Weekly Update: April 19, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: April 19, 2022

Mental Health/Behavioral Health Special

PEW: Can Medicaid Help Improve Opioid Use Disorder Treatment in Correctional Facilities?
Individuals involved with the criminal legal system have high rates of opioid use and are disproportionately low income, meaning that the majority of them qualify for Medicaid coverage. But federal law prohibits Medicaid from paying for health services, including opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment, during incarceration, or the confinement of an individual in prison or jail, a prohibition often referred to as the “inmate exclusion.” Current proposed legislation in Congress aims to change that situation by creating a new funding stream for correctional health care, which could include OUD treatment.

University of Massachusetts Amherst: Massachusetts Jails Found ‘Innovative Solutions’ for Incarcerated Individuals with Opioid Use Disorder
In two new papers, a team of Massachusetts researchers examined the implementation of a groundbreaking opioid use disorder medication treatment program in seven jails across the state – part of a $155 million national effort to address the opioid crisis in criminal justice settings. Researchers interviewed 61 clinical, corrections and senior jail administrators involved in the rollout of the opioid use disorder treatment program, which provides incarcerated individuals with an FDA-approved medication, such as buprenorphine or methadone. The researchers found that the state mandate drove staff acceptance.

Colorado Politics: Colorado legislature OKs diverting people with mental health issues out of jail
The Colorado legislature approved a bill to prevent people with mental health issues from entering the criminal justice system, instead sending them to treatment centers to address their needs. The state House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 10 in a 61-1 vote Tuesday, following the state Senate’s unanimous vote last month. The bill will now be sent back to the Senate to approve changes made by the House, and then to Gov. Jared Polis for final consideration.

Orange County Register: OC DA’s Office launches diversion program for cases that may involve mental health issues
Orange County has launched a program to connect eligible people arrested for low-level crimes with mental health and substance abuse services before criminal charges are filed in an effort to curb reoffending, the District Attorney’s Office announced. It will be headed by the OC District Attorney’s Office in partnership with participating police departments around Orange County, including the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Irvine Police Department and Seal Beach Police Department.

Arizona Capitol Times: Mental health key to successful re-entry
The CEO of YesCare, Sara Tirschwell, writes: 1,500 people are released from Arizona state prisons each month, yet two out of five will return to prison within the first three years post-release. That’s a 41% recidivism rate. We have an opportunity to break the cycle of recidivism if we can stop overlooking the importance of mental health to overall wellbeing. That starts with providing a basic standard of mental health resources for the individual and on a community-wide basis. One method to support this is Medication-Assisted Treatment – the use of medications, counseling and behavioral therapies – to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.

Inside Headline: His neighbors tried to save him. But the system was too broken
Kenyon Graham was a regular, if unsettling, presence in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood, where he often wandered the streets undressed and shouting at no one. He had spent years bouncing between jail, mental health programs and homelessness. Four of his neighbors decided they were going to change that spending hours learning about the county’s mental health system. They met with representatives from City Council, the county board of supervisors, the police, the district attorney and mental health system. But their worst fear came true. Graham was beaten to death with a skateboard while sleeping on the sidewalk near 45th Street and Telegraph Avenue.

The Lens: Public meeting scheduled on controversial Phase III jail facility
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Office will hold a public meeting to discuss a controversial, 89-bed facility at the city’s jail to treat detainees with serious mental health and medical issues. For nearly two years, Cantrell has been fighting in federal court to avoid building the facility, known as Phase III, arguing it was unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Outgoing Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has backed construction of Phase III . Orleans Parish Sheriff-elect Susan Hutson also made her opposition to the facility a key part of her campaign platform.

The Guardian: Job ad for US bureau of prisons highlights patients’ mental illness as recruiting tool
Psychologists who work for the bureau that runs federal prisons in the US can treat incarcerated people with every mental illness imaginable, according to an employment ad that stirred controversy on social media. The ad, bought by the US Bureau of Prisons (BOP) on Facebook as part of a broader campaign, asks readers to flip to any page in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. “Whatever disorder you land on, you’ll find it here,” says a quote on the ad.

Webinars & Conferences

Bipartisan Center: Combating the Opioid Crisis With Smarter Federal Spending
Federal spending on opioid-related programs has been at an all-time high, with approximately $6.6 billion appropriated in FY2022. With treatment options still out of reach for many Americans and overdoses from fentanyl and synthetic opioids climbing, policymakers remain unsure whether recent investments in opioid-related programs are having an impact. Please join BPC on Monday, May 2 from 1-2 p.m. ET for a discussion on new recommendations focused on optimizing federal spending and improving the federal response to the opioid epidemic.

Reentry 2030: Advancing Successful Reintegration for Every Person: Reentry 2030 National Launch
Learn how, by aligning goals and tracking progress across states, Reentry 2030 will help amplify statewide efforts and build momentum, give states the opportunity to learn from each other in real-time as they work on similar goals, and ultimately see significant advances in reentry and reintegration on a national level by 2030. Register here for the event, which will take place via livestream on Thursday, April 21, 2022, from 1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. ET.

NIJ: The Hidden Costs of Reentry: Understanding the Barriers to Removing a Criminal Record
NIJ will host a webinar to discuss under-researched aspects of reentry: expungement of criminal records and the impact of those records. This webinar will include a presentation of ongoing research projects examining the impact of legal aid for expungement and past research projects studying the accuracy and permanency of criminal records and the prevalence of collateral consequences of conviction. Thursday, April 21, 2022 1:00 pm.

NCCHC: CDC Update on COVID-19 in Corrections
What should we tell our employees and incarcerated populations about masks? About vaccines? About quarantine and isolation? While guidance on the COVID pandemic has changed rapidly as case counts and deaths have diminished, it’s important to know how this guidance applies to correctional institutions. Join NCCHC and CDC for an update on CDC guidance for preventing and managing COVID in corrections, a congregate setting with a medically vulnerable population. Thu, Apr 21, 2022 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM PDT.


Daily Bruin: Report finds systemic issues increase COVID-19 cases in incarcerated communities
According to a report from the UCLA Law COVID Behind Bars Data Project, jails across the United States reported their highest numbers of COVID-19 infections between December 2021 and March 2022. The report reviewed Los Angeles County jails, Cook County Jail in Illinois and various Texas jails. “Crowded, inhumane, poorly ventilated jails and prisons and detention centers are incubators – taxpayer-funded– incubators for the virus,” said Amanda Klonsky, a research and policy fellow with the project and author of the report.

VT Digger: Department of Corrections announces end of intake quarantine, reopening of in-person visitation
The Vermont Department of Corrections plans to end its Covid-19 intake quarantine measures on Monday in all state facilities, the department announced in a press release. The quarantine measures had meant incarcerated people started their sentences with two weeks of isolation, which critics compared to punitive solitary confinement.

San Diego

San Diego Union Tribune: Review board study finds large number of ‘excess deaths’ in San Diego County jails
San Diego has the highest number of “excess deaths” among California’s 12 largest county jail systems, according to a new study commissioned by the civilian review board that oversees the Sheriff’s Department. The independent review also found that while Black and Latino people are more likely to be locked up in San Diego County jail, white men and women are more likely to die behind bars. “San Diego County is the only county with a statistically significant number of excess deaths,” the analysis from Analytica Consulting concluded.

San Diego Union Tribune: Community demands better protections for San Diego jail inmates
One day after the seventh inmate death this year was reported in San Diego County jails, community advocates urged the civilian board that oversees the Sheriff’s Department to do more to protect the men and women in custody. Speakers at the county Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board meeting on Tuesday night said too many people are dying behind bars — claims that were validated by a new report released this week.

San Diego Union Tribune: Latest death underscores severity of county jail scandal
The editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune writes: Since 2006, there have been 210 deaths — and counting — at jails run by the Sheriff’s Department. That’s one death a month over 16-plus years. Given that this is one of the largest tragedies/scandals/outrages in modern San Diego County history, it remains hard to stomach, let alone believe, that this was downplayed by the department. But until retiring in February, Sheriff Bill Gore rejected the case strongly made in a six-month investigation in 2019 by The San Diego Union-Tribune that showed San Diego County had the highest jail-mortality rate among large state counties.

State Initiatives

KLIN: Lawmakers Advance Bill Aimed At Assisting Inmates, County Jails
Nebraska lawmakers advanced a bill that makes a few changes for a select group of inmates currently in local county or state custody. State Senator John Cavanaugh’s amendment to the bill would require DHHS to provide medical program enrollment assistance for those before leaving incarceration. Inmates getting ready to leave corrections would receive the assistance in signing up for Medicaid. Another amendment would create the Legislative Mental Health Care Capacity Strategic Planning Committee that would be required to contract with an independent consultant to determine the necessary capacity of inpatient mental health care in Nebraska.

Public Safety Issues

New York Times: Justice Dept. Moves to Curb Police Abuses in Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts
The Justice Department took steps on Wednesday to overhaul policing practices in Washington, D.C., and Springfield, Mass. The Biden administration has so far opened four other similar investigations, in Louisville, Ky.; Minneapolis; Phoenix; and Mount Vernon, N.Y. The Biden administration has struggled to make meaningful progress on a vow to curb police abuses. Efforts to overhaul law enforcement are particularly sensitive as police agencies suffer from thinning ranks and increasing workloads and crime ticks higher in cities across the country.

New York Times: Videos Show Police Officer Fatally Shooting Black Man in Michigan
The police in Grand Rapids, Mich., released videos on Wednesday showing a white officer fatally shooting Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, after a struggle during a traffic stop last week. Even before the release of the footage, the case exposed longstanding tensions in Grand Rapids, a city of about 200,000 people where 18 percent of residents are Black. Activists aired their frustration and grief on during a City Commission meeting.

Washington Post: No-knock raids have led to fatal encounters and small drug seizures
Judges and magistrates are expected to review requests for no-knock warrants — one of the most intrusive and dangerous tactics available to law enforcement — to ensure that citizens are protected from unreasonable searches, as provided in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. But judges generally rely on the word of police officers and rarely question the merits of the requests, offering little resistance when they seek authorization for no-knocks. Police carrying out 21 no-knock warrants have killed at least 22 people across the country since 2015.

New York Times: Cities Try to Turn the Tide on Police Traffic Stops
Los Angeles is overhauling its traffic policing, aiming to stop pulling over cars — frequently with Black drivers — for trivial infractions like broken taillights or expired tags as a pretext to search for drugs or guns. Los Angeles last month became the biggest city to restrict the policing of minor violations. In Philadelphia, a ban on such stops has just taken effect. Pittsburgh; Seattle; Berkeley, Calif.; Lansing, Mich.; Brooklyn Center, Minn.; and the State of Virginia have all taken similar steps.

Sexual Abuse

ABC News 5 Cleveland: Former corrections officer gets 4-year sentence for sexually assaulting inmates in jail's mental health unit
Andre Bacsa, a former Cuyahoga County Jail corrections officer who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting inmates in the jail’s mental health unit, will spend the next four years behind bars. Bacsa pleaded guilty on March 16 to two counts of felony sexual battery, one count of sexual imposition and one count of unlawful restraint. He will have to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.

Trib Live: Westmoreland commissioners settle federal lawsuit filed by jail nurse
Westmoreland County commissioners have agreed to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit filed by a former nurse at the county jail. who sued the county and Wexford Health Sources, the private medical provider at Westmoreland County Prison. Sophie Puskar contended she was sexually harassed and retaliated against by staff after she reported allegations of improper behavior among co-workers. She contended she was subjected to sexual harassment by an inmate in 2018 and claimed a guard failed to stop the behavior.

Sentence Reduction

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Compassion is hard to come by in Pennsylvania’s broken prison system.
The editorial board writes: What does Pennsylvania gain from incarcerating a person with dementia? The obvious answer is nothing. But broken laws, harsh sentences, and a lack of political will mean that there is no way out of prison, no matter how ill or frail one becomes. The Pennsylvania state prison population is getting older. The Department of Corrections defines an “elderly inmate” as being over 50. A decade ago, this age group accounted for roughly 10% of those in state prisons; now it is 27%.

New York Focus: Prison Officials Block Most Requests from Terminally Ill New Yorkers for Medical Release
Incarcerated New Yorkers applying for medical parole go through a lengthy process bookended by a medical evaluation at the outset and a final review by the parole board. How decisions are made at these two stages is opaque, but what’s in between is even more of a black box. Two officials within the prison agency reject many applications after they’ve passed their medical evaluations and before they’ve reached the board, typically with little explanation.

Los Angeles Times: Release California from the prison of over-incarceration
The editorial board writes: As COVID-19 infections reached pandemic status in 2020, more than one of every 100 working-age American adults were locked up in jail or prison. But incarceration was already a serious public health hazard long before the pandemic. COVID-19 underscored the immediate need to reduce the jail population. The absence of so many parents and other adult relatives continues to add, yet one more layer of trauma to communities. There are many cases in which the more effective, longer-lasting response to individual criminal behavior is a regimen of treatment, housing assistance and other aid.


In These Times: Bad Prison Food Can Cause Health Problems that Linger After Release
Served up in too-scant portions or even withheld, food in jails and prisons can instigate or exacerbate diet-related health issues, coping behaviors, and food insecurity that are already prevalent among communities of color that bear the brunt of mass incarceration. 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.

KCM: How Felonies Can Ruin Lives — Even After Prison
Every year, thousands of women in the United States lose their freedom. In 2019, there were seven times as many women incarcerated nationwide as there were four decades previously. A former inmate, Leah Farrington, explains how experiences on the other side of incarceration can re-traumatize former convicts. She talks about reentry as layers of an onion of freedom that you pull back. The first layer is just coming out of prison and trying to readjust to society. Then there’s dealing with probation and having to go through all the steps they require.

NPR: Computer programming training could set former inmates up for success after prison
Nearly half of all people released from U.S. prisons are back behind bars within five years. But research shows that training programs can help break that cycle and prepare people for successful lives outside of prison. In a men's prison in Missouri, instructors are trying to turn prisoners into computer programmers. Men completed a six-month class in computer programming with LaunchCode, a St. Louis-based nonprofit.

The Nevada Independent: Low-level parole violations clog prisons, derail parolee progress. Can reforms help?
People in trouble for low-level, first-time “technical” violations — a breach of their parole agreement that does not rise to the level of a significant new crime — are being held in jails longer than necessary, hindering any progress they make shortly after being released from prison, according to the director of Nevada’s sentencing department. Between 2017 and January 2022, 4,000 inmates were admitted back into the custody because of a parole violation with no new conviction.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

The State: Employees of Richland jail’s caregiver have been accused in deaths elsewhere
The medical care provider at Richland County’s embattled jail has faced at least 19 state and federal lawsuits in South Carolina as well as accusations of negligence in the deaths of two detainees in other states. Wellpath is the health care provider for the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. The detention center is facing a potential lawsuit related to the death of 27-year-old. In October, the former head of the company pleaded guilty to charges related to bribery while he was CEO of a predecessor company, Correct Care Solutions.

AP: Arkansas jail, doc: Ivermectin lawsuit should be dismissed
Attorneys for an Arkansas jail and doctor being sued by inmates who say they were unknowingly given ivermectin to treat their COVID-19 say the lawsuit should be dismissed because the men are no longer being held in the county facility. In a motion filed Tuesday, attorneys for the Washington County jail and Dr. Robert Karasstrong> noted that the four inmates who filed the lawsuit are now being held in state prisons.