Weekly Update: August 8, 2023

COCHS Weekly Update: August 08, 2023

Highlighted Stories

Editor's Note
The three lead stories in today’s Weekly Update highlight the extent to which absent Medicaid, correctional health exists within a deregulated, inconsistent, and somewhat happenstance system. The North Carolina article underscores the lack of consistency and clear standards in which health care decisions are based. The Cleveland story, on the other hand, describes how Medicaid with its standards and processes can dramatically change the reentry process of a previously incarcerated person. The last story from Salt Lake City emphasizes how without coverage, corrections becomes the default health care provider.

NC Health News: NC jails have arbitrary early release practices for some health conditions, study finds
When a group of local researchers set out to understand more about health care services in jails in the Southeast, they discovered that there are many informal ways incarcerated people are released early because they have various health conditions. But sometimes, the needs of their inmates exceed a jail’s available resources, the researchers explain in a recent paper, Jail Health and Early Release Practices, published in a journal out of the law school at the College of William and Mary. The researchers found that one of the most commonly cited reasons for early release from jail was pregnancy. Other common reasons included significant injuries, serious illnesses requiring medical attention such as cancer, illnesses with expensive medications such as HIV and Hepatitis C, and serious mental illness.

Cleveland.com: Life was a roller coaster before Medicaid coverage: John Corlett
“Life was a roller coaster ride, but now because of Medicaid I have balance and stability. My therapist sees it, my case manager sees it, my pastor sees it, and everyone I associate with sees it. These are the words of an Ohioan who had formerly been incarcerated in one of Ohio’s state prisons, talking about how getting and keeping healthcare coverage via Medicaid has changed his life for the better.

Salt Lake Tribune: Need health care or housing in Salt Lake City? If you’re poor, go directly to jail.
Jason M. Groth, a public defender in Salt Lake County writes: One of my clients had to choose between asking for release to probation or going to prison. This should not be a complicated choice. But for my client, it meant the difference between receiving life-saving cancer treatment while in prison or not receiving any treatment on probation. Health care to save her life was only accessible in the criminal legal system, which is sadly normal for people who are poor. I also had clients whose first opportunity to address their mental health and substance issues was through social workers in my office. Health care should not be prefaced with: “Go directly to jail, do not pass go.”

Data & Statistics

BJS: Survey of Prison Inmates Data Analysis Tool (SPI DAT)
This dynamic analysis tool allows users to examine select characteristics of prisoners based on data collected through the Survey of Prison Inmates (SPI), 2016. This tool presents estimates from the 2016 SPI as interactive data visualizations, allowing users a variety of characteristics and views to investigate questions of interest. It also provides users with the ability to download their results.


BMC: Results of a national survey of substance use treatment services for youth under community supervision
Despite the heightened risk for substance use (SU) among youth in the juvenile justice system, many do not receive the treatment that they need. The purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which youth under community supervision by juvenile justice agencies receive community-based SU services and the factors associated with access to such services.

Opioid Epidemic

San Francisco Chronicle: Supervisor Matt Dorsey compares S.F. fentanyl crisis to AIDS epidemic, argues for jail intervention
Supervisor Matt Dorsey likened San Francisco’s fentanyl crisis to the 1980s AIDS epidemic during a televised town hall Monday and pledged to work on “jail health” and intervention strategies to combat the deadly emergency that has already claimed more than 300 lives this year. While San Francisco has taken a tougher approach on drug crime — police data shows drug-related arrests in May were the highest the department has made in that month since 2018 — Dorsey said the crisis on the city’s streets is the worst it’s been in decades.

Times Union: Drugs used to treat opioid disorders in prisons emerge as new contraband
Internal affairs unit wanted to talk to an inmate in Attica, who is nearly 70, about a letter he had written recently to a deputy commissioner detailing rampant drug use in the maximum-security prison. The man had stuffed the letter with multiple doses of buprenorphine. He reported that the opioid treatment drugs are being doled out by medical staff like candy, traded as contraband and given to some inmates without substance use disorders to treat pain.


Dakota News Now: State official says new men’s prison will alleviate health risks during heat events
One inmate at Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield was seen for heat exhaustion this week as temperatures and heat indices pushed near triple digits in much of South Dakota. Most of the inmate housing and work areas within state Department of Corrections facilities are air conditioned, but the former college dorm rooms used as cells at the medium security Durfee facility are not.

CityView: In heat wave, NC inmates still live in prisons without air conditioning
As many North Carolina residents seek chilled shelter from stifling heat and indices expected to top 100 degrees, many in the state’s prison population are confined inside buildings without air conditioning.

STLPR: Half of Missouri's prisons are not fully air conditioned. Inmates say 'we've got hell coming'
As heat waves sweep across the Midwest, incarcerated people in Missouri are increasingly afraid of the rising temperatures inside prisons.They live in concrete buildings that retain heat. People share close quarters, making cooling all the more difficult. As Earth’s temperatures reach their hottest recorded numbers this summer, people incarcerated in Missouri’s prisons describe conditions as similar to a pizza oven, or like “swimming in a cloud” of humidity.

State Roundup

40/29: Washington County Jail sees an increase in COVID-19 cases
The Washington County Jail is seeing an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. This comes as the jail saw an increase of more than 40 new cases for the month of July. On average, the Washington County Jail sees one to two positive cases of COVID-19 a month. “We started seeing an increase in the first part of July. But we have a congregate setting. We have nearly 800 people packed into a pretty small space, so it’s not unusual to see COVID,” said Jay Cantrell, the sheriff for Washington County. “It seems to come in waves.”

Los Angeles Daily News: New law triggers surge of lawsuits by alleged victims of prison sexual assault
A California law allowing victims of sexual assault by law enforcement officers more time to seek redress in the courts against their assailants has prompted a spate of lawsuits across the state. One Beverly Hills law firm has filed 135 suits totaling 147 plaintiffs in San Bernardino, Sacramento and Madera counties since the law took effect on Jan. 1. 2022, and expects to file at least 100 more cases on behalf of former prisoners.

The Messenger: Georgia County to Pay $4M to Family of Inmate Who Died Covered in Bedbugs in Mental Health Wing
The Georgia county that includes much of Atlanta will pay out a $4 million settlement to the family of a man who died last year in the county’s jail covered in bed bugs. NaphCase, the health care provider at the Fulton County Jail, is also believed to have agreed to a similar settlement with Thompson’s family that includes new preventative procedures.

FOX 5: Atlanta councilman responds to funding flap over Fulton County Jail
A decision made three years ago not to expand the Fulton County Jail has proved to be costly, according to a senior Atlanta leader, Michael Bond. The councilman praised Lee Morris, a former Fulton County commissioner, who, in June 2020, was the only one to support a project that would have expanded and segregated health facilities. But activists spoke out at the county board meeting, urging lawmakers not to spend $21 million to expand housing for the jail. The Atlanta councilman noted that had the new and presumably clean medical unit been built, cases like the inmate found dead in a dirty, bedbug-infested cell might not have happened.

FOX 5 (YouTube): 19-year-old with mental health issues dies in Fulton County Jail
Noni Battiste-Kosoko, the 19-year-old inmate who died in the Fulton County Jail, reportedly suffered from mental health issues, according to her family. FOX 5 reached out to a former cellmate of the woman's who says the system failed her. Now, her family says they will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of what caused her to die alone in a cell.

New Mexico
KOB: UNMH takes over inmate healthcare at MDC
After a number of inmate deaths, officials announced UNM hospital would take over health services at the Metropolitan Detention Center. They started the transition last Wednesday, and they’re already changing systems and figuring out what their biggest needs are going to be moving forward. “Our focus during this past week has been to implement UNMH’s electronic medical health record, and assess current processe," said UNMH Dr. Rebecca Fastle.

KUNM: Attorney sees UNMH taking over care at the Bernalillo County jail as a hopeful sign
Peter Culebra has been advocating for the rights of incarcerated people in New Mexico since the 1980s. Now the retired Albuquerque attorney is sounding a note of optimism as University of New Mexico hospital takes over the medical services contract at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center.

Oklahoma Watch: Money Alone Can’t Solve Mental Health Access Issues in Rural Jails
Seven years after voters approved a greater investment in mental health and substance abuse services for Oklahoma counties, the money finally is on the way. But advocates warn that wide swaths of the state are at a disadvantage, unable to provide proper mental health and substance abuse treatment. Even with the additional money, jails are ill-equipped to provide treatment, said Judge Ken Stoner, who presides over Oklahoma County drug court cases.

Houston Public Media: Ex-Harris County sheriff’s deputy sexually assaulted at jail sues county, top officials for $1 million-plus
A former sheriff's deputy who says she was sexually assaulted by an inmate at the Harris County Jail in 2021 is asking for more than $1 million in a civil lawsuit filed against the alleged attacker, the county and some of its top elected officials. The 10-page lawsuit makes a premises defect claim, asserting the county and its leadership failed in their ministerial duties to adequately fund and staff the downtown Houston jail, resulting in "blatantly dangerous" working conditions that precipitated the assault.

WTKR: How do Virginia jails and prisons handle transgender inmates?
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has collected data on transgender inmates. Its data from 2015 shows an estimated 35 percent of transgender inmates in prisons and 34 percent in jails experienced one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff over a 12-month period, or since being admitted.

Los Angeles County

Los Angeles Times: The L.A. County jails have had 26 deaths this year. When will it stop?
Michelle Parris the director of Vera California writes: A 29-year-old Black man died in Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department custody last week. He is the 26th person to die in our jail system this year, putting us on track for a record number of in-custody deaths. Most of the dead were Black or Latino, had not been convicted of the charges for which they were being held and were in custody only because they were too poor to pay the bail amount for their release. The county needs to remove bureaucratic hurdles to getting money out to communities in need — especially those most affected by incarceration — and right the wrongs of our budget priorities, fully funding a community-based pretrial-services system that centers connections to care and the mental health beds that are crucial to its success.

Rikers Island

Gothamist: Number of Rikers correction officers drops under Adams, but still about 3 times the national average
The number of correction officers staffing New York City’s jails has dipped sharply under Mayor Eric Adams, even as the number of detainees has risen, according to city data. Still, staffing levels are more than three times what research shows is the national average – with officers in New York City outnumbering the people they oversee.


New York Times: Eight Months Pregnant and Arrested After False Facial Recognition Match
Porcha Woodruff thought the police who showed up at her door to arrest her for carjacking were joking. She is the first woman known to be wrongfully accused as a result of facial recognition technology.