Weekly Update: July 13, 2021

COCHS Weekly Update: July 13, 2021

Highlighted Stories

Healthline: How Medicaid Is Changing and Expanding Under President Biden
States are reportedly lobbying the White House to move on other provisions, including Medicaid for undocumented immigrants in California. There’s also a renewed push to use Medicaid funds to treat prison inmates for addiction while they’re incarcerated, instead of waiting until they get out.

National Alliance to End Homelessness: Humane Correctional Health Care Act (S. 1821, H.R. 3514)
The Humane Correctional Health Care Act (H.R. 4141, S. 2305) would repeal the so-called “Medicaid Inmate Exclusion”, which strips health care care coverage from Medicaid enrollees who are involved in the criminal justice system, closing off their access to effective health care (including mental health and substance abuse treatment), and thus making them more vulnerable to recidivism and homelessness upon reentry.

Marshall Project: Prisons Have a Health Care Issue — And It Starts at the Top, Critics Say
When the coronavirus hit the Federal Bureau of Prisons last year, the senior official responsible for overseeing health care and safety in all of the more than 120 lockups was Nicole English, a career corrections officer with a graduate degree in public administration — and no hands-on health care experience. When she switched roles at the height of the pandemic, her replacement, Michael Smith, also had no formal medical education. Union leaders, prison health care workers and advocates for prisoners’ rights said it was troubling that the people leading the federal prison system’s Health Services Division during the COVID-19 crisis lacked medical licenses. Nearly 50,000 federal prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 as of last week, and at least 258 have died.

New York Times: The Real Toll From Prison Covid Cases May Be Higher Than Reported
The New York Times has identified dozens of people around the country who died of COVID-19 but were not included in official counts. In some cases, in places including Texas, Ohio and California, deaths were added to facilities’ virus tolls after The Times brought missing names to the attention of officials. In other cases, people who were infected with the coronavirus while incarcerated — but granted legal releases because of the severity of their illnesses — were not included in the death tallies of the jails where they got sick. Still other inmates’ deaths were left off facilities’ virus tolls for reasons that are unexplained.

COVID-19 Surges in Corrections

New York Times: Virus cases are surging at crowded immigration detention centers in the U.S.
As their populations swell nearly to prepandemic levels, U.S. immigration detention centers are reporting major surges in coronavirus infections among detainees. Public health officials, noting that few detainees are vaccinated against the virus, warn that the increasingly crowded facilities can be fertile ground for outbreaks. More than 7,500 new coronavirus cases have been reported in the centers over that same period, accounting for more than 40 percent of all cases reported in ICE facilities since the pandemic began.

4029 News: Washington County Jail experiencing increase in new COVID-19 cases
8 new inmates at the Washington County Detention Center in Fayetteville have tested positive for COVID-19 as cases continue to increase across the Natural State. Sheriff Tim Helder said on Friday all of the new positive cases in the jail came from the new intake bock that had been quarantined, and none of the inmates had been vaccinated.

WYMT: Metro Corrections sees increase in inmates, COVID cases as safety precautions are taken
Louisville Metro Corrections has announced there is an increase in inmate population and is taking precautions against a new spike in COVID cases within the facilities. A news release from Metro Corrections confirms the facility has increased its population by 113 people in 30 days, bringing the total number of inmates to 1,565. Vaccinations are available for inmates within Metro Corrections, and other precautions taken include a health care professional screening all inmates entering the facility, taking a temperature test and assessing for possible COVID symptoms.

COVID-19 and Sentencing

Daily News: Brutal conditions in NYC jails during COVID pandemic caused federal judges to impose lighter sentences
Federal judges handed down dozens of lighter sentences due to brutal conditions in New York City’s federal jails during the coronavirus pandemic, new statistics obtained by the Daily News show. A Daily News analysis of 43 cases involving people who could not afford their own attorneys shows that judges in Manhattan and Brooklyn federal courts imposed sentences that were on average 58% lower than what federal guidelines recommended.

COVID-19 Vaccinations in Corrections

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Most inmates have had their COVID-19 shots — but their guards likely haven’t
More than 75% of the 39,000 men and women incarcerated in Pennsylvania’s 24 state prisons have had the shots, according to the department. While a majority of inmates in most states are fully vaccinated, prison staffers are not, according to data on 36 states and the federal Bureau of Prisons compiled by the Prison Policy Initiative. n California, which has the nation’s second-largest prison system, a reform group is suing over low staff vaccination rates, arguing that unprotected prison workers put vulnerable inmates at risk.

VT Digger: More Vermont prisoners opting to get vaccinated against Covid-19
The percentage of vaccinated incarcerated individuals in Vermont is increasing. The Covid-19 vaccine has been administered to 957 incarcerated individuals, with 303 refusing the shot, Rachel Feldman, a corrections department spokesperson, said Wednesday. That translates to 76% of incarcerated individuals who have agreed to be vaccinated, with a refusal rate of 24%.

Criminal Justice Reform

Brennan Center for Justice Reform: Biden’s Budget Steps up Spending for Criminal Justice Reform
Expectations are high for President Biden to prioritize criminal justice reform. Just a few weeks ago, his fiscal year 2022 budget was released, and it includes Justice Department funding for state and local grant programs. Many justice reformers point out that there are effective non-law enforcement strategies for reducing violence. Biden’s budget goes big on one such set of strategies, including $100 million in new Community Violence Intervention initiative grant funds within DOJ and $100 million within the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).

CNN: Those convicted of violent crimes are rarely rearrested for the same offense, report finds
A new report released by The Sentencing Project on Wednesday shows, in part, that serving multiple decades behind bars is not an effective deterrent to decrease violent crimes and that recidivism rates among individuals who were convicted of violent crime such as homicide were less likely to get rearrested for the same offense. The report's findings aren't necessarily new, its release comes as more Democratic and Republican lawmakers agree criminal justice reform is a top priority. Federal and state jurisdictions are working to undo the damage of mass incarceration that stemmed from the stiff war on drugs.

WTTW: Fully Free Campaign Seeks to End System of ‘Permanent Punishments’
In the U.S., many people view incarceration as the punishment one receives for breaking the law. But a recently released study from the anti-poverty organization Heartland Alliance indicates that for the more than 3.3 million people with criminal records in Illinois, punishment continues well beyond time served. The report exposes hundreds of laws and restrictions that make it prohibitively difficult for people with criminal records to rebuild their lives after incarceration. Heartland Alliance and other human rights advocates launched a statewide effort called the Fully Free Campaign to end those laws and sanctions.

New York Times Magazine: I Write About the Law. But Could I Really Help Free a Prisoner?
Since 1989, mistaken IDs have factored into nearly 30 percent of about 2,800 convictions of innocent people tracked by the National Registry of Exonerations. And yet the legal system depends on them because the testimony of an eyewitness may be the only piece of direct evidence. Eyewitnesses often have the best intentions. Nonetheless, I learned, their error rate increases when more time lapses between the initial viewing of a person and the retrieving of that memory to make an identification. Cross-racial IDs become even weaker with the passage of time.

Washington Post: Grandmother jailed after not answering her phone during class is ordered released from prison sentence
A 76-year-old woman who was taken back into custody last month after not answering calls during a computer class from officials was ordered released Tuesday. After serving 16 years in federal facilities for dealing heroin, Gwen Levi moved to Baltimore to live with her 94-year-old mother, build relationships with her sons and grandchildren, and volunteer at prisoner-advocacy organizations as she searched for a job. Her release, however, was revoked after she attended a computer word-processing class in Baltimore on June 12 and didn’t return calls from officials monitoring her.

Women in Corrections

New York Times: Biden Will End Detention for Most Pregnant and Postpartum Undocumented Immigrants
The Biden administration is easing restrictions placed on undocumented people who are pregnant, postpartum or nursing, the latest change in its broader efforts to soften immigration detention policies put in place by former President Donald J. Trump. Under the new policy, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers generally will not detain or arrest people who are pregnant or nursing, or who had a baby within the previous year.

Aljazeera: ‘Treated worse than animals’: Black women in pretrial detention
The pre-trial detention system has served to funnel scores of unconvicted women into jails because they cannot afford to post bail for their release. Black and brown women, who are more likely to be held in pretrial detention, especially face a prolonged domino effect that reverberates far outside the jail walls. Women suffering from mental illnesses receive are treated particularly harshly, according to former inmates, rights groups and lawyers. An estimated 32 percent of women in jails suffer from a serious mental illness – major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, among other conditions – a rate more than double that of jailed men and more than six times that of women in the general public.

WDRB: Woman shackled while giving birth settles wrongful death lawsuit against Louisville jail, medical provider
A former Metro Corrections inmate whose baby died after she gave birth in an ambulance while her hands and feet were shackled has been paid $5,000 by the city to settle a federal lawsuit. Mariah Reed also settled with the jail's medical provider, Correct Care Solutions, but that amount is not public record. While on the way to the hospital and "completely restrained," Reed gave birth, the suit claimed. Around two hours later, the child died at the hospital. Reed claimed she was strapped down with both her hands and feet shackled while giving birth. "It was completely unjustified and inhumane," said attorney Jim Ballinger, who represented Reed.

Transgender People in Corrections

NPR: New Jersey Prisoners Will Be Placed Based On Gender Identity Under A New Policy
Sonia Doe, who is transgender, has lived her life publicly as a woman since 2003. Yet, Doe — a pseudonym used for her lawsuit — was transported to four different men's prisons across New Jersey from March 2018 to August 2019. It took a lawsuit filed that August for Doe to finally be transported to a woman's prison weeks later. As part of the settlement for that lawsuit Tuesday, the New Jersey Department of Corrections will now make it customary for prisoners who identify as transgender, intersex or nonbinary to be assigned a prison stay in line with their gender identity — not with the sex they were assigned at birth.

DNA Technology and Criminal Justice

The Crime Report: FBI Approves DNA Booking System
The FBI has approved Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Applied Biosystems RapidHIT ID DNA Booking System for use by law enforcement booking stations to automatically process, upload and search DNA reference samples from qualifying arrestees against the U.S. National DNA Index System (NDIS) CODIS database. The system is a fully automated, sample-to-answer genetic analyzer, allowing for an arrestee DNA sample to be processed, enrolled and searched in CODIS in approximately 90 minutes.

MAT in Corrections

Naples Daily News: Collier moves forward with opioid addiction treatment plans for inmates
Collier County (FL) has taken a step forward in helping people with opioid addictions through the acceptance of a grant that will fund treatment for inmates at the Naples Jail Center. In combination with counseling and recovery support, medication-assisted treatment is the gold standard for treating opioid use disorders, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The three-year grant is worth $1.2 million and comes from the Florida Department of Children and Families. It will ensure that individuals who were already on medication-assisted treatment at the time of their arrest can continue with the treatment while incarcerated.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact on Mental Health

CommonWealth: Prisoner advocates seek overhaul of inmate mental health treatment
Seven months after the Department of Justice issued a scathing report about the treatment of inmates with mental illness in Massachusetts prisons, advocates for prisoners and people with mental illness are urging the Legislature to overhaul the way mental health treatment is provided to incarcerated people. “No one with a behavioral health condition should be treated the way these individuals are being treated right now,” said Monica Luke, chair of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Massachusetts advocacy committee.

MSR: Mother of Hennepin County jail suicide victim seeks answers
It’s been over nine months since Tybetha Prosper received the devastating news of her son Naajikhan Powell’s death while in custody at the Hennepin County jail. Powell, 24, was found unresponsive in his cell on Sept. 11 after an apparent suicide according to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. According to his mother, Powell had been living in a group home because of his mental health issues. He checked himself into the psychiatric ward on Sept. 3 complaining that his medications were causing him to be even more ill.

CBS: Family Of Baldwin Park Man Who Died By Suicide At Men’s Central Jail Sues LA County, Sheriff
The family of a 38-year-old man who killed himself in his jail cell has filed suit against Los Angeles County and Sheriff Alex Villanueva alleging jail staff denied him proper care before his death. The complaint, filed Tuesday on behalf of Carrillo’s widow and their five children, states that Carrillo had a history of mental illness, including schizophrenia and suicide attempts, and prior psychiatric hospitalizations and incarceration at Twin Towers.

Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice

Boston Globe: Where mental illness and criminal justice meet
Jurisdictions all over the country have been moving toward community-based models to disentangle law enforcement from crisis response, such as jail diversion facilities where patients can receive urgent crisis stabilization services in less restrictive settings than jails or emergency rooms. It’s time for the Massachusetts to get fully on board with these alternatives. In 2018, as part of the latest criminal justice reform effort, the Legislature established a task force to explore what such a diversion center would look like: the Middlesex County Restoration Center Commission, chaired by Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and Danna Mauch, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health. In its fourth year, the commission plans to implement a pilot restoration center in Middlesex County — a facility where law enforcement could send people with substance use or mental health disorders for appropriate treatment.

News Tribune: Missouri budget paves way for mental health stabilization centers
All too often, someone suffering from a mental health crisis in Missouri ends up at an emergency room or in a jail cell. The patient falls into a revolving door — of crisis, trips to the emergency room or jail, resolution, and release — and never finds a permanent resolution. Missouri took a decisive step toward overcoming the issues by including about $30 million in the state's budget for programs aimed at creating solutions. One of the core efforts included in this year's budget is the establishment of state Crisis Stabilization Centers.

Independent: Lyon Co. law enforcement, Western Mental Health in talks for partnership
Over the past year, area law enforcement officers have responded to an increased number of calls of people experiencing a mental health crisis, Lyon County (MN) Sheriff Eric Wallen said. To help respond in those situations, local law enforcement agencies including the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office are seeking to partner with mental health service providers, he said.At a meeting of the Lyon County Board, Wallen said the Sheriff’s Office is taking part in talks with Western Mental Health Center about a potential partnership program. The “co-responder” program would provide a trained staff member from Western Mental Health to assist officers when they respond to mental health calls.

Private Prisons and Correctional Health Care Vendors

CapRadio: As California Pushes To Eliminate Immigrant Detention Centers, New Report Shines Light On Detainee Deaths
Detainees at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities in California and elsewhere are at risk of preventable deaths due to poor medical care, according to a new study from the University of Southern California. Advocates say the problem has gotten worse during the pandemic, and they’re pushing to eliminate private detention facilities in the state. California lawmakers are trying to improve the situation. A bill that would require all private detention facility operators to comply with state and local public health orders is currently moving through the legislature and would take effect immediately if it’s signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

WFYI: Company Settles Over Alleged False Health Care Claims At Terre Haute Prison
The U.S. Department of Justice has settled with a health care company accused of filing hundreds of thousands of dollars in false claims at the federal prison in Terre Haute. The DOJ alleges that NaphCare charged taxpayers for more costly services when some doctors at the Terre Haute prison didn’t indicate on forms exactly what services they performed. In a new settlement, NaphCare agreed to pay nearly $700,000 to the federal government. However, the Alabama-based company did not admit guilt.

Fronteras: Arizona Family Alleges Son’s Killing Was Result Of Negligent Correctional Health Care System
The parents of a man killed in Peoria, Arizona, in 2019 have filed a complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court, alleging the correctional health care system is to blame for their son’s death. Attorneys representing the parents of Elijah Al-Amin say an extensive review of the medical files of the man who allegedly killed him, Michael Adams, shows a years-long pattern of gross negligence by behavioral health care providers in the community, county jails and state prisons. The complaint names numerous Arizona behavioral health entities that Adams was in contact with before the death of Al-Amin, including the current and former companies providing health care in state prisons — Centurion of Arizona and Corizon Health — as well as Mercy Care, Crisis Preparation and Recovery, Crisis Response Network and numerous unnamed employees.