Weekly Update: October 18, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: October 18, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General: Notice of Concern Regarding The Bureau of Prisons' Treatment of Inmate Statements in Investigations of Alleged Misconduct By BOP Employees
The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has serious concern with the manner in which the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) handles investigations of alleged misconduct by BOP employees. These concerns arose when the OIG recently inquired of the BOP’s Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) about a disciplinary action taken by the BOP following an OIG investigation of alleged sexual abuse by a BOP employee. In response to our inquiry, we were told by OIA that, in cases that have not been accepted for criminal prosecution, the BOP will not rely on inmate testimony to make administrative misconduct findings and take disciplinary action against BOP employees. In the case giving rise to the inquiry, an OIG investigation determined, based on the testimony of several BOP inmates as well as other evidence, that a BOP employee engaged in serious misconduct involving sexual activity with two inmates and failing to provide truthful information to the OIG.

NY Times: Judge Holds Prison Officials in Contempt for Treatment of Terminally Ill Inmate
Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida held the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Kristi Zook, the warden of the low-security prison in Seagoville, Texas, in civil contempt of previous court orders intended to ensure the humane treatment of Frederick Mervin Bardell. He rebuked prison officials and prosecutors, accusing them of misrepresenting the cancer diagnosis of a terminally ill inmate who was deprived access to compassionate release programs and subjected to a grueling journey home that ended in his death.

NACo: NACo invites county leaders to sign on to behavioral health advocacy letter to Congress
The National Association of Counties (NACo) is asking county leaders to sign on to a letter urging Congress to include key county behavioral health priorities in a bipartisan end-of-year legislative package that improves our ability to provide comprehensive behavioral health services in all settings, strengthens the behavioral health workforce and increases resident access to services. As key intergovernmental partners, counties are urging lawmakers to support the Amendment of the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP). View NACo’s letter.

Conduit Street: NACo Derides Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy as Unconstitutional
According to a press release by NACo, the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP) “strips federal health benefits from individuals admitted to jail before they are convicted of a crime.” The result is a denial of federal benefits to pre-trial detainees and any members of their family that are covered, regardless of their constitutional right to presumed innocence under the law.

LPTV: Crow Wing Co. Supports Giving Jail Detainees Access to Federal Health Benefits
The Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners has approved a resolution supporting a change to federal law that would give jail detainees the right to health benefits. The resolution states that giving detainees access to federal health benefits (such as Medicare and Medicaid) while they are presumed innocent and are awaiting trail aligns with an individual’s constitutional rights. Access to federal health benefits for non-convicted individuals would allow for improved health care and would decrease short-term costs for local taxpayers.

gothamist: Lander doubles down on call to strip NYC of control over Rikers
New York City Comptroller Brad Lander reiterated his call to remove the troubled Rikers Island jail complex from the city’s control on Friday, making him the highest-ranking city official to call for it to be placed under federal receivership. In an interview on WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show,” Lander made his case for the federal government’s appointment of a receiver a day after publicly calling for Rikers’ transition out of city control during a Columbia Law School forum.

The City: What Federal Receivership Might Mean for Troubled City Jails
As Rikers Island and the city’s troubled jail system stumble toward a big turning point, and deaths and horrific incidents mount, many advocates and experts have proposed transferring the system to control of a “receiver” appointed by a federal judge. But what does receivership mean exactly, and how long would it take to happen? How long would it last?

Opioid Epidemic

NY Times: As Overdoses Soar, Rhode Island Embraces a Daring Addiction Strategy
Project Weber/Renew is preparing to open the first supervised drug consumption site legalized by a state — one of the most daring experiments in “harm reduction” in America to date. By letting people use drugs on site and under the supervision of social and medical workers, rather than alone, Project Weber hopes to curb overdose deaths and infectious diseases and coax more users into using medication and supplies for safer drug use.

The Daily Targum: U. Correctional Health Care releases video about opioid use disorder treatment in prisons
Rutgers University Correctional Health Care (UCHC) and the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) recently created a video to increase awareness of opioid use disorder treatment in prisons, according to a press release. The initiative was prompted by research demonstrating a racial disparity in access to buprenorphine, the most commonly used treatment for opioid use disorder. The research, published earlier this year, showed that white patients were more likely to get prescribed buprenorphine than Black patients.

Children of Incarcerated Parents

EurekAlert: Foster care, parental incarceration linked with youth mental health problems
University of Minnesota researchers found parental incarceration and foster care were separately linked with mental health problems. However, youth who had experienced both had the highest odds of anxiety, depression, self-injury, suicidal ideation and mental health diagnoses and treatment. Those who were recently in foster care and had a parent currently incarcerated reported the most adverse mental health symptoms.

Gun Control

NY Times: Another Challenge to New York’s Gun Law: Sheriffs Who Won’t Enforce It
Robert Milby, Wayne County’s new sheriff, has been in law enforcement most of his adult life, earning praise and promotions for conscientious service. But recently, Sheriff Milby has attracted attention for a different approach to the law: ignoring it. Sheriff Milby is among at least a half-dozen sheriffs in upstate New York who have said they have no intention of aggressively enforcing gun regulations.

Fines & Fees

Nevada Current: Costs of incarceration rise as inflation squeezes inmates, families
Across the nation, prison commissaries are raising prices on items that many consider basic necessities — from deodorant to fresh fruit — not provided by the state department of corrections. The markups come as decades-high inflation is also squeezing inmates’ families, making it harder for them to help. It’s a burden that families shouldn’t have to shoulder, advocates say, and a situation that some worry will lead to unrest or violence.


KETV: Lawmakers call for pay hikes to solve growing prison health care vacancies
Nebraska prisons appear to have solved one staffing crisis with security personnel but now face another. This time it's medical staff and behavioral health in particular where more than a third of the positions are unfilled .The department of corrections has 46 openings for registered nurses and LPNs. There are 36 vacancies in behavioral health and 12 psychologists openings. The Department is supposed to have three psychiatrists, but has none.

KLKN: Staffing shortages, workflow blamed for poor Nebraska inmate health care
A new document released by the Office of Inspector General of Corrections says key health care positions in the Nebraska prison system are seeing anywhere from a 17% to 100% vacancy rate. According to Nebraska Revised Statue 83-4,145, the Corrections Department is required to provide a “community standard of health care” to all inmates. That means inmates should expect the same level of care as what is available in the community.

Omaha World Herald: Nebraska prisons faulted in inmate's cervical cancer death
Nearly 10 years passed before prison health officials provided a Pap smear for inmate Niccole Wetherell. When she finally got one, in August 2019, the gynecologist examining her could see the cancer growing in her cervix without the aid of a microscope. Eighteen months later, the cancer killed her at age 40. A nurse practitioner who is the primary caregiver at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York, where Wetherell was incarcerated, explained the gap by saying the department had no way to track when inmates needed preventive care. She told the inspector general that Wetherell’s case prompted her to create a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to monitor patient visits.


DirectRelief: For People Who Have Been Incarcerated, A New Approach to Rebuilding
Their clients have been incarcerated, sometimes for decades. They need to find jobs and housing – and quickly. Some are trying to regain custody of their children. And many have mental health issues, ranging from mild depression to more severe schizophrenia. In California’s East Bay, Roots Community Health Center, a community clinic and partner of Direct Relief, is working to care for precisely these individuals through two, year-long tailored programs.


Department of Corrections Washington State: Telepresence Services Improve Patient Care and Legal Access at the Department of Corrections
Telehealth in prisons significantly streamlines incarcerated individuals’ health care. Patients who’d been traveling offsite for care only need to leave the prison for appointments that require in-person care from a specialist— like surgery. And physicians who previously had long travel times and had to navigate significant security to see patients onsite at the prison, can see their patients right from their office.

Private Prisons

NY Times: Death on the Border: Were Twin Brothers Hunting Migrants or Wildlife?
The Sheppard brothers, both 60, were taken into custody late last month, and charged with manslaughter. They were familiar local fixtures: Michael Sheppard, the warden of a deeply troubled private prison in town who works closely with the sheriff, and his twin brother Mark Sheppard. The West Texas facility has had a reputation among some within the company as a difficult assignment in part because of its struggles to provide sufficient water supplies for its hundreds of inmates. “That is a hellhole place,” said Gregory Johnson, a former assistant warden at a different LaSalle prison in Texas, describing the West Texas Detention Center.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

AP: Medical services company guilty in Milwaukee jail death
The company that provided medical services at a Wisconsin jail has been found guilty in the 2016 dehydration death of an inmate. Armor Correctional Health Services Inc., based in Miami, was charged in 2018 with felony abuse of residents of a penal facility and seven misdemeanor counts of falsifying health records in the death of 38-year-old Terrill Thomas.

Monterey County Now: An investigation, spurred by allegedly missing pain pills, is underway in Monterey County Jail.
According to a nurse who works inside the Monterey County Jail, there is a standard procedure when dispensing potentially addictive medications. But the nurse observed something out of the ordinary a few months ago. There was no witness signature or patient name corresponding to about 30 tablets of a narcotic. So the nurse kept watching. On Oct. 6, Monterey County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Dustin Hedberg, who oversees the Special Operations unit, was placed on administrative leave and is under internal investigation. Sheriff’s officials pulled jail clearance for Christina Cruz Kaupp, who is employed by the private company Wellpath that is under contract with the county to provide medical services in the jail.