Weekly Update: June 8, 2021

COCHS Weekly Update: June 08, 2021

Highlighted Stories

New York Review of Books: Sentenced by Algorithm
Is it fair for a judge to increase a defendant’s prison time on the basis of an algorithmic score that predicts the likelihood that he will commit future crimes? Many states now say yes, even when the algorithms they use for this purpose have a high error rate, a secret design, and a demonstrable racial bias. The former federal judge Katherine Forrest, in her short but incisive When Machines Can Be Judge, Jury, and Executioner, says this is both unfair and irrational.

The Daily News: The evil twins harming our mental health
In 1965, Medicaid was enacted to ensure that at least some low-income people had access to health care. From the start, incarcerated low-income people were flatly excluded from coverage. A bipartisan bill re-introduced by Reps. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.). could change that. The Humane Correction Health Care Act repeals the “Medicaid Inmate Exclusion” (MIE) rule which strips low-income incarcerated people, even those presumed innocent pending trial, of their health benefits. Either way, whether in jail or prison, the MIE shuts off federal Medicaid dollars to a population often in desperate need of mental and physical health care and affects thousands of incarcerated people.

The Lund Report: New Oregon 5-Year Medicaid Plan Would Expand Membership, Increase Innovation
Oregon’s Medicaid program could look very different if the state’s tentative plan to revamp and expand the program passes muster with federal officials. The state would seek to boost member access not just to health care but to other services that shape a person’s health, like housing and food. Also, for example, Oregon inmates would fill out applications for the Oregon Health Plan -- the state’s version of Medicaid -- a few weeks prior to their release and exit prison already enrolled in the plan.

The National Council: CCBHC
CCBHCs are creating cutting-edge partnerships with their local law enforcement and criminal justice agencies to meet this need for crisis intervention and diversion from corrections. Individuals living with serious mental illness or SUDs are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, typically for non-violent crimes or low-level offenses, suggesting that lack of access to treatment for serious mental illness (SMI) and SUD is a factor in incarceration risk. Upon release, many individuals lose access to mental health and substance use services, which increases the likelihood of re-arrest. 95% of CCBHCs are engaged in one or more innovative practices in collaboration with law enforcement (LE) and criminal justice (CJ) agencies.

COVID-19 Transmission in Corrections

Washington Post: Number of ICE detainees testing positive for the coronavirus rises as advocates say agency needs robust vaccination program
Hundreds of immigrants in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers tested positive for the coronavirus this week, compared with just 60 inside the much-larger Bureau of Prisons, a stark discrepancy that comes as lawyers and lawmakers urge the Biden administration to swiftly vaccinate all detainees. Infections in ICE detention rose from 370 in mid-March to nearly 1,500 this week because more migrants are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and many are arriving infected.

COVID-19 Vaccinations in Corrections

Health Day: Some Prisons Highly Successful in Vaccinating Inmates
Some prison systems in the United States have been able to vaccinate high numbers of inmates against COVID-19, and that success could point to ways to convince skeptical people in the general public to get vaccinated. For example, more than 80 percent of inmates in North Dakota and about 73 percent of inmates in California and Kansas have received at least one vaccine dose, while the overall rates among residents in those states are 42 percent, 56 percent, and 47 percent, respectively.

Honolulu Civil Beat: Hawaii Prison Officials Still Don’t Know How Many Inmates Are Vaccinated
Corrections officials admitted they still don’t know how many inmates in the state have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Public health officials are aggressively promoting vaccinations to try to achieve “herd immunity”, but the data collected by the correctional system offers little guidance on when or if the state prisons and jails will ever reach that point. That’s because the correctional system keeps a cumulative total of the number of inmates who are vaccinated at each facility but does not take even basic steps to update those calculations.

COVID-19 and Mental Health Treatment in Corrections

KUOW: Stuck in jail, waiting for a psychiatric bed. Covid-19 made an old problem worse
Bill Ward's grandson had been sitting in the same Clark County Jail cell for more than three months. Like many others, Ward’s grandson, Trevor, is jammed in Washington state’s criminal justice system for people who cannot assist in their own defense. Trevor, 26, isn’t fit to stand trial. Due to his psychiatric condition. In April, a Clark County judge ordered Trevor to spend 45 days at Western State Hospital. Now he, along with roughly 100 others currently in jails, must wait for an open bed. While Washington’s system has been strained for years state officials and disability rights advocates say it effectively ground to a halt during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Davis Vanguard: San Quentin Prison Health Officials Take Hot Seat in COVID-19 Court Hearings
Dr. Paul Burton is the chief psychiatrist at San Quentin prison—he’s worked there for 12 years, and he told the court about the mental health services provided in the prison. He revealed that there was an uptick of mental health referrals from incarcerated people one month into the COVID outbreak in the prison. He recalled that at that time San Quentin had a large number of COVID cases, noting that “it was definitely a lot, at least 1,000 (cases) at that point.” Dr. Burton recalled that “there was an increase in July. We had 412 referrals for reference purposes prior to the pandemic. In December of 2019 we had 391 referrals.” He added that “we did have a spike compared to pre-pandemic levels.”

Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice

The Post and Courier: Legislators add $3M to SC budget to improve treatment of mentally ill in jails
Legislators could send the state Department of Mental Health an additional $3 million in the wake of Jamal Sutherland’s death in the Charleston County jail to improve treatment of the mentally ill who wind up arrested. The chairman of House Ways and Means’ health care subcommittee said video released last month of Sutherland’s death “showed the immediate need for it.” Sutherland died in the jail in January after being jolted by Tasers six or more times, doused twice with pepper spray and pinned to the floor by deputies after he refused to leave his cell for a bond hearing.

South Bend Tribune: Mobile unit in South Bend area could offer cops an alternative to jailing people with mental illnesses
As the group Faith In Indiana pushes for a mobile response unit to give South Bend area police forces an alternative to jailing those with mental illness and substance abuse problems, both activists and officials cite Eugene, Oregon as a community that's getting it right. The city that's home to the University of Oregon implemented the "Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets" (CAHOOTS) program in 1989. Officials there say it's been effective for diverting people needing mental health, substance abuse and other services away from jail


Foundation for Opioid Response Effort: Webinar Registration
The Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts' (FORE) Opioid Crisis Innovation Challenge 2021 will provide grant support for innovative projects which can explore and/or evaluate new "outside-the-box" ideas, bring together approaches from several diverse fields, and engage multi-disciplinary, cross-sector teams to solve some of the crisis' most intractable problems.

VT Digger: Vermont becomes first state to legalize limited possession of buprenorphine
On Tuesday, Vermont became the first state in the nation to legalize possession of buprenorphine, a prescription drug used to treat opioid use disorder. This week, Gov. Phil Scott signed H.225, a bill that will allow people to possess up to 224 milligrams of the drug — roughly a two-week prescription of the substance — even if they don’t have permission from a doctor. Previously, that qualified as a misdemeanor. Before it became law, the measure was debated in the Legislature for three years and hit a delay when the Covid-19 pandemic struck last year. Since then, drug overdoses in the state have spiked, which lawmakers said gave the bill new urgency.

Los Angeles Sheriff's Department: Sheriff’s Naloxone Custody Pilot Project saves Inmates from Overdose
Two inmates are alive today after being saved by two separate doses of Naloxone also known as Narcan, administered by fellow inmates. On Wednesday, May 26th, at approximately 5:37 pm, Deputies assigned to work the North County Correctional Facility (NCCF) were alerted of two inmates in medical distress. Deputies and custody medical staff immediately responded to the dorm and found two inmates on an upper-tier, unconscious, suffering from possible overdoses. However, this potential tragic outcome was averted by fellow inmates housed in the same dorm.

BJA: Report Available on Law Enforcement-led Diversion and First Responder Deflection Programs
The report first provides an Introduction to and history of the field and discusses how significantly diversion and first responder deflection are responses to the opioid crisis, which fora generation has left a significant mark on communities of all sizes and types across the United States. From there, the Key Findings and Takeaways section highlights major conclusions of the data gathered and analyzed, with embedded links to the relevant data addressed by each key finding.

Prison Reform

Los Angeles Times: There’s no going back on sentencing and prison reform
In the final quarter of the 20th century, California was the nation’s criminal justice thought leader, and the thought was overwhelmingly this: Lock up more people, for less cause, and for longer. Staggering under the weight of the now-exploded jail and prison population, California more recently has led in the opposite direction, focusing on shrinking the incarceration footprint and treating more people for the underlying health or social conditions. But the new era of California criminal justice that these changes signaled never quite came into focus. Until COVID.

The City: Death of Two Men at Rikers — One Held on Shoplifting Rap — Amplifies Push to Overhaul Parole Rules
Two men locked up on low-level arrests that violated their parole — one of them a new father jailed for allegedly shoplifting — recently died behind bars on Rikers Island. Under the current system, a parole officer can send a parolee to jail immediately if “reasonable cause” for a violation exists. Among the potential violations: a failed drug test, a blown curfew or changing residence without approval. Proposed legislation would limit parole officers’ ability to toss technical violators back in jail. Once there, a person could wait up to three months behind bars without bail to see a judge, who would ultimately determine whether the parolee can be released or sent back to prison.

Kaiser Health News: From Racial Justice to Dirty Air, California’s New AG Plots a Progressive Health Care Agenda
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a longtime Democratic state lawmaker, comes to his new role well known for pursuing an unabashedly progressive agenda on criminal justice issues. He has pushed for legislation to eliminate cash bail and to ban for-profit prisons and detention centers.

Inmates Paying for Healthcare in Prison

MSN News: Pa. prisons suspend requirement for inmates to pay for health care
Naim Shakir remembers experiencing the dilemma of having to choose between buying some food from the prison commissary to quiet his hunger pangs or paying the $5 co-pay to take care of an abscessed tooth. As a former inmate who spent about 20 years of his life in and out of state prison, Shakir said without question he knows firsthand how that co-pay has deterred inmates from seeking medical or dental care when they need it. State Corrections Secretary John Wetzel announced on May 26 that he was indefinitely suspending that $5 medical co-pay for incarcerated inmates. Earlier, he had temporarily suspended co-pays during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women and Reentry Services

ABC News: New Hour provides a path to life after prison for women and their families
Serena Liguori created the nonprofit New Hour in 2015 after coming home as a 21-year-old from prison. During her time in prison, she found that resources were scarce concerning women's health care, mental health, and support services. Liguori resolved that no other woman or child affected by the criminal justice system would feel like she did when she was released. Since there are no other agencies dedicated to empowering women and children impacted by incarceration on Long Island, Liguori created the nonprofit New Hour in 2015.

Legal News

SCOTUS Blog: Circuit splits on copyright information and health care in jails
A pretrial detainee’s legal guardian alleged that three jail officials failed to provide adequate care for the detainee’s psychiatric symptoms and physical injuries. Lower courts dismissed the claims because of a failure to show the officials’ state of mind. The detainee’s guardian seeks review to resolve the split and establish a consistent standard for what constitutes constitutionally deficient medical treatment.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Public defender says Philly jails are ‘cruel and callous,’ and violate clients’ rights
The Philadelphia Department of Prisons has been locked in federal litigation for more than a year with civil rights lawyers who say conditions are unsanitary, cleaning supplies inadequate, the climate dangerous, and the time prisoners spend outside of cells inhumanely scarce. A judge found grounds to hold the city in contempt of an order to let people out of their cells at least three hours a day. And sanctions of $10,000 a day — payable to Philly’s two nonprofit bail funds — could be imposed as soon as June 10 if the city fails to comply.

Correctional Healthcare Vendors and Private Prisons

Las Cruces Sun News: Doña Ana County Detention Center, Corizon Health sued over 2019 inmate death
Unpaid fines amounting to $242 landed Hector Garcia in the county jail for six days in August 2019. On day six, he was dead, a federal complaint alleges. The lawsuit, brought by Garcia's son, says Doña Ana County Detention Center staff and employees of Corizon Health — the contractor providing medical and behavioral services at the detention center — denied Garcia higher-level care even after he began exhibiting symptoms of a perforated ulcer, a condition that requires emergency surgery.

Bloomberg Law: CoreCivic Must Face Suit Alleging Prolonged Solitary Confinement
U.S. Marshals Service contractor CoreCivic must again face claims it’s responsible for harming a man detained in its private prison for nearly a year without a court appearance following an arrest for marijuana-related charges, the Ninth Circuit said. After Rudy Rivera was released from solitary confinement, he sued CoreCivic for false imprisonment, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A district court granted CoreCivic summary judgment. However, a reasonable jury could find that CoreCivic caused Rivera’s prolonged detention by not telling the Marshals about his situation, and by discouraging him from seeking outside help.

The Tallassee Tribune: CoreCivic unable to secure funding for mega-prisons
The state’s plan to construct three mega-prisons has hit a roadblock. One of the proposed mega-prisons was slated for construction just outside of the Tallassee city limits on Riffle Range Road. However, CoreCivic, the company that was slated to build two of the prisons and lease the facilities to the State of Alabama, was unable to secure funding for the project.

Alabama Daily News: Ivey to meet with lawmakers on what’s next for prison plan
Gov. Kay Ivey will soon meet with some lawmakers to discuss the status of her proposal to lease three new mens’ prisons. The deal appeared to be crumbling as Tuesday was a deadline for the builder of two of facilities, CoreCivic, to obtain financing for its proposed projects. Asked if CoreCivic had missed its deadline, a spokeswoman for Ivey would not answer and referred back to a written statement from the governor. Alabama Daily News reported Tuesday that some want to explore using federal Covid-19 relief funds to build or improve prisons.