Weekly Update: December 13, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: December 13, 2022

Highlighted Stories

NY Times: What Comes Next for the War on Drugs? The Beginning of the End.
There are three bills floating through Congress right now that could not only save lives and money but also help to finally dismantle the nation’s failed war on drugs. The Medicaid Re-entry Act, EQUAL (Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law) Act and the MAT (Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment) Act all have bipartisan support and could be passed during the lame duck session of Congress. Lawmakers should act on them without delay.

The Hill: We can’t ignore the ties binding US deaths of despair and incarceration
In an Op-ed, Regina LaBelle, director of the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at Georgetown University Law Center’s O’Neill Institute, writes: Each day in the United States, millions of people cycle through the nation’s jails and prisons. Nearly 85 percent of them either recently used substances or have a substance use disorder, and nearly half of them have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Congress should act to eliminate the almost 60-year-old “inmate exclusion,” a provision in the Social Security Act of 1965 prohibiting the expenditure of federal Medicaid funds on health care for people who are incarcerated.

O'Neil Institute: Addiction and Public Policy
New research of lawsuits filed following deaths in jail custody indicates that the cause of death in more than half (59%) of the cases studied was from issues related to behavioral health conditions, which often led to suicide, fatal overdose, and complications from substance use withdrawal. To reduce the human and financial toll of jail deaths, the following legislative action must be passed: Eliminate the federal Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy to ensure Medicaid funds are available to all incarcerated individuals.

Prison Policy Initiative: Why states should change Medicaid rules to cover people leaving prison
The gap in healthcare coverage following incarceration leads to high rates of death just after release: During just the first two weeks after release from prison, people leaving custody face a risk of death more than 12 times higher than that of the general U.S. population, with disproportionately high rates of deaths from drug overdose and illness. A huge contributing factor to this astronomically high death rate following release is the healthcare coverage gap. The Medicaid Reentry Act would vastly expand access to healthcare after incarceration, closing the dangerous healthcare coverage gap and thereby reducing the preventable deaths and health problems that occur in the immediate post-release period.

News Advocate: Ala. Medicaid to end sobriety mandate on hepatitis treatment
The U.S. Department of Justice said Monday that it has entered into a settlement agreement with Alabama's Medicaid program to end a sobriety requirement for treatment of people with Hepatitis C. Federal officials said Alabama agreed to end a a “blanket sobriety restriction” that refused to pay for antiviral treatment for Hepatitis C if the Medicaid patient had used drugs or alcohol six months before or during treatment.

Data & Statistics

BJS: 2020 datasets now available from the National Corrections Reporting Program
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released two datasets.The National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP) collects individual-level administrative data annually on prison admissions and releases, yearend custody populations, and parole entries and discharges. The data are used to monitor the nation's correctional population and address specific policy questions related to recidivism, prisoner reentry, and trends in demographic characteristics of the incarcerated and community supervision populations.

BJS: Facility Characteristics of Sexual Victimization of Youth in Juvenile Facilities, 2018 – Statistical Tables
This report describes characteristics of juvenile justice facilities related to youth-reported sexual victimization. The report presents sexual victimization rates reported by youth in juvenile facilities by topics such as facility organizational structure, staff, and atmosphere. It also provides facility-reported data on staff hiring in juvenile facilities, staff training, and youth PREA education.

Mass.gov: Audit of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department—A Review of Healthcare and Inmate Deaths
During the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2021 the audit found that Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department (SCSD) did not always ensure that it received an annual statistical summary from its healthcare vendor. The audit recommends SCSD establish policies and procedures to ensure that it obtains the annual statistical summaries. SCSD did not ensure that its healthcare vendor complied with all the requirements of SCSD’s sick call policy.


KTVU: U.S. Rep. Swalwell demands Dublin prison provide immediate legal, mental health services to women
U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin, CA) sent a letter Friday to the new warden of FCI Dublin asking her why it appears incarcerated women are facing "significant barriers" in talking to their lawyers and demanding that this unconstitutional practice changes immediately. A spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said they are aware of the letter and "are reviewing it," but added the office doesn't comment on correspondence with Congress out of "deference to our members." Swalwell reminded Jusino that people in the care of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons retain their rights to due process and counsel, even after sentencing.

New York Post: Women’s prison warden accused of running ‘rape club’ found guilty of sexually abusing inmates
The disgraced former warden of a federal women’s prison in California accused of running a “rape club” at the facility has been found guilty for sexually abusing three inmates. Ray J. Garcia, 55, was found guilty of eight charges and faces up to 15 years in prison. He was the former top official at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin.

Legal System’s Racial Disparities

Chicago Reporter: Covid Concerns Over Conditions Disproportionately Harming Black Inmates
The Chicago Government Data Report lists that Black people account for 42 percent of the nearly 8,000 Covid deaths in Cook County. Black Chicagoans have a disproportionately higher likelihood of dying from Covid due to a systemic lack of access to quality healthcare, discrimination by healthcare providers, and vaccine hesitancy among certain communities. According to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Black people currently comprise 70 percent of the nearly 8,000 inmates held at Cook County Jail. The community is only 30 percent of Chicago’s population.

Urban Institute: An Exploration of Prosecutorial Discretion in Plea Bargaining in Philadelphia
Among people who accepted pleas, larger shares of Black people than white people had custodial outcomes, and Black people had longer sentences. This finding is complicated by the fact that structural racism heavily impacts the factors that structure the Pennsylvania sentencing guideline matrix. Average minimum and maximum incarceration periods for defendants detained pretrial were twice those of people not detained pretrial.


NY Times: Some Prisoners Remain Behind Bars in Louisiana Despite Being Deemed Free
In most other states and cities, prisoners and parolees marked for immediate release are typically processed within hours — not days — although those times can vary, particularly if officials must make arrangements required to release registered sex offenders. But in Louisiana, the problem known as “overdetention” is endemic, often occurring without explanation, apology or compensation.

SSRN: Louisiana Justice: Pre-Trial, Incarceration, and Reentry
This paper provides a high-level system overview of Louisiana’s justice system from pretrial to incarceration to re-entry and includes new data and insights from local advocates. Data included provides the most recent snapshot of Louisiana’s prison population and the first close look at the impact of multi billing, or “habitual offender sentencing.


San Francisco Chronicle: San Francisco’s proposal to open supervised drug consumption sites stalled by legal issues
San Francisco’s proposal to open a dozen so-called wellness hubs where people can use drugs under the supervision of trained staff, including a couple by next June, has stalled because of legal and logistical issues. Supervised drug consumption sites remain illegal under federal law, and the health department said the Department of Justice “has yet to articulate a path forward” about how they will treat supervised consumption sites.

KQED: 'We Need Care, Not Cages': California Criminal Justice Reformers Applaud Planned Closure of 2 State Prisons
Advocates for criminal justice reform are applauding California's recently announced plans to close two more of its state prisons. California City Correctional Facility in Kern County and Chuckawalla Prison in Riverside County, which together currently house nearly 4,000 inmates, are slated to be shuttered by 2024 and 2025 respectively, along with the closure of certain facilities in six other prisons, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Tuesday.

Cal Matters: More street medicine teams tackle the homeless health care crisis
Living on the streets of California is a deadly affair. The life expectancy of an unsheltered person is 50, according to national estimates, nearly 30 years less than that of the average Californian. Now, the state Medi-Cal agency is endeavoring to improve health care access for people experiencing homelessness. Through a series of incentives and regulatory changes, the Health Care Services Department is encouraging Medi-Cal insurers to fund and partner with organizations that bring primary care into encampments.

Correctional Health Care News

KSLTV: Utah Dept. of Health and Human Services to take over health care in state’s prison system
The Utah Department of Corrections (UDC) said Friday that health care in the state’s prison system will be controlled by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) beginning July 1, 2023. According to a Friday afternoon press release, this change is being made “in an effort to better align governmental services under those agencies best-equipped to oversee them.” UDC officials said conversations began after some nurses and leaders from DHHS helped the department resolve a recent medication crisis in the prison system — which is comprised of approximately 6,000 individuals

Delaware News: Quick Prison Response To Medical Emergency Gives Sussex Correctional Institution Inmate A New Lease On Life
This past week the Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) recognized Correctional Officers and medical professionals for saving the life of a Sussex Correctional Institution (SCI) inmate who experienced a sudden life-threatening cardiac arrest earlier this year. On August 14, 2022 a 62 year-old inmate was working in the SCI kitchen when he exhibited signs of medical distress. Registered Nurse Kathy Moore from the SCI medical team quickly joined the response and initiated CPR.

Nutrition In Corrections

US News & World Report: Dozens on Hunger Strike at Nevada Prison Over Food, Health
At least two dozen people are on hunger strike over conditions at a maximum-security prison in rural eastern Nevada, prison officials and an advocacy organization said Tuesday. The strike was launched Thursday by people incarcerated at Ely State Prison who have longstanding frustrations over what they say are inadequate food portions and shortages in the prison commissary, among other grievances, said Jodi Hocking, executive director of the prisoners' rights group Return Strong.

Columbian Missourrian: Lawsuit alleges inhumane conditions at Missouri jail
A prisoners rights group filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that a Missouri jail has been mistreating its inmates, saying deputies have taunted and tortured inmates and that the jail provided so little food that one detainee ate toothpaste and toilet paper to ward off hunger.

In Harm’s Way: Alzheimer’s In Corrections

WOWT: Investigation unravels scheme to defraud Omaha inmate with Alzheimer’s
The first two of eight suspects appeared in Douglas County Court this week to face accusations of convincing an elderly inmate to write thousands of dollars in checks. The intricate case began to unravel in January after staff at Community Corrections Center-Omaha heard from some inmates who were concerned about how other inmates were taking advantage of a fellow inmate experiencing declining mental health.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

The City: What Happens When Police Show Up for Mental Health Calls?
Mayor Eric Adams announced a new plan to more aggressively rely on involuntary commitment to address the problem of seriously mentally ill people living on the streets of New York. This will inevitably mean more cops interacting with people experiencing crises.Cal Hedigan, CEO of Community Access, a nonprofit that’s pressing to remove cops from these interactions entirely and is involved in the lawsuit, said of Adams’ new initiative: “It sets up more opportunities for conflict and harm.”

Correctional Nurse: Four Myths About Hangings in Jails and Prisons
Different from previous reports that stated the country’s smallest jails had suicide rates 5 times higher than the largest jails, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Report on Suicide in Local Jails and State Prisons states that in 2019 the deaths by suicide were concentrated in the largest jails. More than half of the jails housing 1000 incarcerated persons or more reported at least one suicide. Suicides were more likely to occur in large state and federal prisons.

The Guardian: Florida man restrained by officers in jail died by strangulation, autopsy finds
A newly obtained autopsy report has concluded that a 43-year-old Florida man’s death after being violently restrained by jailers was a homicide by strangulation. On 17 January last year, Kevin Desir became unresponsive after a struggle with six deputies at the North Broward Bureau facility, a jail operated by the Broward county sheriff’s office (BSO) in south Florida. The jail specifically detains arrestees who have mental and physical disabilities, as well as those with mental health problems.

Coeur d'Alene/Post Falls Press: Mental health incidents challenge jail staff
Resources are strained at the Kootenai County jail as staff deal with inmates experiencing mental health episodes that are often accelerated by drug use. “Someone who is mentally ill, who is violent, aggressive or trying to hurt themselves, takes almost half my staff several hours a day to try to control,” said Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Kyle Hutchison. “So one person who is violent because they’re mentally unwell — takes a lot of staff time to keep safe."

Daily Item: A Quarter of State Inmates Suffer From Mental Illness
One-fourth of the state prison population suffers from some sort of mental illness, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Over the 20-year period from 2000 to 2019, more than 6,200 local jail inmates died by suicide while in custody. Suicide deaths among jail inmates increased by 13 percent over the period. Those who died by suicide were most often male, non-Hispanic white, incarcerated for a violent crime and died by self-strangulation.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

5 News: Washington Co. jail doctor who prescribed Ivermectin to inmates steps down
According to Washington County Sheriff-Elect Jay Cantrell, County Jail Medical Provider Rob Karas is pulling out of his county contract effective Jan. 1, almost a year after being sued for prescribing ivermectin to inmates, allegedly without their consent. On Monday, the Sheriff-elect informed the Jails/Law Enforcement/Courts Committee that Dr. Rob Karas of Karas Health Care was discontinuing his "contract at the jail based on the fact that they can't get malpractice insurance at a reasonable rate. It's going to go from $125,000 to $650,000 for their medical malpractice insurance."

Yahoo: Jail healthcare company punches out early
County Health Support Services, the company that has provided healthcare services for the Grand Traverse County jail since March, is leaving a couple of weeks earlier than its contracted end-of-December departure. In its place, Advanced Correctional Healthcare, hired by the GTC Board of Commissioners in November, will start Dec. 19.