to the Journal that all the inmates who tested positive yesterday were in the same housing unit as the other nine inmates who have tested positive for the virus.
The CT Mirror: A cancer patient was sent to prison for DUI. Two months later, he was dead from COVID.
William Lamprecht stood before the judge in a Torrington courtroom in September fearing the four months he was about to spend in prison would become a death sentence. Lamprecht was sent to the New Haven Correctional Center that day – the jail with the second-most COVID cases among DOC facilities since the onset of the pandemic. He died alone, isolated in a hospital bed, of COVID-19 that he contracted in one of the three prisons and jails he served time in.
The Crime Report: COVID Booster Shots Unavailable for Incarcerees in 40 States
Over 40 states have not provided COVID booster shots to incarcerees, says the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI). As the country confronts a new variant in the COVID pandemic, PPI said a nationwide survey uncovered flaws in reporting and data collection in state facilities that rival mistakes seen when the infection first took hold in prisons last year. Now that case rates are spiking again with the onset of the Omicron variant, data on the vaccinations and booster doses are scarce and incomplete across our country’s prison systems.
COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate
Voice of Orange County: OC Sheriff Staff Have Biggest Share of COVID Worker’s Comp Claims Among County Workers
Orange County sheriff staff are getting hit with COVID-19 illnesses at a much higher rate than other large county departments, and are by far the largest share of pandemic-related worker’s compensation costs the county has paid so far. Sheriff staff, who had the lowest self-reported vaccination rate – at 16% – among county employees as of the latest available data from August, are around 20% of the county government workforce. The sheriff’s deputies’ union previously pushed back against a state mandate requiring jailhouse deputies to be vaccinated.
The CT Mirror: CT’s strict vaccine mandate for medical staff doesn’t apply to prisons
More than 600 employees at the Department of Correction may opt to test weekly in lieu of being vaccinated against COVID-19, a CT Mirror analysis has found, because the state is not requiring prison medical staff to apply for medical or religious exemptions. That policy is inconsistent with rules for the majority of health care workers at the departments of Veteran’s Affairs, Children and Families, Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Developmental Services.
The New York Times: A Rare Glimmer of Hope at Rikers Island: Can It Last?
Commissioner, Vincent Schiraldi, is a cerebral reformer who has spent an illustrious career in a public life trying to end mass incarceration. Mr. Schiraldi remains deeply sympathetic both to guards who are exhausted, scared and quick to go on the offensive, and toward detainees who are often ignored, debased, violated and easily triggered. “I wish I could say that people are exaggerating on either side,” he said. “But they’re not.” The staff shortage has left many guards working 17 hours straight.
The City: Adams Vows to Bring Solitary Confinement Back to Rikers Island, Scrapping Reforms
When scores of city correction officers rallied against proposed jail reforms in front of the bridge leading to Rikers Island last summer, they chanted “Bring back the box!” — referring to solitary confinement. On Thursday, Mayor-elect Eric Adams promised to do so. Adams’ close ties to Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno LLC, a lobbying firm that represents jail workers, has raised questions about the future of chaotic Rikers Island and the beleaguered Correction Department.
The New York Times: Eric Adams Says He Wants to Close Rikers. It May Not Be That Simple.
As the Rikers Island jail complex descended into chaos this year, Eric Adams was clear: If elected, he would back Mayor Bill de Blasio’s watershed plan to close the notorious facility by 2027 and replace it with newer, smaller lockups across New York City. But as Mr. Adams prepares to take office, his support for closing Rikers appears increasingly to be on a collision course with his promises to crack down on crime and accommodate local leaders’ opposition to the new jail sites.
The New York Times: On Rikers, Brooklyn Man Becomes Latest Detainee to Die in Custody
A Brooklyn man who was being held on Rikers Island suffered a medical emergency and died on Tuesday night, becoming the latest detainee to die in New York City’s troubled main jail complex as city officials struggle to restore order there.
District of Columbia
Washington Post: D.C. attorney general stops representing corrections officials in ongoing battle over jail conditions
The D.C. attorney general’s office has stopped representing the city’s Department of Corrections in “all matters arising out of or related to” a surprise inspection conducted by the U.S. Marshals Service that prompted the removal of hundreds of those housed at the D.C. jail over what officials described as poor conditions and treatment. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) notified DOC Director Quincy Booth of the decision Dec. 9 in a letter that said “the interests of DOC … will be better served by outside counsel” and urged the agency to “seek outside counsel as soon as possible.”
AP: Groups seek probe of Alabama use of virus funds for prisons
Nearly two dozen organizations have sent a letter asking the U.S. House Financial Services Committee to investigate Alabama’s plan to use $400 million in coronavirus pandemic relief funds to build two super-size prisons. The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, The Sentencing Project and others signed on to a letter arguing that prison construction is an improper use of COVID-19 relief dollars from the American Rescue Plan.
Sheriffs in The News
KAKE.com: The first female sheriff of Orleans Parish is also the first Black woman to hold the job in Louisiana
Voters in New Orleans elected the first female sheriff of Orleans Parish on Saturday, upsetting a four-term incumbent. Susan Hutson defeated Sheriff Marlin Gusman in Saturday's runoff election. Returns from the Louisiana Secretary of State show Hutson won with 53% of the vote. Gusman had been sheriff since 2004. Her campaign focused on criminal justice reform, which includes opposing the expansion of the parish's jail, providing gender-confirming housing and ending the contract with the jail's health care provider, her website states.
Washington Post: Beware the extremist, dangerous and unconstitutional ‘constitutional sheriffs’
Constitutional sheriffs assert they have the power not only to enforce the law but to be the ultimate arbiters of what the law is in their counties. Contending that this authority supersedes that of all other government officials — including state governors and the president — they refuse to enforce a range of public safety laws, from local mask mandates to state and federal gun laws. These sheriffs base this claim to power on their oath to uphold the Constitution. (Although even the National Sheriffs’ Association notes that this oath is taken by every law enforcement officer and confers no special authority on sheriffs.)
The Hill: Idaho sheriff accused of pulling gun on church youth group
Idaho's attorney general on Tuesday charged a county sheriff on two felony counts for allegedly threatening a Christian youth group with a firearm last month. Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland is charged with the felonies of aggravated battery and aggravated assault. Rowland talked to the youth group but became concerned when he saw a vehicle behind them. He approached the vehicle with his firearm and yelled multiple profanities at a woman, identified as the adult leader in charge of the youth group in court documents.
Use of Force in Criminal Justice
The New York Times: Man Dies After He Is Shot by the Police With a Stun Gun and Catches Fire
New York’s attorney general is investigating the death of a 29-year-old man who was badly burned when he was shot with a stun gun after dousing himself with hand sanitizer. The man, Jason Jones of Catskill, N.Y., died on Wednesday. In an investigation of officers’ use of so-called conducted-energy weapons — the best known being the Taser — USA Today and the Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism found “a pattern of sloppy, reckless and deadly use of the weapon involved in hundreds of deaths and injuries in the past decade.”
US News & World Report: ACLU Lawsuit Accuses Prison Officers of Excessive Force
A federal lawsuit filed Friday by civil rights lawyers claims officers at a Delaware prison beat two inmates without justification. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware represent the lawsuit's plaintiffs, William “Bill” Davis and Isaac Montague, who were pretrial detainees at Sussex Correctional Institution. Both men claim officers beat them and deployed pepper spray into their nose and mouth as they were held down.
Corrections 1: Rural innovation sites showcase best practices in reentry and diversion programs
While rural communities face unique challenges that impact their ability to deliver fair and equitable justice, rural communities also have numerous strengths that help their communities address the needs of their residents. The Rural Justice Collaborative (RJC) Advisory Council recently announced the selection of an initial group of nine Rural Innovation Sites. These sites are the country’s most innovative rural justice programs that serve as models for other communities. Two out of the nine sites have an especially significant impact on the work of correctional officers and support staff.
Portland Press Herald: A helping hand for those released from York County Jail
When residents are released from York County Jail in Alfred, they will now be taking a ditty bag with them that contains an array of tangible items and information designed to help them as they transition from incarceration. That bag includes a basic first aid kit, a fentanyl test kit, hand sanitizer, the opioid overdose drug naloxone, birth control, a snack or two and an array of information with phone numbers of organizations providing assistance for substance misuse, mental health resources, and more.
Phys.org: College-in-prison program found to reduce recidivism significantly
A new study sought to determine the effects of a college-in-prison program, the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI). The study found a large and significant reduction in recidivism rates across racial groups among those who participated in the program. It also found that participants with higher levels of participation had even lower rates of recidivism
NIJ: Pathways to Desistance From Crime Among Juveniles and Adults: Applications to Criminal Justice Policy and Practice
The age-crime curve creates a paradox. Individuals are more susceptible to crime in late adolescence and early adulthood, but they are also more likely to abandon criminal behavior after this period. As such, some of the more punitive criminal justice interventions targeting adolescents and emerging adults may interrupt an otherwise downward slope of criminal behavior.
Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health
City & State New York: It’s time to stop throwing young people with undertreated mental health conditions issues in jail
In an opinion piece, Melissa Vergara and Peggy Herrera write: It is both as mothers and as mental health professionals that we declare, that the school-to-prison pipeline for children of color has to stop. We have to fully fund the programs and services that can actually respond to mental health needs, instead of relying on police, courts and jails to fill a gap they will never be equipped for. There is lots of talk about treatment as an alternative to our costly and deadly jail system, but existing mental health courts are vastly under-utilized, with prosecutors playing gatekeeper and continuing to slam the door on those who need help.
The Crime Report: Capital Punishment’s Victims Now ‘the Most Vulnerable of the Vulnerable’
Despite a decline in executions across the country, capital punishment continues to be imposed on inmates with mental disabilities and others with lack of access to adequate legal counsel, says the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).
Centre Daily Times: Ex-OC deputy charged with throwing scalding water on inmate
A former Orange County sheriff's deputy is accused of throwing scalding water on a mentally ill inmate who didn't receive medical treatment for his burns for more than six hours, the county district attorney's office announced Monday.
Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice
nj.com: In a overcrowded justice system, mental health diversions work
Unlike 22 other states, New Jersey doesn’t have a network of mental health courts, where defendants who commit nonviolent, petty crimes can be diverted to treatment programs if they have a mental illness. Legislative efforts to create mental health courts have been stalled for years in our state, and our finest jurists have decided that this can no longer wait. A mental health diversion program adopted by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner was recently launched in Essex and Morris Counties, and it could become the model used throughout the rest of the state.
Data & Statistics
The Crime Report: US Prison Population Decreased 15% in 2020
In 2020, the number of persons held in state or federal prisons in the United States declined 15 percent, from 1,430,200 at year-end 2019 to 1,215,800 at year-end 2020, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Inmate releases during the COVID-19 pandemic accounted for most of the decline, according to the report. Trial delays were another factor. Because courts significantly altered operations, they took in 40 percent less cases in state and federal prison compared to 2019.
BJS: Prisoners in 2020 – Statistical Tables
In 2020, the number of persons held in state or federal prisons in the United States declined 15%, from 1,430,200 at yearend 2019 to 1,215,800 at yearend 2020.
BJS: Jail Inmates in 2020 – Statistical Table
The number of inmates in local jails across the United States decreased 25% from midyear 2019 (734,500) to midyear 2020 (549,100), after a 10-year period of relative stability (figure 1; table 1). About 167 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents were incarcerated in local jails at midyear 2020, down from 224 per 100,000 in 2019.
BJS: Profile of Prison Inmates, 2016
This report describes the characteristics of state and federal prisoners in 2016, including demographics, education, and marital status. Findings are based on data from BJS’s 2016 Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI), which is conducted periodically and consists of personal interviews with prisoners.
BJS/University of Michigan: National Prisoner Statistics, 1978-2020
BJS/University of Michigan: Mortality in Correctional Institutions: State Prisons, 2001-2019
BJS/University of Michigan: Mortality in Correctional Institutions: Local Jails, 2000-2019
BJS/University of Michigan: Mortality in Correctional Institutions: Jail Populations, 2000-2019
BJS/University of Michigan: Mortality in Correctional Institutions: Jail Population Distributions, 2000-2019
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: $67 million settlement reached in Atlanta suit over jail phone calls
The country’s largest provider of telecommunications services to jails and prisons has agreed to end contentious litigation over non-refunded deposits made by its customers. Global Tel*Link Corp. will establish a $67 million settlement fund to reimburse customers whose deposits were taken by the company from April 2011 to this past October after being deemed inactive. In a court filing GTL took in more than $96 million from inactive accounts over a 10 ½-year period ending in October.
Capitol Weekly: Private prison firms make big money in California
In January 2020, Californians thought they were getting out of the private prison business. But under, AB 32, which went into effect at the first of that year, the state remains heavily invested in backing for-profit correctional services. While for-profit prisons were abolished, the new statute contained exemptions that allowed private-prison companies to focus on other lucrative “community corrections” programs, including day reporting centers, counseling facilities, half-way houses, rehabilitation centers, medical offices, and mental health facilities. These exemptions are currently worth about $200 million annually.
Buzz Feed News: Internal Investigators Told ICE To Stop Sending Immigrants To A Prison In Louisiana Because Of A Culture That Can Lead To Abuse
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) delivered the warning to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in November in a report documenting the presence of mold and pests, problems with medical care, and other issues, including insufficient staff training, at Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana. LaSalle Corrections, the private company that operates the facility, did not respond to a request for comment.
Correctional Health Care Vendors
nola.com: New Orleans is deciding a huge jail contract, but will sheriff-elect Susan Hutson get a say?
During the campaign, sheriff-elect Susan Hutson made no secret of her dislike for Wellpath, the private equity-owned company that is the lead contractor for $18.6 million in annual spending on health care in the New Orleans jail. Yet Hutson could have little sway as Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration crafts a potential five-year contract for health care at the jail, the second-costliest item in the sheriff’s budget. Hutson won’t be sworn in until May 2 – and the city hasn’t promised to seek her opinion.
azcentral: Centurion VP makes 'damning admission' on last day of Arizona prison health care trial
Tom Dolan, Centurion Vice President for the Arizona prison contract, took the witness stand to discuss his company’s performance since it took over from the previous provider, Corizon Health, in 2019. Dolan testified that the health care staffing levels in the Arizona prison system were set by the Department in a 2019 request for proposals. Centurion submitted a staffing proposal called for 161.5 additional positions than were in the 2019 Centurion contract. But Dolan testified that after he submitted the staffing proposal, the Department of Corrections did nothing with it.
Inside Nova: Virginia Supreme Court ruling paves way to de-privitize inmate healthcare
A recent ruling from the Virginia Supreme Court will allow the Virginia Department of Corrections to take steps to de-privatize healthcare for inmates. The department will be allowed to terminate its contract with Armor Correctional Health after the court denied the health care company’s motion to halt the transition. The lawsuit, in which the company claims the department ended the contract “arbitrarily and capriciously,” is still ongoing, but the department can legally continue its transition thanks to the ruling.