Weekly Update: May 24, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: May 24, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Office US Senator Jon Ossoff: Sens. Ossoff, Kennedy Introduce Bipartisan Prison Transparency Legislation
U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and John Kennedy (R-LA) today introduced new bipartisan prison transparency legislation. The Senators’ bipartisan Family Notification of Death, Injury, or Illness in Custody Act of 2022 will ensure family members are notified in a timely and compassionate manner about any health challenges of loved ones while in custody. The bipartisan bill would require the Department of Justice to establish best practices for this notification process by issuing central guidance to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and local and state institutions.

News & Record: Mental health, public safety and Medicaid
Sheriff Robbie Holland of Macon County, North Carolina writes: North Carolinians from all backgrounds who struggle with mental health conditions and addiction often wind up not in treatment, but in jail. This cycle comes with enormous costs for our law enforcement agencies, our economy and our communities. So, as the sheriff of Macon County for more than two decades, I urge our elected officials to consider the many strains on jails and law enforcement across the state. Expanding Medicaid would help relieve much of that stress, and reduce recidivism.

AP: Former Ohio prisons chief top contender to run US prisons
The former director of the Ohio state prison system has emerged as a leading contender to run the crisis-plagued federal Bureau of Prisons, three people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Friday. Gary Mohr, who has also worked in the private prison industry, is at the top of the list of candidates to replace Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal. Mohr has also been a prison warden and, between stints in the Ohio system, was a consultant and managing director for CoreCivic, an owner and operator of private prisons and detention facilities.


Tampa Bay Times: Pinellas County jail on lockdown after COVID outbreak
The Pinellas County Jail is on lockdown until June 6 after a COVID-19 outbreak, according to the sheriff’s office. As of Friday, 26 inmates are COVID-positive, spokesperson Amanda Sinni said. The jail houses about 3,000 inmates. Cases are rising across Florida, with the highest number of cases since February reported last week. The state is on track to hit 6 million cases since the start of the pandemic.

Corrections 1: Vaccine mandate struck down as cases climb in Calif. prisons
An appellate court struck down a coronavirus vaccine mandate for California state prison employees April 25, siding with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation over a federal health care receiver who had initiated the vaccine directive. The newly-canceled mandate was issued last fall by a U.S. District Court judge on the recommendation of J. Clark Kelso, the federal receiver who oversees health care in California’s state prisons under a long-standing court order.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Despite high vaccination rates among Pa. prisoners, some COVID restrictions remain in place
More than two years after the first coronavirus cases were reported in Pennsylvania state prisons, some of the mitigation measures to cut down on the spread of COVID-19 are still in place. But with nearly 90% of people held at state prisons vaccinated and cases significantly down, both incarcerated people and their advocates are asking the Department of Corrections to reassess restrictions that sacrifice quality of life and add financial hardship.

CBS: Zero-bail policy instituted during pandemic ends in San Diego County jails
A policy that reduced certain misdemeanor offenses to zero bail throughout the San Diego County jail system, which was instituted to reduce the overall jail population during the COVID-19 pandemic, will be rescinded as of Sunday, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said Friday.

King County: Jail Health Services extends vaccine benefit program
Seattle & King County, are poised to continue a successful incentive program that encourages people in custody to get vaccinated. It is happening thanks to a new $30,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The money will provide a $50 commissary credit to patients at the jail whenever they are eligible and elect to receive a vaccination, whether it is for their primary vaccination series or a booster dose.

Rikers Island

The City: City Jails Scrap Last Remnants of Pricey Consultant Plan as Deaths Mount
In 2018, the city Department of Correction began using a new detainee classification process created at great expense by consulting group McKinsey & Company. The de Blasio administration had paid the white-shoe firm $27.5 million to create the system that used an algorithm based on a host of factors — including age, possible gang affiliation, and any prior history in jail — to determine where to house people behind bars with the least risk for confrontation. On Tuesday, jail Commissioner Louis Molina announced that the pricey system — widely criticized for failing to reduce violence — will be formally scrapped.

gothamist: Rikers federal monitor issues cautiously optimistic outlook for reform
The officials who run the Rikers Island jail complex are finally beginning to devise solutions to long-running problems, the federal monitor overseeing improvements said in a letter on Tuesday. For now, the monitor is not recommending a federal takeover. The letter to a federal judge from the monitoring team was the first relatively positive assessment of the Adams Administration’s approach to improving conditions at Rikers.

New York Times: Judge Faults Medical Care for Detainees in Latest Sign of Rikers Crisis
A state judge ruled on Tuesday that New York City’s Correction Department had failed to provide detainees with timely medical care. The ruling came the same day that city officials and a federal monitor produced a plan to potentially avoid a federal takeover of the troubled Rikers Island jail complex.

NBC: Another Rikers Inmate Dies, 5th at NYC Jail This Year
A 31-year-old Rikers inmate died early Wednesday, the fifth inmate to die in custody since the start of the year inside the New York City jail. "Ms. Yehuda’s passing fills us with sadness, every life here is precious," Commissioner Louis Molina said in a statement. (The DOC spelled her name both "Yehudah" and "Yehuda" in its statement.) The commissioner is facing a fast-approaching deadline to address the ongoing crisis at the nation's second-largest jail system to avert a federal takeover.

Prison Conditions

al.com: Alabama, Justice Department headed toward trial over prison conditions in 2024
The U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against the state of Alabama over unsafe conditions in men’s prisons could be more than two years away from resolution. U.S. District Judge David Proctor has issued a scheduling order in the case telling lawyers to be ready for trial in November 2024. The DOJ sued Alabama in December 2020, alleging the failure to protect prisoners from inmate-on-inmate violence and sexual abuse, failure to protect them from excessive force by staff, and failure to provide safe conditions of confinement violate constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment.

WRAL: Thousands of NC prison beds remain without air conditioning, despite millions in state funding
Last fall, the North Carolina General Assembly approved $30 million to address a long-standing issue in the state prison system: The lack of air conditioning in all or parts of nearly 40 facilities. With summer approaching, none of the actual construction has started. Prison officials in Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration hope to have the first three projects complete around the start of next year.

YouTube: Prison food is much worse than you think
“Prison food in the United States is a public health and human rights crisis,” the Maryland Food & Prison Abolition Project states on their website. “By weaponizing the experience of eating, the state transforms one of our most basic needs into an everyday form of violence. It constitutes a form of ‘premature death’—oftentimes damaging a person’s physical and mental health and well-being for the rest of their life.”


Jurist: Federal court rules New York correctional facility must provide prescription methadone to inmates
The US District Court for the Northern District of New York issued an order which granted a preliminary injunction allowing non-pregnant inmates with opioid use disorders the Jefferson County Correctional Facility to access methadone prescriptions. In granting the injunction, the court said “all non-pregnant individuals who are or will be detained at the Jefferson County Correctional Facility and had or will have prescriptions for agonist medication for opioid use disorder at the time of entry into defendants’ custody” should be given access to their medication.

ABC News: New medication-assisted opioid treatment program launches in Chesterfield County Jail
Sheriff Karl Leonard has announced the creation of a new program for Chesterfield County Jail that aims to combat opioid addiction with other medication. “We have seen a marked increase of new committals entering our facility who are already on medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) of either Buprenorphine (Suboxone™) or Methadone,” Leonard said. “Taking them off this protocol when they enter our facility could be very harmful to the individual and potentially violate their civil rights.

Criminal Justice Reform

The Lens: Bill to create parole panel for people in prison on split-jury convictions on hold
A bill that would create a new parole process specifically meant to address the hundreds of people still in Louisiana prisons after being convicted by non-unanimous jury verdicts — which were legal in the state until 2019 — has hit a roadblock in the Louisiana House of Representatives, after amendments pushed by criminal justice reform and civil rights advocates were voted down on the house floor earlier this week.

Crime Report: Opponents of Bail Reform Rely on ‘Fear Tactics,’ Conference Told
Isidoro Rodriguez, deputy editor of The Crime Report, writes: As crime rates continue to rise around the country, critics have been quick to place much of the blame on bail reform. “It is a false statement designed to scare you and to raise fear,” said Alice Fontier, Managing Director of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.

National Partnership for Pretrial Justice: The Hidden Costs of Pretrial Detention
Pretrial detention seems to really increase the likelihood someone gets rearrested once they’re released. So being locked up for even a short period of time seems to really impact whether you get rearrested. People who are detained pretrial and who are detained for longer periods of time end up having a greater likelihood of being sentenced to incarceration and they are sentenced to longer periods of incarceration compared to people who were released pretrial.


PBS News Hour: Incarcerated people face barriers to reentry post prison. How one initiative aims to help
A new national initiative aims to help reduce those reentry barriers over the next decade, and in doing so, make the process of leaving prison smoother and more effective. The initiative, called Reentry 2030, is a collaboration among the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the Correctional Leaders Association and advocacy group JustLeadershipUSA. Reentry 2030 will be more of a framework for restructuring the reentry process at the state level across the U.S., rather than outlining a specific set of programs.

Justice Today: From Successful Reentry to Stronger Communities
What is reentry? Why is it important? And what research is being done in this field? National Institute of Justice Journal Editor Beth Pearsall hosts a conversation on reentry with NIJ staff Senior Science Advisor Angela Moore, Senior Social Science Analyst Marie Garcia, and Social Science Analyst Eric Martin.

Data & Statistics

United States Sentencing Commission: Compassionate Release Data Reports
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the courts received thousands of compassionate release motions, most filed by offenders. This report provides an analysis of the compassionate release motions filed with the courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data in this report is limited to motions decided by the courts during fiscal years 2020 and 2021 (October 1, 2019 – September 30, 2021).

Sentencing Project: Incarcerated Women and Girls
Between 1980 and 2020, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 475%, rising from a total of 26,326 in 1980 to 152,854 in 2020. The total count in 2020 represents a 30% reduction from the prior year—a substantial but insufficient downsizing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which some states began to reverse in 2021.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

CNN: Ex-deputy gets 18 years for deaths of mental health patients who drowned in van
A former deputy sheriff was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the drownings of two mental health patients in South Carolina after Hurricane Florence in 2018. Stephen Flood was found guilty in Marion County Thursday of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of reckless homicide. South Carolina National Guardsmen allowed Horry County deputies Flood and Joshua Bishop to drive around a barricade blocking a flooded road moments before Nicolette Green and Wendy Newton drowned inside the vehicle.

Honolulu Civil Beat: An Inmate’s Suicide Is Prompting Calls For ‘Meaningful Change’ In Hawaii’s Prison System
The head of the Hawaii’s prison system on Thursday offered his personal condolences to the father of an inmate who hanged himself at Halawa Correctional Facility five years ago, and even thanked the father for suing the state over his son’s death. Joseph O’Malley had a long history of mental illness, and his primary treating psychiatrist at Halawa diagnosed him with schizoaffective disorder. In the 10 months prior to his death.

Mental Health Initiatives In Criminal Justice

Sacramento Bee: ‘We have to do more.’ Newsom wants $65 million to set up California mental health courts
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is prepared to invest significant state funds in his ambitious mental health courts plan — $65 million this year and $50 million annually for years to come. Newsom has been pitching his Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court, or CARE Court, proposal since March. But his May budget revision on Friday was the first time he put a dollar amount on it.

Colorado Newsline: Mentally ill Coloradans await care in jail for months. Could a new effort clear the backlog?
Colorado House Bill 22-1303 will use about $17 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to add 16 beds for people accused of committing crimes who have been deemed incompetent to stand trial. Those beds would be located at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan. The bill would also provide $37 million in federal funding to add 125 beds at residential facilities throughout the state for people needing long-term supportive services.

Los Angeles Times: The mentally ill defendants in my courtroom need treatment, not jail
Terry Lee Smerling, judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court, writes: This month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and chief executive are putting together the county budget and deciding how to spend around $36 billion of our taxpayer dollars. They have committed to a “care first, jails last” vision of public safety that centers community-based health solutions and services — particularly for people with mental illnesses.

D: How Metrocare’s Crisis Team Is Interrupting the Prison Pipeline
North Texas’ largest provider of mental healthcare, Metrocare, launched its 24/7 crisis hotline last summer as a part of becoming a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic. When a community member calls, they will be able to speak to a clinician to receive proper care. If immediate help is needed, the Mobile Crisis Outreach Team will meet with the individual to de-escalate the situation and work on long-term care and resources.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Savannah Now: Two internal investigations reveal Creely's death in Chatham County jail 'preventable'
Lee Michael Creely died in the Chatham County Detention Center in early September 2020. Savannah Morning News reviewed thousands of public documents — two Chatham County Sheriff’s Officer internal affairs investigations, CorrectHealth medical records, two autopsies, jail video footage and photographs, and police reports — to illuminate how Creely’s death cannot simply be written off as the consequences of drug addiction, but more so by a series of missteps from the lack of drug treatment to probation bureaucracy to lax administration of private healthcare within the jail to a lack of oversight from correctional officers.

United States Attorney's Office: Former Norfolk Sheriff Sentenced for Public Corruption
A former elected Sheriff of the City of Norfolk was sentenced today to 12 years in prison for defrauding the citizens of Norfolk through bribery schemes. Gerard Boyle, 64, of Franklin, Tennessee was the Chief Executive Officer of Correct Care Solutions (CSS), provided McCabe with cash, travel, a loan, entertainment, gift cards, personal gifts and campaign contributions.

Business Wire: Leading Healthcare Group Forms YesCare, Debuting New Vision and Leadership
Corizon Health (formerly a merger of Correctional Medical Services and Prison Health Services) is now YesCare. Sara Tirschwell, briefly a New York City mayoral candidate, is YesCare's CEO.

In Observation Of Memorial Day
COCHS Weekly Update Will Not Be Published Next Week