Weekly Update: May 2, 2023

COCHS Weekly Update: May 02, 2023

Highlighted Stories

White House: FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Takes Action During Second Chance Month to Strengthen Public Safety, Improve Rehabilitation in Jails and Prisons, and Support Successful Reentry
The Biden-Harris administration has released an evidence-informed, multi-year Alternatives, Rehabilitation, and Reentry Strategic Plan to strengthen public safety by reducing unnecessary criminal justice system interactions. A part of that plan includes a new section 1115 demonstration opportunity to allow Medicaid coverage for select services provided to certain incarcerated persons in the period shortly before expected release from jail or prison.

Daily News: Restarting your life after prison: Providing Medicaid at reentry can help
In an op-ed, Khalil A. Cumberbatch, director of strategic partnerships at the Council on Criminal Justice discusses the many impending Medicaid waivers that will provide coverage for incarcerated persons prior to release. He points out that these waivers will need to greatly enhance continuity of care between corrections and the community. As it is now, when released people who have been receiving medications and medical care within correctional facilities often experience detrimental gaps in their health care when reestablishing themselves in the community. States that receive waivers will need to prioritize collaboration among the patchwork of systems and service providers involved in that precarious prison-to-community transition.

NACo: CMS releases guidance on new opportunity for pre-release Medicaid coverage for incarcerated individuals
NACo outlines the new guidance for a new Medicaid Reentry Section 1115 demonstration opportunity. CMS expects state proposals to include in order to be considered “sufficiently robust” enough to improve care transitions: 1) Case Management to assess and address physical and behavioral health needs; 2) Access Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT); and 3) A 30-day supply of all prescription medications provided to the beneficiary immediately upon release from the correctional facility. States that are granted approval for participation in the demonstration will receive an enhanced federal matching rate to support Medicaid eligibility and redetermination systems.

NACo, NSA, Major Cities Chiefs Association, And Major County Sheriffs of America : Letter To Congressional Leaders Supporting hanges to Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy
This letter addressed to Congressional leaders from the National Association of Counties, National Sheriffs' Association, and Major County Sheriffs of America expresses support for proposed changes to the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP). The letter argues that the current MIEP has unintended consequences that have created financial burdens for local governments and limited access to healthcare for individuals who are not yet convicted of a crime. The proposed changes would allow eligible individuals to receive healthcare services under Medicaid while in custody, which the letter argues would improve public health and safety outcomes. The letter calls on Congressional leaders to support these changes and work with stakeholders to address any implementation concerns.

Data & Statistics

BJS: 2020 datasets now available from the Federal Law Enforcement Agency Deaths in Custody Reporting Program
Also available are data sets for: 2018-2019, 2017, and 2016.

Pennsylvania Capital Star: As U.S. life expectancy falls, experts cite the health impacts of incarceration
Life expectancy fell in the United States in 2021 for the second year in a row, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some academic experts and activists said the trend also underscores the lasting health consequences of mass incarceration in a nation with roughly 2 million imprisoned. A Senate report last year found the U.S. Department of Justice failed to identify more than 900 deaths in prisons and local jails in fiscal year 2021. The federal government has also failed to collect or release enough information about deaths in custody that could be used to identify disease patterns and prevent fatalities and illness inside and outside of institutions, researchers said.


JAMA: Nonfatal Firearm Injury and Firearm Mortality in High-risk Youths and Young Adults 25 Years After Detention
One-quarter of Black and Hispanic males are injured or killed by firearms within 16 years after detention. Youth who have been previously involved with the juvenile justice system had up to 23 times the rate of firearm mortality than the general population.

Hepatitis C

Civil Rights Litigation Clearing House: Policies for Expanding Hepatitis C Testing and Treatment in United States Prisons and Jails
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is highly prevalent in United States prisons and jails, where rates of infection are 10 to 20 times greater than national levels and where more than 30% of all people living with HCV in the United States will spend time in any given year. This white paper draws lessons from the cases, as well as from interviews and workshops with advocates, medical professionals, and others with expertise on this topic. The paper proposes policies for scaling up HCV testing, evaluating and monitoring the disease, universalizing access to direct acting antiviral medication, and supporting successful treatment outcomes.

State Roundup

Montgomery Advertiser: Man dies in Alabama prison; inmates allege medical neglect
A 60-year-old man, Marcus Antonio Williams, died at the Ventress Correctional Facility after struggling to breathe. Fellow prisoners say that that Williams' death is the result of medical negligence. Williams had been to the infirmary twice, and each time medical staff sent him back to his cell. After a third time, Williams died an hour and a half later.

Alaska Public Media: Correctional officer charged with bringing drugs into Seward prison
A state correctional officer in Seward is facing charges of distributing drugs at Spring Creek Correctional facility, allegedly to smooth over a dispute between himself and other inmates. Alaska State Troopers saw security footage from the prison that showed the correctional officer secretly delivering what appeared to be contraband to a prison cell through a food port.

Alaska Public Media: Family says untreated pain, solitary confinement led to man’s suicide at Juneau prison
Yad Duu Quay Mark Cook Jr. was on life-support Monday. He’d been declared dead, but was an organ donor, so he remained hooked up to the machines. Cook is the third person to die in Alaska Department of Corrections custody this year. His family says he died by suicide after hanging himself at Lemon Creek Correctional Center. His death fits a pattern. Suicides in Alaska jails “unfolded at a startling pace” last year — all among people who were awaiting trial — and that the department has long faced criticism that it does not do enough to prevent suicides.

Stat: ‘We went from almost no lockdowns to daily lockdowns’: The mental health crisis inside California women’s prisons
Extended lockdowns were introduced in the wake of the pandemic and continue to take a toll on prisoners’ mental health and well-being. In STAT’s interviews with more than a half-dozen women who are incarcerated in California, many described the post-pandemic era as their most difficult period of incarceration. Every single woman also said that these lockdowns haven’t let up in the three years since the pandemic started.

Bakersfield.com: California, Kern seek ways to reduce number of incarcerated mentally ill
Kern and other counties announced last week they are partnering with California’s Department of State Hospitals on another venture: establishment of the Incompetent to Stand Trial Solutions Workgroups. This translates to a committee formed at the local level to develop “local solutions” to remedy the state’s mental hospital waitlist and those incarcerated for behaviors related to their mental illness. More than 1,700 people are awaiting admission to one of the five state hospitals. The state hospital system only take patients who are mandated for treatment by a criminal or civil court judge.

Davis Vanguard: Mental Health in California Prisons – Understaffed and Overwhelmed
The shortages of clinicians within California state prisons has had negative impacts that are far-reaching. Staff shortages at Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP) have resulted in a single clinician being responsible for the care of all of the incarcerated patients on two yards. At the California Medical Facility (CMF) in Vacaville, the length of stay for increased level of care programs has been drastically reduced, from 3-6 months to 30-90 days, in order to minimize wait lists for the programs. The concerns arising from within California state prisons also have a direct impact on community safety. An inability to provide rehabilitative care ultimately results in severely mentally ill patients being deprived of treatment, sitting in prison, and simply awaiting release back into society.

VC Star: California prison guards get a warning
Few labor groups have more clout in California government than the prison guards union. As a result of the new ruling, guards in at least one prison now must wear body cameras when dealing with inmates because of documented excess use of force. Some actions described included tipping over the wheelchairs of disabled prisoners, punching a hard-of-hearing inmate in the face when he asked for written communication from the guard because he couldn’t hear what the guard had said and using pepper spray on mentally ill convicts.

District of Columbia
Washington Post: D.C. jail medical care ‘systemically dysfunctional,’ suit alleges
People incarcerated in D.C. and their advocates filed a federal lawsuit against the District this week, alleging that the city’s Department of Corrections does not provide prisoners the medical care that the Constitution demands. The suit said people “have been and continue to be seriously injured by the District’s deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs,” detailing numerous allegedly untreated medical, vision and dental complaints from inmates at the long-troubled D.C. jail.

WMAZ: 'Covered it up as a suicide': Family questions Georgia prison on how Cochran man died in state custody
Federal investigators say Georgia prisons have some of the nation's highest rates for both homicides and suicides. Even while Department of Justice's investigates these deaths, more suicides and murders are happening. One of the most recent deaths, a Cochran man, Maurice Terrell Jenkins, found dead in Coastal State Prison last week. The prison says they suspect he died from suicide, but the coroner's office is still investigating. Senator Jon Ossoff introduced a new inquiry on the Senate floor focused on conditions in Georgia's prisons and jails.

Atlanta News First: Why has this Georgia man been behind bars for 10 years awaiting trial?
Police arrested Maurice Jimmerson and four others in 2013 for murder. A jury acquitted two of them, but for 10 years, Jimmerson has spent the majority of that time in a county jail, legally innocent. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees people accused of crimes the right to a speedy trial and access to an attorney if they cannot afford one.

WTTW: Inside Pontiac Prison Where Mental Health Issues, Violence, Officer Shortages and Aging Facilities Are Leading to Calls for Reform
Pontiac is one of the oldest prisons in the state, opened in 1871. The number of incarcerated people designated as seriously mentally ill is 26%, according to state data. Rob Jeffreys, who just stepped down after nearly four years as director of the department of corrections, acknowledges the state has been hit with two lawsuits leading to a consent decree over its physical and mental health care programs. Staff claim that it has the highest level of violence throughout the system, that it’s a very unsafe place to work.

NY Times: Sheriff’s Office in Rural Kentucky Hires Detective Who Killed Breonna Taylor
The police detective who fatally shot Breonna Taylor during a chaotic raid on her apartment in Louisville, Ky., has been hired by a small county sheriff’s office in the state, prompting both support and protests from people who live in the rural county. Myles Cosgrove, one of two officers who shot Ms. Taylor in March 2020, was hired in recent days by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.

Spectrum: City government releases report on Louisville jail
Thirteen people have died in custody at the Louisville jail since Nov. 2021, with five suicides, five overdose deaths and three dying of natural causes. An investigation was conducted by retired FBI agent David J. Beyer. Beyer reported that many of the issues at the jail stem from poor leadership from the previous director, Dwayne Clark, who was “reclusive” and told officers to stay away from inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in lax supervision. Beyer pointed to the outdated jail facility as a significant factor in negative outcomes and the poor training and practices for old and new corrections officers, leading to the violence at the jail, low morale, officer burnout and understaffing

New Jersey
Mathew J Platkin, Attorney General New Jersey: Grand Jury Indicts Two Atlantic County Correctional Officers with Manslaughter in Death of Inmate
A state grand jury on Monday, April 24, voted to file criminal charges against three Atlantic County Correctional Officers in connection with the death of Mario Terruso. “Mario Terruso was in desperate need of medical help. He pleaded for that assistance, but he never got the help he so desperately needed,” said Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. The victim, while restrained in handcuffs and leg irons, was allegedly forcibly taken to the ground, struck in the head four times.

New York
NY Times: New York Will Toughen Contentious Bail Law to Give Judges More Discretion
Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced that the state would scale back those changes — for the third time — after a sharp rebuke from New York’s voters and residents over a rise in crime. The precise details are unknown but Ms. Hochul said that she and the Legislature intend to eliminate a provision that requires judges to prescribe the “least restrictive” means to ensure defendants return to court.

Spectrum: Substance abuse treatment could be strengthened in New York prisons
Treatment, support and transition programs for substance abuse disorder could be designated as essential medical services in New York's prisons under a measure approved unanimously Wednesday in the state Senate. The measure is meant to address what lawmakers said are gaps in treatment programs currently available in correctional facilities.

North Carolina
WFAE: Mental health care in North Carolina jails
For a research project that focuses on incarceration and public health North Carolina it was found that: 1) Less than one in 10 jails routinely had a psychiatrist; 2) Less than three in 10 had other types of mental health personnel, such as licensed counselors; and 3) The small percentage of jails that have onsite psychiatric personnel, hours are typically limited.

The Frontier: A man’s death in jail was ruled a homicide. Family and friends are still waiting for someone to be charged
Oklahoma has a shortage of inpatient mental health facilities to handle rising demand. People in crisis often end up in county jails ill-equipped to handle those with severe mental illness. Ronald Given thought he saw his father dying in the hallway outside his cell and repeatedly called out for him. He became so agitated at one point that he bit another arrestee. A detention officer told authorities that a Taser weapon was used on Given before he went limp while jailers pinned his handcuffed body to the floor.

Altoona Mirror: Commissioner speaks of need for inmate mental health services
Blair County pprison inmates are in need of more access to mental health services and programs that could keep them from returning to jail, Commissioner Laura Burke said. Burke spoke of data she reviewed last year indicating at that time, 82% of Blair County’s incarcerated inmates had a serious or severe mental issue. She also added: “If we had adequate services in our community, we would not need a mental health court or the level of in-person prison services or re-entry services that we do.”

ABC: Report shows dead inmate looked like he was 'laying on himself for hours'
Matthew Shelton, died on March 27, 2022, of diabetic ketoacidosis, a complication that occurs when someone living with diabetes doesn't have enough insulin. He's one of 32 people who have died in custody since 2022. The deaths range from inmates being "found unresponsive" to those having medical crisis and three suicides. Harris Health System took over healthcare for the jail just weeks before Shelton was found dead, admitting in state documents that medication delivery was a "high risk concern" when they took over.

Texas Tribune: Seven Texas prison employees face dismissal over 16-year-old inmate’s suicide
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is moving to fire seven employees for failing to check on a 16-year-old boy who died by suicide last month. Despite his long history of suicidal behavior in youth facilities, Joshua Keith Beasley Jr. had been transferred to the adult prison system. The teen had been incarcerated almost continuously since he was 11. Beasley’s death was one of 16 reported suicides in TDCJ so far this year

Utah Department of Corrections: UDC provides update on mosquito abatement efforts at USCF
Mosquitoes have been a concern for the Utah State Correctional Facility (USCF) in Salt Lake since July 2022, when the facility began housing incarcerated individuals. Utah state legislators approved $300,000 this year in additional funds to address mosquito abatement at USCF. As temperatures rise and standing water collects around the facility, the mosquito problem is expected to become more severe.

Seattle Times: How WA seeks to stem flow of people from jails to state hospitals
Washington state lawmakers wrestled with and ultimately passed a bill recently that is intended to ease a persistent crisis — the state is failing to provide required mental health services for people detained in jail and awaiting trial. Despite a 2018 federal settlement, officials with the state Department of Social and Health Services have struggled to keep up with the number of defendants who need assistance, leading to steep fines and growing frustration among law enforcement, families, and advocates.

San Diego County

San Diego Union Tribune: Confiscated wheelchairs, dangerous bunks, no sign language: San Diego County jails are perilous for people with disabilities, suit says
Fifteen disabled plaintiffs recently submitted sworn testimony as part of a case, which seeks to require the Sheriff’s Department to do more to protect the medical and mental health of people in custody. The motion seeks a preliminary injunction to force Sheriff Kelly Martinez to upgrade county detention facilities so they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mental Health Initiatives In Criminal Justice

WFYI: Bill to divert people from jail into mental health treatment heads to governor
People in Indiana with mental health issues could be diverted to local treatment facilities instead of jail under legislation headed to the governor’s desk. HB 1006, overwhelmingly approved by both chambers, sets out rules and a timeline for how a person who’s been arrested should be evaluated, treated and potentially committed for mental illness. The bill will be coupled with funding for local treatment programs. The money for that will be in the state budget.

Community Impact: Tarrant County expands qualifying charges for mental health jail diversion center
Tarrant County commissioners expanded the list of charges eligible for the people to go to the Mental Health Jail Diversion Center rather than the Tarrant County Jail: misdemeanor theft, possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct, false report and terroristic threat if there is no violence. “The Tarrant County Jail Diversion Center has already shown great success in diverting individuals away from the criminal justice system and towards more appropriate care,” Fort Worth police Chief Neil Noakes said.

Men's Health: How Yoga Is Helping Men in Prison
There’s a clear correlation between trauma, aggression, and criminal behavior, and according to 2021 research published in Psychiatry, Psychology and Law. The Prison Yoga Project was founded in 2014 by James Fox, a certified yoga instructor, after he recognized the need for a body-based healing program for people who are incarcerated. His stated mission was to improve lives, foster self-rehabilitation, and develop self-awareness and self-worth


NIJ (YouTube): Directors of Justice Department Science and Research Offices Talk Reentry
Director of the National Institute of Justice Nancy La Vigne, Ph.D., and Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics Alex Piquero, Ph.D., discuss important topics, programs and initiatives related to reentry and recidivism.

NIJ: Five Things About Reentry
Reentry is the process by which a person in correctional confinement prepares for release and transitions back into the community. Research can inform each stage of the reentry process, increasing the odds that people returning home can successfully and productively remain in their community. From years of research, the following five reentry strategies seem to increase the likelihood of a more successful reentry into the community: 1) Programs and services should be tailored to the unique needs and risk factors of an individual, to the extent possible; 2) Support services should be holistic in nature; 3) Cognitive behavioral therapy benefits all facets of reentry-preparation and post-release programs; 4) Community supervision works best when it includes robust support functions; and 5) The strategy of employing more nuanced measures of recidivism that present the individual as a whole.

Public Defenders

University Of Chicago Press: Everyone Against Us
As a public defender, Allen Goodman faced cross-examination from family and friends every day: How could he work to help criminals? How could he live with himself? Presumed guilty by association, Goodman quickly learned that people didn’t really want an answer; they wanted a justification, perhaps even an apology. To work in criminal justice, Goodman shows, is to confront and combat vivid human suffering, of both victims and perpetrators.

CT Mirror: CT public defenders warn of lawsuit if hourly pay remains static
Public defenders in Connecticut could see a pay increase if a new legislative proposal is approved, and officials at the Division of Public Defender Services say the agency would face a crisis without it. The Appropriations Committee recognized the potential state of emergency when it advanced a proposal that included a $23 million increase over two years for assigned counsel in the division, contract attorneys who handle criminal and child welfare cases.


The Sentencing Project: Sentencing Reform for Criminalized Survivors: Learning from New York’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act
Across the country, a growing number of jurisdictions are responding to this problem by passing or considering bills designed to allow survivors of family violence, intimate partner violence, and human trafficking to receive shorter sentences for offenses deeply entwined with their victimization. New York’s survivor sentencing law builds on that principle by allowing survivors to demonstrate their victimization to seek a lower sentence at the time of an original sentencing hearing or, for survivors who are already incarcerated, via resentencing.


KRQE: Santa Fe County jail looks to bring new technology to improve inmate safety
Santa Fe County jail where a dozen inmates have died in the last three years, is bringing in new technology to keep better track of inmates’ health. Inmates who have health problems will wear a device, similar to an Apple Watch, which will monitor their vitals and alert correction officers if there’s an emergency.

Core Civic

Best Stocks: Oklahoma Department of Corrections Terminates Lease with Private Corrections Company CoreCivic
On April 25, 2023, news broke that CoreCivic, a private corrections company, received a lease termination notice from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODC) for the North Fork Correctional Facility (NFCF). The termination is set to take effect on June 30, 2023, upon the lease expiration.

Clark Fork Valley Press: Funding to send Montana prisoners to Arizona private prison reinstated
The Senate Finance and Claims Committee voted Friday to put the $3.9 million annually that would go toward funding 120 beds for Montana prisoners at a CoreCivic private prison in Arizona into a separate bill after nixing the funding several other times this session. Sen. Ryan Lynch, D-Butte, suggested that the private, for-profit CoreCivic was getting a “backroom deal” with the committee’s decision to add the money back in after taking it out of House Bill 2, the budget bill, earlier this month.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

CBS: $2M settlement reached in death of Colorado jail inmate who had developmental disabilities: "I feel some type of justice" says mother
Mesa County has agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit, and the county jail's former medical provider (Correct Care Solutions, now Wellpath )will pay $400,025 in the 2014 jail death of Tomas Beauford. He suffered from epileptic seizures, and was not allowed to have a potentially lifesaving device in his Mesa County jail cell.

VT Digger: As more incarcerated witnesses detail David Mitchell’s death, advocates plan a Statehouse rally
Five people who were incarcerated near David Mitchell have now described him pleading for medical care before he died at Southern State Correctional. The witnesses described Mitchell begging for help before and after he was briefly seen by medical staff on the morning of his death. All five also said a corrections officer told Mitchell he would be sent to segregation if he didn’t stop complaining.Facility. Earlier this month, the corrections department announced it will switch its health care services provider from VitalCore to Wellpath LLC, effective July 1. The state previously contracted with Wellpath from 2010 to 2015, when it operated under the name Correct Care Solutions.