COCHS Weekly Update: December 22, 2020
(Season's Greetings: COCHS wishes all our subscribers the very best. Our Weekly Update will resume after the new year.)
COVID-19 Transmission in Corrections
The New York Times: The Coronavirus Has Found a Safe Harbor
We are making the same deadly mistakes all over again. New cases show the protocols adopted by even the most proactive jails aren’t working. Crowded jails, where social distancing is virtually impossible, are fueling outbreaks both inside and outside of their walls. We are making the same deadly mistakes all over again. New cases show the protocols adopted by even the most proactive jails aren’t working. Crowded jails, where social distancing is virtually impossible, are fueling outbreaks both inside and outside of their walls.
AP: 1 in 5 prisoners in the US has had COVID-19, 1,700 have died
One in every five state and federal prisoners in the United States has tested positive for the coronavirus, a rate more than four times as high as the general population. In some states, more than half of prisoners have been infected. New cases in prisons this week reached their highest level since testing began in the spring, far outstripping previous peaks in April and August.
The Marshall Project: Moving People—and Coronavirus—From Prison to Prison
Families of men incarcerated at Michigan’s Kinross Correctional Facility believed its remote location would spare it from a deadly COVID-19 outbreak. For a while, they seemed to be right. But on Oct. 28, corrections officials transferred nine prisoners to Kinross from Marquette Branch Prison, several hours west, where COVID-19 was running rampant. There were 837 confirmed cases by late October, 350 of which were active when the men were transferred.
The Daily Beast: ‘They’re Going to Eat Them’: These Rogue Sheriffs Won’t Even Give Their Prisoners Masks
Law enforcement officials against mask use for inmates are now feeling pressure from state and public health officials, who are desperately looking to local law enforcement to uphold restrictions amid an out-of-control outbreak. The virus has also had a devastating effect on prison staff, as approximately 62,171 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and 108 have died since the start of the pandemic.
News & Record: 'This seems at best neglectful.' How a once-healthy N.C. prison became a COVID-19 hotspot.
Nash Correctional, a mid-sized prison about 45 minutes east of Raleigh, had no COVID-19 cases in mid November. A month later, officials there were wrestling with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the state prison system. How the virus entered the prison is unclear. Some prisoners and family members interviewed by the Charlotte Observer said they believe it started with an inmate who was transferred 12/20/2020there from another prison that had an outbreak.
The San Diego Union Tribune: Hundreds of Donovan State Prison inmates sickened with COVID-19
More than 400 inmates at Donovan State Prison have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, making the Otay Mesa lockup the site of one of the worst outbreaks for the deadly virus within the state prison system. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported 411 active cases inside Donovan on Tuesday. All but three of the cases occurred in the past two weeks.
West Hawaii Today: Union: Oahu prison guards overworked, scared amid outbreak
A union representing more than 300 employees at Hawaii’s largest prison said the state is not doing enough to combat a coronavirus outbreak at the facility. Union Public Workers Administrator Liz Ho said Wednesday that employees at the Halawa Correctional Facility on Oahu have been working under hazardous conditions and have had to work up to 36-hour shifts because of understaffing. The Department of Public Safety announced a lockdown and other measures to try to control the outbreak, which initially infected three inmates and 10 staffers last week.
Alabama News Network: Alabama Ranks Fourth for Prison Virus Deaths
Alabama has one of the highest rates of inmate deaths from COVID-19. In Alabama prisons, 43 inmates and two staff members have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Alabama prisons rank fourth in the U.S. for the number of COVID-19 deaths per 10,000 inmates. The Alabama prions system has said most deaths, like those outside prison walls, have occurred in inmates with preexisting health conditions.
COVID-19 Transmission from Corrections to Community
The Arcadian: DeSoto COVID-19 outbreak traced to the prison
The mystery of a COVID-19 outbreak that caused more than 200 infections in DeSoto County on Nov. 18 has been solved — at least partially. Contact tracing found that DeSoto Correctional Institution accounted for the dramatic rise, said Jeffrey Tambasco, director of DeSoto County’s Emergency Management Agency. “We can get only that it was a correctional issue,” said Tambasco, whose agency depends on the county office of the state-run Department of Health for COVID-19 contact tracing and the results of that tracing.
COVID-19 Vaccines for The Incarcerated
Prison Policy Initiative: Incarcerated people and corrections staff should be prioritized in COVID-19 vaccination plans
By any reasonable standard, incarcerated people should rank high on every state’s priority list. The COVID-19 case rate is four times higher in state and federal prisons than in the general population — and twice as deadly. And despite the danger of close quarters and high rates of preexisting health conditions among incarcerated people, prisons and jails have widely failed to reduce their populations enough to prevent the spread of the virus.
Los Angeles Times: Haves vs. have-nots: Who ‘deserves’ to be next in line for the COVID-19 vaccine?
Public health experts and medical ethicists have consistently urged state and local officials to allocate early allotments of vaccine to essential workers, imprisoned populations and people whose weight and poor health behaviors have put them at greater risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. Members of racial and ethnic minorities should also be entitled to priority access as a step toward making up for generations of health disparities, the ethicists say.
The New York Times: In Massachusetts, Inmates Will Be Among First to Get Vaccines
Tens of thousands of prison inmates in Massachusetts will be among the first to be offered coronavirus vaccines, before home health aides, seniors and medically vulnerable residents of the state. The state’s high prioritization of inmates is unusual. A dozen states have listed prisoners among those set to receive vaccines in the first round of inoculations, but none ranks inmates so highly. Federal health officials have recommended that corrections officers and staff at state facilities receive high priority but have said nothing about inmates.
COVID-19 Vaccines and SUD
Addiction Policy Forum: Study Results: In a Small Sample of Individuals with SUD, Many are Hesitant to Receive Vaccine
Addiction Policy Forum conducted interviews with a small sample of individuals with substance use disorders (SUD) and nearly half reported that they are hesitant to take a COVID-19 vaccine, despite research that indicates people with SUD face more severe outcomes from COVID-19 and a higher risk of contracting the SARS- CoV-2 virus. In the study, 2 out of 3 participants report that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their SUD or recovery status.
Criminal Justice Reform
Politico: Congress clinches deal to restore Pell grants for prisoners 26 years after ban
Congressional leaders have struck a deal to reinstate Pell grants for incarcerated students more than a quarter century after banning the aid for prison education programs, top Democrats and Republicans announced on Sunday. The legislation, which is expected to be included as part of the year-end spending deal, would lift the prohibition Congress imposed in the 1994 crime bill that then-President Bill Clinton signed and Joe Biden championed as a senator. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden called the 1994 crime bill a “big mistake.”
The New York Times: D.C. Passes Bill to Give Young Offenders Chance at Reduced Sentences
The District of Columbia Council passed legislation on Tuesday that would give people who committed crimes as young adults a chance to have their sentences reduced, reflecting a growing national debate over whether offenders in their late teens and early 20s should be treated the same as older people when it comes to sentencing. The bill would give broad authority to judges to determine whether offenders who were younger than 25 at the time of their crimes and have served at least 15 years — many if not all of them convicted of violent offenses — deserve early release.
Nutrition in Corrections
San Francisco Chronicle: Prison food is about more than ramen — in fact, it's much worse, a new Oakland report shows
Interviews with 11 formerly incarcerated people and 43 corrections officers that spanned institutions in 41 states, surfaced horrific anecdotes: of hairy oatmeal, chunky milk, maggoty meat and brown tap water. According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened these conditions, with some states forgoing hot meals entirely and only serving sandwiches, potato chips and candy to people locked in their cells.
The Washington Post: While incarcerated in the D.C. Jail, a candidate fights for an ANC seat
Joel Caston has filled many roles during his 26 years of incarceration, from youth mentor to published author to financial literacy instructor for his fellow inmates. Now he’s seeking a new job: elected official. Caston ran in November for a long-vacant seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, D.C.’s most granular level of local government, with the goal of representing inmates at the D.C. Jail as the first person to hold the office while incarcerated.
Medicaid Post Release
City & State New York: NYC jail inmates lack health care after release
One of the biggest issues recently released inmates face is turning one’s Medicaid back on. When someone lands behind bars, their Medicaid status switches and upon release, that person must proactively turn it back on. With help from reentry organizations, this can be a simple process. But individuals who have the bigger issue are the ones who don’t know where to go or have the assistance to make that phone call. But public assistance offices closed at the height of the pandemic made the process even more difficult for recently released people navigating their reentry on their own.
Medical News Today: Managing diabetes after incarceration: A difficult journey
For the average adult, a diabetes diagnosis is life-changing. For someone reentering society after being in prison, managing diabetes can be quite difficult. In the United States, more than 2 million people are incarcerated in jails and prisons on a given day, and nearly 5% of them have diabetes. Since the Affordable Care Act of 2010, 39 U.S. states (including the District of Columbia) have expanded Medicaid to include all adults with a low income. However, 12 states have not expanded their Medicaid programs. Notably, the states without Medicaid expansion are located primarily in the Southeast region of the U.S., where rates of both diabetes and incarceration are the highest in the country.
Women in Corrections
New Hampshire Union Leader: As more women fill America’s jails, medical tragedies mount
The number of women held in America’s jails has risen more than 20% over the past decade, to an average of more than 115,000 inmates a day. And more and more are arriving in need of medical attention or with debilitating health conditions that strain the capacity of lockups typically designed for men. Thousands arrive pregnant each year. Most suffer from mental illness – at far higher rates than their male counterparts – and they’re more likely to experience drug and alcohol addiction.
Correctional Health Care Lawsuits
NBC News: Inmate died of leukemia after pleading for help, federal lawsuit claims
A 20-year-old in a St. Louis County jail last year died of survivable leukemia after pleading for help from staffers who failed to let him see a doctor, a federal lawsuit claims. The civil rights suit against the county and several jail staffers was filed by the Tashonda Troupe, the mother of the deceased Lamar Catchings.
San Antonio Express News: Family sues over jail death of mentally ill San Antonio man who lost 104 pounds, developed bed sores
The family of Fernando Macias, the mentally ill 61-year-old man who died in the downtown jail two years ago, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and University Hospital System. The 20-page lawsuit, filed Monday in Bexar County District Court, alleges that doctors, nurses and sheriff’s deputies allowed Macias’ health to deteriorate over the span of nine months. By the time he died, Macias had lost more than 100 pounds and developed bed sores, the lawsuit states. It also alleges that he was dehydrated, malnourished and suffering from hypothermia.