Weekly Update: September 20, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: September 20, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Commonwealth Fund: States Push for Innovative Ways to Improve Health Outcomes for Justice-Involved Individuals
There is growing momentum among states to develop innovative models to help people involved with the justice system receive health care services covered by Medicaid while they are incarcerated. By providing services before justice-involved individuals are released, including care management to plan for reentry, states are hoping they can improve health outcomes when individuals return to their communities.

DCist: Seven People Have Died In D.C. Jail Custody This Year. Giovanni Love Was One Of Them
Seven people to die in custody of the D.C. Department of Corrections this year. Four of those deaths had not been previously reported or publicly disclosed. DOC has not historically required the public disclosure of deaths. Unlike other jurisdictions — including Nevada and Florida — D.C. has not had a system for notifying the public when someone die. Even the D.C. Council, which has oversight powers over the department, has no established system for learning about deaths.

gothamist: Man incarcerated less than a week ago becomes 14th fatality in city jails
A 35-year-old man incarcerated at Rikers Island died Wednesday, marking the 14th death of someone who had been held in city custody this year and the 30th since the beginning of 2021. The death is under investigation. At the time of publication, the city medical examiner had not yet determined a cause of death. The death comes after the regulatory body overseeing city jails, the city Board of Correction, released a report this week detailing how officers’ failure to check on cells, render first aid, and escort incarcerated people to medical appointments had a role in at least six suicides and four drug overdoses inside Rikers’ walls last year.

Crosscut: Shelved report details 14 COVID deaths inside Washington prisons
A draft Office of Corrections Ombuds report, dated September 2021, outlines delays in medical care and flaws in documenting COVID cases in Washington’s prisons during the pandemic, which hit such congregate facilities especially hard. But that Ombuds report has never been publicly released, and none of its recommended changes to improve healthcare in Washington prisons have been implemented.

8 News Now: 2 inmates die by suicide within 2 days, prisons medical director resigns
Two inmates at High Desert State Prison died by suicide within 24 hours, according to documentation from the Clark County Coroner’s office. The warden informed employees of changes inside the prison four days later, and the medical director of the Nevada Department of Corrections advised staff he was resigning five days later.

Marshall Project: Why Record Heat Can Be Deadlier in Prisons
Texas has historically been one of the most dangerous states for prison temperatures, and this July was the hottest on record. The Texas system has recorded 23 heat-related deaths since 1998, but researchers believe the true number is much higher. In New Jersey, investigators from the state’s prison watchdog office visited facilities throughout July and August and found temperatures in some cells as hot as 94 degrees.

GWU Media Relations: Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity Announces its 2023 Cohort
COCHS' Acting President and Director of Health Care Initiatives for Justice-Involved Populations, Dan Mistak, has been chosen as one of the twenty cohorts of the 2023 Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity. This year’s fellows, the sixth cohort in the program, were selected from a competitive pool of more than 400 domestic and global applicants. The 2023 cohort increases the Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity network to 108 fellows — current and graduated —from 29 countries and 5 continents. Starting in January 2023, fellows will meet in-person and virtually, diving deep on health equity topics, bolstering their leadership skills, building a global community.

Health Affairs: Monkeypox In Prisons: Urgent Action Needed To Avoid A Public Health Crisis
The United States leads the world in monkeypox infections. Simultaneously, the United States continues to lead the world in mass incarceration with carceral facilities being places at extreme risk for the spread of infectious diseases. As we have seen in the past two years, prisons and jails have become an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opioid Epidemic

NC Health News: Momentum building for MAT in jails across N.C.
During his 20 years in the field of substance use disorders, Eric Morse has seen countless patients forced off their medication-assisted treatment (MAT) — a treatment that’s often working — while incarcerated. He said it’s about a weekly occurrence to have a patient get detained and face the dilemma of whether or not they will be able to continue MAT in jail.

Newswise: Novel Approach for Educating Prison Populations About Medication for Opioid Use Disorder
More than 90,000 people die of a drug overdose each year, with 75 percent of those involving an opioid. Although medication—buprenorphine, methadone or naltrexone—is an effective component in helping people with opioid use disorders, only a small number receive this care. This disparity of care, often among people of color, is urgently important in correctional institutions, where 85 percent of the population has an active substance use disorder.

SAMHSA: Use of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in Criminal Justice Settings
This guide focuses on using medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder in jails and prisons and during the reentry process when justice-involved persons return to the community. It provides an overview of policies and evidence-based practices that reduce the risk of overdose and relapse.

edhat: Custody Deputies and Wellpath Staff Reverse Overdose at Main Jail
An inmate at the Santa Barbara County Main Jail was resuscitated thanks to the swift life-saving efforts of Custody Deputies and their Wellpath healthcare partners. Jail staff suspected this was a possible overdose and administered four doses of Narcan.

Health Care Co-pays

Observer: Forty States Still Charge Prisoners Co-Pays for Medical Care
Forty US states charge incarcerated individuals medical co-pays while in prison. These medical co-pays generate little financial benefit for the states, but can be hugely costly for individuals paying them. At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, all states with co-pays, with the exception of Nevada, took steps to lessen the blow of medical co-pays on prisoners. In many states, co-pays were suspended for respiratory issues, in order to encourage individuals to seek help when suffering from Covid.

Racial Disparities

Yahoo News: More than half of US prisoners are serving sentences of 10 years or longer
More than half of prisoners in the U.S. are serving 10-year sentences or longer, according to a new report released by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit group that advocates criminal justice reform. According to the findings, as of 2019, around 56% of prisoners nationwide were serving sentences of 10 years or longer. The report also shows longer sentences disproportionately impact Black Americans in prison.

Conditions In Corrections

azcentral: Arizona prisoner alleges warden ordered 'inmate-on-inmate discipline,' hundreds of beatings
Earl Fenton Crago, Jr., a 50-year-old incarcerated man who says he was retaliated against after blowing the whistle on dangerous security conditions. Crago is alleging that while he served some of his 25-year murder sentence at Lewis, the deputy warden sanctioned a program of “inmate-on-inmate discipline.” Crago claims wardens promised him and other prisoners additional privileges, beneficial treatment and immunity from disciplinary infractions if they helped maintain security at the prison.

Los Angeles Times: Federal judge imposes limits on L.A. County jail after ACLU sues over ‘barbaric’ conditions
A federal judge on Friday signed a temporary restraining order addressing Los Angeles County jail conditions that a civil rights group called “barbaric.” The order signed by U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson bars the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department from holding a person in the overcrowded jail system’s inmate reception center for more than 24 hours. Deputies at the center’s clinic will be barred from handcuffing, chaining or tethering a person to a chair “or any other object” for more than four hours.

Alabama Political Reporter: Video appears to show Alabama prison guard beating incarcerated man
A video shared on social media appears to show a correctional officer at the Elmore County Correctional facility beating an incarcerated individual on the roof of a building at the facility. The video shows a group of correctional staff outside a building, with an incarnated man in distress on the roof’s edge. An individual correctional guard is seen walking up towards the distressed individual. The correctional guard then pulls the individual away from the edge of the roof and appears to begin beating him.

Qualified Immunity

Slate: How Qualified Immunity Fails People at Risk of Suicide
In two fierce dissents in June, Justice Sonia Sotomayor blasted the Supreme Court for refusing to hear two Texas cases that granted qualified immunity to law enforcement officers. In the first, police officers were accused of igniting and killing a suicidal man drenched in gasoline, and in the second, jail staff were accused of failing to prevent—and in some ways facilitating—an incarcerated person’s death by suicide.


Washington Post: Why a visit to a maximum-security South Carolina prison gave me hope
Cellist Claire Bryant is what we lesser mortals would call a prodigy. In recent years, she has also become a miracle worker, taking her musical talents to some of the least served people in America — incarcerated men at the Lee Correctional Institution, South Carolina’s largest maximum-security prison — and transforming them into polished musicians and performers.

Prison Policy Initiative: The state prison experience: Too much drudgery, not enough opportunity
The most recent, nationally representative data from state prisons show, these facilities provide few opportunities for people looking to make the most of their time inside. Instead, prisons — guided by state policies, as well as the broad discretion of correctional staff — tend to focus on enforcing rigid rules and filling incarcerated people’s time with menial work, without which the prison could not function.

Staffing Shortage

News4Jax: Florida National Guard members to work at short-staffed prisons
Pay hikes, shorter shifts and shuttering facilities are some of the strategies Florida has employed to try to rehabilitate a prison system that leaders have said is in crisis. But despite the efforts, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is calling on Florida National Guard members to work at correctional facilities, a dramatic step meant to alleviate a staffing shortage that has plagued the prison system for years.

Omaha World Herald: Nebraska prison watchdog cites 'deeply concerning' shortages of health staff
In May, Gov. Pete Ricketts and state corrections officials showcased a state-of-the art new prison facility in Lincoln. But despite the fanfare, a new 32-bed treatment unit within the facility that’s intended to serve some of the state’s most severely mentally ill inmates still has yet to have a permanent psychologist assigned to it. The situation underscores a shortage of mental health and medical staff that a state prison watchdog termed “deeply concerning.”

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Los Angeles Times: ‘You can’t get out’: Mentally ill languish in California jails without trial or treatment
Thousands of mentally ill detainees incarcerated across California languish in jail where they are denied trial or proper treatment from the Department of State Hospitals. At the heart of the problem is a persistent failure by state officials to sufficiently expand state hospitals or other community-based care options despite surging numbers of incompetent criminal detainees and a string of court orders mandating the state transfer such defendants out of jails faster.

WANE: Allen County Jail commanders want mental health facility along with new jail
A federal lawsuit against Allen County claiming inhumane conditions at the Allen County Jail upended the community when a federal judge sided with the inmates. As details are worked out to provide an updated correctional facility, with, many hope, an infirmary and mental health wing, it’s still up to the Allen County Sheriff and his department to house individuals the criminal courts send their way.