Weekly Update: February 8, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: February 08, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Health Affairs: Racism in Health
On February 7, 2022, Health Affairs published a theme issue on racism and health, with an emphasis on structural racism. The racism and health issue not only focuses on the discussion of the topic with the latest scholarship, but includes forward-looking pieces to help shape the future research and policy agenda. Health Affairs is committed to continuing to publish on this topic beyond this racism and health theme issue.

Health Affairs: Court-Issued Fines And Fees Frequently Undermine Health Equity
In March 2015, the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice issued a scathing report on policing practices in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown, an 18-year-old Black man, had been shot and killed by police the year before. It described a police department that routinely issued citations to generate revenue for the city’s budget and a municipal court that authorized arrest warrants for non-criminal matters as a means of collecting payment. Over the past several decades, states and localities across the country have increased the number and amount of monetary fines imposed for civil and low-level criminal offenses, such as parking and traffic violations, as well as fees used to pay for court-related activities.

ACLU Pennsylvania: Broken Rules: How Pennsylvania Courts Use Cash Bail to Incarcerate People Before Trial
A new research report published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania documents statewide bail practices based on data from 2016 and 2017. The report finds that unaffordable cash bail is a statewide crisis. In counties across Pennsylvania, magisterial district judges routinely set bail that people cannot afford. The report provides four recommendations that Pennsylvania’s courts can and must take on the path to reform.

Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law: RICO: Rethinking Interpretations of Criminal Organizations
The inaccurate and biased dragnet created by RICO street gang prosecutions sweeps up many people who are not involved in the targeted organizations and certainly are not contributing members of complex and criminal conspiracies. Courts that interpret RICO and VICAR broadly create a low bar for prosecutors and a nearly insurmountable one for defendants in these cases. Consequently, young Black and Brown men who were inappropriately charged in the first place decide to plead guilty to avoid the draconian sentences imposed by the RICO Act.

Slate: The One Thing That Could Help Stop Abuse in Juvenile Prisons
A unique feature of many U.S. juvenile court systems is the unitary judiciary, which controls everything from arrest to charging to pretrial detention to trial to post-conviction probation. That concentration of power over the lives and liberty of children allows abuses to spread unchecked. In fact, the most salient juvenile court scandals of the last 20 years have arisen in jurisdictions that give judges autocratic control over entire systems—a wildly inappropriate, if not unconstitutional, merger of judicial and executive functions.

COVID-19 Surge in Corrections

Stat: Despite Biden’s big promises and a far better understanding of the virus, Covid-19 is still raging through the nation’s prisons
On his first full day in office, President Biden promised to order the federal Bureau of Prisons to reevaluate its Covid-19 protocols and release additional data on the spread of the virus in prisons, two in a slew of pledges aimed at ensuring the United States’ pandemic response was equitable. But that specific order never came. As Covid-19 is spiking in multiple federal prisons around the country, spurred by the Omicron variant and still-substandard infection control, advocates say that the BOP’s Covid-19 protocols are as broken as ever.

VT Digger: Omicron amplifies challenges across Vermont’s prison system
In January, many Vermont prisons reported higher numbers of positive cases among staff and incarcerated people than at any point in the six months prior. The most dramatic outbreak of cases was first detected Jan. 8 at Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury. By Jan. 24, 61 incarcerated people and 31 staff members had tested positive for the virus over the course of a month.

Fresno Bee: COVID cases spiking in California immigration facilities. Will state officials intervene?
As COVID-19 cases have spiked among immigrants and staff in several of California’s privately operated immigrant detention centers in recent weeks, advocacy groups have increased pressure on the state to intervene and provide detainees with better safeguards against contracting the virus. In a Jan. 28 letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom 50 statewide organizations, legal service providers and advocacy groups denounced the treatment of detainees in federal immigration detention facilities.

The Press Democrat: Sonoma County Jail COVID-19 outbreak on the decline
The Sonoma County Jail has lifted a lockdown on one housing unit and could soon do so for two others now under COVID-19 quarantine, officials say, as the outbreak there — the largest since the pandemic began — slows. Officials cleared one unit Tuesday after every person detained within it tested negative for COVID-19 twice over 10 days.

COVID-19 Testing in Corrections

New York Focus: “They Didn’t Test Anybody”: Jails Across New York Administer Alarmingly Few Tests During Omicron Surge
Using internet archives, New York Focus analyzed eight weeks of Covid data — from December 1, the day before omicron was first detected in New York, to January 26 — published by the State Commission of Correction, a government body tasked with monitoring incarceration standards. The numbers show an alarming lack of testing in local jails and whose populations generally have low vaccination rates, and a wide gap between the few jail jurisdictions that test regularly and the many that don’t.

COVID-19 & Its Wider Impact

NC Health News: Breaking Point: Families and loved ones of incarcerated people feel the collateral damage of incarceration in COVID
As the newest variant of the SARS CoV2 virus continues to permeate throughout the state’s prisons, it affects the ability of incarcerated people to communicate with their loved ones. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety has limited visitation as different prisons experience outbreaks in order to limit the spread of the virus both in the facility and outside in the community.

The Crime Report: Report Links Unemployment with Rise in Gun Crime During Pandemic
A surge in unemployment during the first five months of the pandemic coincided with an increase in firearm violence and homicides in 16 American cities, according to a study by the Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) at the University of California Davis. Although the study did not draw a cause-and-effect link between joblessness and gun violence, the findings supported earlier research showing “economic disadvantage and income inequality have long been associated with increased risk of violence,”

Partnership to End Addiction: Rise in Alcohol Consumption During Pandemic Could Lead to 8,000 Additional Deaths
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital used data from a national survey of U.S. adults. They found excessive drinking rose by 21% during the pandemic. They simulated drinking and liver disease trends in all U.S. adults, and found a sustained rise in alcohol consumption for more than one year could result in 19% to 35% additional mortality.

Rikers Island

New York Times: Is There Medical Neglect in New York City Jails?
Sixteen people died in New York City jails in 2021, the most in years. The chief medical officer of Correctional Health Services, Dr. Ross MacDonald, attributed the deaths to a collapse in basic jail operations, including delays in medical care. Now lawyers for detainees who say they have been denied adequate care are demanding that the Department of Correction be held in contempt for failing to comply with a court order requiring such care.

New York Times: Medical Care at Rikers Is Delayed for Thousands, Records Show
Data from the city itself shows that thousands of incarcerated people miss appointments each month. Lawyers for the detainees say that the lack of timely care, even for simple ailments, leads to extreme sickness and pain: surgery dates delayed for months, stab and burn victims whose wounds are left untreated and bug bites that swell up to take over prisoners’ entire legs.


Los Angeles Times: Op-Ed: California’s blocked vaccine mandate for prison guards is public health idiocy
In an op-ed, Hadar Aviram writes: California’s correctional facilities in January saw an alarming third wave of infection that brings an urgent threat. But this third wave features another cause for alarm: As of Jan. 28 there were 4,337 active cases among prison staff, with this surge seeing faster spread for that group than at any other point in the pandemic. After the federal receiver in charge of California’s correctional healthcare system pleaded for a vaccine requirement, U.S. District Judge John Tigar finally ordered one in September — only for Gov. Gavin Newsom, otherwise a staunch vaccine supporter, to side with the corrections department and the guards’ union in opposing the mandate. Exposing incarcerated people to a serious virus with no means to protect themselves from unvaccinated staff members — amid other health order violations in prisons, per multiple reports — violates their 8th Amendment rights.

Times of San Diego: Jail Deaths ‘Deeply Disturbing,’ Back Fixes
On Sheriff Bill Gore’s last day in office, a state auditor released a damning report Thursday that calls on state lawmakers to make “meaningful changes” to reduce his agency’s high rate of jail deaths. “In light of the ongoing risk to inmate safety, the Sheriff’s Department’s inadequate response to deaths, and the lack of effective independent oversight, we believe that the Legislature must take action,” said Michael Tilden, acting California state auditor.


AP: Women’s prison fostered culture of abuse
Inside one of the only federal women’s prisons in the United States, inmates say they have been subjected to rampant sexual abuse by correctional officers and even the warden, and were often threatened or punished when they tried to speak up. Prisoners and workers at the federal correctional institution in Dublin, California, even have a name for it: “The rape club.”

Daily Wire: DOJ Overpaid For Prison Inmate Health Care In Connection With $1.2 Billion Grants
Findings in a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) report show the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) spent more money than needed for health care services in prisons nationwide due to at least one contractor’s shady activities. DOJ funneled about $1.2 billion from 2010 to 2019 to nine medical services contractors, who then entered into subcontractor agreements with providers, according to an inspector general report.

Criminalizing Voting

Washington Post: She was told she could vote again after felony convictions. Now she’s in prison for trying.
Pamela Moses, a Black Lives Matter activist and former Democratic mayoral candidate in Memphis, had an extensive record of felony convictions, including a conviction for tampering with evidence that caused her to permanently lose her voting rights in the state. But there was a problem: The officials who signed off on Moses being eligible to vote acknowledged they made an error in saying her probation was over, meaning her voting rights had not been restored.

MOUD in Corrections

NIH: Availability of Medications for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder Among Pregnant and Postpartum Individuals in US Jails
In this cross-sectional study, a substantial proportion of US jails did not provide access to MOUD to pregnant people with OUD. Although most jails reported continuing to provide MOUD to individuals who were receiving medication before incarceration, few jails initiated MOUD, and most medication-providing jails discontinued MOUD during the postpartum period. These results suggest that many pregnant and postpartum people with OUD in US jails do not receive medication that is the standard of care and are required to endure opioid withdrawal, signaling an opportunity for intervention to improve care for pregnant people who are incarcerated.

Science Direct: Recidivism and mortality after in-jail buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder
In Massachusetts, Franklin County jail (FCSO) was among the first to provide buprenorphine; adjacent Hampshire County jail (HCHC) offered it more recently. These jails present a natural experiment to determine whether outcomes are different between individuals who did and did not have the opportunity to receive buprenorphine in jail. Among incarcerated adults with opioid use disorder, risk of recidivism after jail exit is lower among those who were offered buprenorphine during incarceration.

Nutrition in Corrections

The Counter: Poor food in prison and jails can cause or worsen eating and health problems. And the effects can linger long after release.
The abysmal quality of food in carceral settings is well-documented. High in sodium and sugar, the diet in our nation’s jails and prisons is severely lacking in healthy foods. More often than not, it’s carb-heavy and ultra-processed fare. It’s also frequently rotten, moldy, or vermin-infested. Due to unhealthy food, people within the carceral system experience high rates of diabetes and heart disease; mental health and behavior issues; and illnesses due to foodborne pathogens.

Mental Health Care in Crisis

New York Times: Decades Adrift in a Broken System, Then Charged in a Death on the Tracks
Mr. Simon, 61, a former cabby and parking-lot manager who immigrated from Haiti at 13 and started showing symptoms of schizophrenia in his 30s. On Jan. 15, he shoved Michelle Alyssa Go, a 40-year-old stranger, in front of a train at the Times Square subway station. His lawyer estimates he was hospitalized at least 20 times. The revolving door for those with chronic mental illness has accelerated lately as long-term trends like the reduction of inpatient psychiatric beds have shifted the burden of treating such patients to hospital emergency rooms stretched thin by the pandemic.


VOX: A bold new experiment out of Florida: Guaranteed income for the formerly incarcerated
The last few years have seen significant victories for the guaranteed income movement — the push to simply give people cash with no strings attached. Pilot programs in places ranging from Stockton, California, to southwestern Kenya have been launched in recent years, and the research literature on the positive effects of guaranteed income is growing. A new pilot program, in Alachua County, FL, is now pushing guaranteed income into a new frontier by focusing on a potentially controversial constituency: formerly incarcerated people. The outcome of the program may help define the political bounds of just giving people money.

New Jail Construction

KQED: Santa Clara County Considered Building a Mental Health Facility Instead of a New Jail. It Chose the Jail
Santa Clara County moved forward last week with plans for a new jail, a move sharply criticized by opponents who for years have urged officials to use the funds for a mental health treatment center instead. After more than three hours of heated public comment, the county Board of Supervisors in a 3-2 vote narrowly approved construction of the $390 million facility, while pledging to keep the treatment facility idea on the table.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Reuters: Family files lawsuit over death at Savannah, Georgia, jail
The family of Lee Creely, an inmate who died 17 months ago in Savannah, Georgia, filed a lawsuit against the jail’s county administrators and its health care provider, accusing the detention center and its medical staff of negligent care. The lawsuit, which includes counts of wrongful death and denial of access to medical care, alleges that the jail’s medical provider, CorrectHealth LLC, did not provide medications or regularly monitor Creely, who was withdrawing from heroin and Xanax.

Washington Post: Authorities investigate death of Arlington County inmate
Arlington County police are investigating the death of Paul E. Thompson, a county jail inmate who was arrested last month on a trespassing charge and held without bond while authorities tried to determine his identity and address mental health needs that complicated his criminal case. The series of in-custody deaths in Arlington’s lockup — including three since October 2020 — prompted the sheriff’s office to cancel the contract of the jail’s former medical provider, Corizon Health. The new provider, Richmond-based Mediko, took over as the jail’s health-care provider in November.

WCJB: After a newborn died at the jail last summer, ACSO has a new health care team at the jail.
The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office has a new health care team at the jail after a newborn died there last summer. This summer, protesters called on the jail to end its contract with Corizon following the death of inmate Erica Thompson’s baby while she was in custody.