Weekly Update: June 21, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: June 21, 2022

Highlighted Stories

WRAL: NC sheriffs, county commissioners back Medicaid expansion bill as a crime-, poverty-fighting measure
The lobbying groups for sheriffs and county commissioners across North Carolina backed a major state health care bill this week, calling on lawmakers to pass Medicaid expansion along with wide-ranging changes in health industry regulations. The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association said in a letter to House and Senate leadership that expanding Medicaid would fight crime by providing professional care to the “significant percentage” of people in county jails suffering from mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

gothamist: NJ’s early prison releases to ease crowding during COVID didn’t raise public safety risks
A quarter of the more than 2,000 people who were released early from New Jersey’s prisons on the first day of a pandemic-era law enacted to ease crowding were rearrested within a year, a new study from a team of Rutgers University researchers found. Among the 2,088 people released on November 4th, 2020, there were 782 subsequent arrests — a recidivism rate of 25.1%. Some were accused of reoffending more than once. That's slightly higher than — but generally on par with — recidivism rates for incarcerated people released prior to the pandemic.

nj.com: N.J.’s top cop and judge agree: Stop jailing people for minor fines | Editorial
The chief justice of New Jersey’s Supreme Court, Stuart Rabner, has been on a years-long campaign to stop using our jails to punish people for being poor; what amounts to a debtor’s prison. He started by making our state a national model for bail reform, locking up dangerous people awaiting trial but releasing those stuck behind bars because they can’t afford to pay their way out. Now he’s seeking to reform our municipal court system for lower-level offenses: You can no longer arrest people for minor fines like an unpaid parking ticket or hold them in jail because they can’t pay.

BJS: PREA Data Collection Activities, 2022
This report fulfills the mandate established by the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 that requires the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to produce a report on its activities to collect data on prison rape. The report is the twelfth in a series that began in 2011. It describes BJS’s data collection and developmental activities during 2021 and 2022 and new statistical findings to measure the incidence and prevalence of rape and sexual assault in adult correctional and juvenile justice facilities.


Health Affairs: COVID-19 Vaccination Of People Experiencing Homelessness And Incarceration In Minnesota
This study uses data from a statewide public health–health system collaboration to describe trends in COVID-19 vaccination rates by racial and ethnic groups among people experiencing homelessness or incarceration in Minnesota. Vaccination completion rates among the general population and people incarcerated in state prisons were substantially higher than those among people experiencing homelessness or jail incarceration.

KSBY: 31 active COVID-19 cases associated with Santa Barbara Co. Main Jail outbreak
There are 50 total COVID-19 cases associated with an outbreak at the Santa Barbara Main Jail with 19 inmates recovered and 31 active cases. Of the 50 identified cases, 11 inmates have reported being symptomatic, and 39 are asymptomatic. The Main Jail outbreak was discovered on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in the Main Jail West Housing Module.

Rikers Island

gothamist: Proposed legislation would ban most solitary confinement at Rikers
Corrections officers at the Rikers Island jail complex would be barred from holding incarcerated people alone in cells for extended periods of time under legislation that Public Advocate Jumaane Williams plans to unveil. The draft legislation would allow officers to put people in solitary confinement only for a few hours if someone poses an immediate danger. Medical staff would also need to check on them every 15 minutes, and mental health clinicians would be required to conduct rounds once an hour. The bill is the latest effort to ban the use of a practice that human rights advocates have labeled as torture, after similar efforts were scuttled under former Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Opioid Epidemic

San Diego Union Tribune: Opinion: San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s move to limit jail opioid deaths is years late
Bill Gore was sheriff from 2009 to February of this year. Yet until his final day in office, Gore rejected critiques of his jail stewardship. Among the many reasons he cited was that they failed to take account of the fact that “since 2011, the use of opioids, including fentanyl, and subsequent overdoses, has become a serious national crisis,” as Gore wrote in a 2019 essay for The San Diego Union-Tribune. So when did the Sheriff’s Department take drastic steps to increase the availability in jails of naloxone, a cheap miracle drug also known as Narcan that has saved the lives of thousands of Americans by reversing the effects of opiate overdoses? Back in 2019, when Gore cited the fentanyl menace? Nope. It’s only happened in the last month.

Daily Press: Newport News jail gets a partner for addiction treatment effort
A treatment program for Newport News jail inmates trying to recover from addiction has new help for follow-up community care, in partnership with the jail’s health care provider. The jail last year launched a medication assisted treatment program, through which it offers inmates a shot of medicine that blocks the effect of drugs or alcohol, in combination with counseling. The program also offers help finding a job and place to live after participants leave the jail. Wellpath, which provides medical care to inmates, has opened a community care center in which former inmates can get follow up medication and counseling.

Conditions In Corrections

NPR: 'Unfortunately, it's just not unusual' when it comes to prison food causing long-term health problems
A group called Impact Justice published an in-depth report on this topic called "Eating Behind Bars: Ending the Hidden Punishment of Food in Prison." Two researchers with that organization discuss their findings, and exoneree Ricky Kidd spoke on his experience eating the food served in prison — and the subsequent health problems he faced as a result.

The Guardian: US prison workers produce $11bn worth of goods and services a year for pittance
Incarcerated workers in the US produce at least $11bn in goods and services annually but receive just pennies an hour in wages for their prison jobs, according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Nearly two-thirds of all prisoners in the US, which imprisons more of its population than any other country in the world, have jobs in state and federal prisons. That figure amounts to roughly 800,000 people, researchers estimated in the report, which is based on extensive public records requests, questionnaires and interviews with incarcerated workers.


LAist: Brutal Beating, Death Inside Twin Towers Jail Cost LA County $11.5M
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay a total of $11.5 million to settle two lawsuits that alleged negligent care at the Twin Towers jail. The board agreed to pay $7 million to settle a suit brought by the family of 67-year-old Wesley Alarcio, who was beaten so severely in his cell that he was left in a permanent vegetative state. It’s one of the largest payouts ever involving misconduct inside L.A. County jails. The second settlement will pay $4.5 million to the family of Randall J. Carrier, III, who died behind bars after allegedly failing to receive proper medical treatment for severe asthma.

azcentral: Lawsuit against Maricopa County, sheriff over negligence in inmate beating settled for $11.75M
A lawsuit over negligence and indifference after a man was beaten unconscious at the Fourth Avenue Jail has been settled for nearly $12 million. The Maricopa Board of Supervisors approved an $11.75 million dollar settlement to Selene Ortiz, whose son, Brian Ortiz, was brutally beaten while in a Phoenix jail. Despite later walkthroughs by officers and a video surveillance tower, Ortiz wasn't given appropriate medical care until well over two hours after the attack, the lawsuit claims.

Staffing Shortages

Source NM: Citing dangerous conditions, public defenders pause visits with clients in New Mexico’s largest jail
The situation inside the Bernalillo County jail has become so unsafe that New Mexico’s public defenders have temporarily stopped going into the facility, the state’s chief public defender said Monday. The warden of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County outside Albuquerque, the largest jail in the state, on June 4 declared a state of emergency that requires guards to report for work and drops limits on overtime pay. Jail officials told the newspaper they declared the emergency because there are too few guards to supervise the roughly 1,300 people locked inside.

nola.com: New details emerge in New Orleans jail deaths, as safety, staffing concerns grow
After a weekend marked by death and violence at the New Orleans jail that raised anew well-trod concerns about the facility’s staffing and safety, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office pulled its deputies from their posts at local courts Monday to bolster jail staffing, causing attorneys to scramble as hearings went online. At the jail, one incarcerated person died after a fight that involved at least two knife-like weapons, while another man jumped from a second-story mezzanine, breaking his spine.


Right On Crime: Study - Addressing Florida’s Parole System
Florida’s parole system has not existed in its entirety since 1983. Currently, those convicted of crimes after 1983 have little to no supervision upon release, unless court ordered. As advocates in Florida and other states seek real parole reform, this study offers differing perspectives from similar states in size, politics, and perspective on the criminal justice system. Reinstating parole is comprehensive, but with such a substantial change to Florida’s current system, it should be approached gradually and incrementally.

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

News Herald: NCDHHS sets aside more than $6 million to help with mental health in criminal justice system
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services today released two funding opportunities to award more than $6 million to community-based mental health providers. These programs, which total almost $6.76 million will help people with serious mental illness involved with the criminal justice system, and they reflect the department’s vision to advance innovate solutions that foster independence, improve health and promote well-being for all North Carolinians.

News 19: North Alabama county opens mental health court
A new mental health program is now a part of the North Alabama judicial circuit, augmenting other programs already in place aimed at addressing the underlying issues that may contribute to nonviolent criminal behavior. Participants must apply to be considered for the program, which extends them an accountable path to avoiding incarceration while offering them help in receiving mental health services locally. Those who enter the Mental Health Court program must first plead guilty to their offenses, but they also have the opportunity to have their charges dismissed altogether by achieving court-prescribed milestones.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Physician's Weekly: Long Wait for Justice: People in Jail Face Delays for Mental Health Care Before They Can Stand Trial
Long delays for state psychiatric hospital services are playing out in jails across the United States. People in jail with serious mental illness — and who cannot stand trial because of their condition — are waiting months, or even more than a year, to start receiving the care needed to “restore” their competency to stand trial. In Georgia, 368 people who have been deemed incompetent sit in local jails waiting to get treatment to stand trial, according to the state. More than 900 are waiting for just the first step in the process, a “forensic evaluation.”

truthout: “Mental Health Units” in Prison Are Solitary Confinement by Another Name, Activists Say
New York passed the Special Housing Unit (SHU) Exclusion Law, limiting solitary for people with serious mental illness. Under the Act, people who have been diagnosed with serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and/or active suicidality, can only be placed in the SHU for up to 30 days. But, according to a new report by the HALT Solitary and the Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement campaigns, isolating people as punishment happens fairly frequently.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

FOX 4: Missouri inmate cried for medical care for months before dying from brain tumor: report
An inmate in Missouri cried for medical help, was given Tylenol, and then put on suicide watch before dying from a brain tumor, according to a jail incident report. A correctional officer wrote that it “looks like she is in pain but overall normal; laying on the pod floor crying and seems like she can’t think.” Another officer wrote that Grote was acting strangely and would only grunt in response to questions. She then slowly rolled off her bunk before she died on the floor. Advanced Correctional Healthcare is the private medical contractor for the jail, and a representative told KTVI on Thursday evening that it was working on a response.

Bloomberg Law: Prison Medical Provider Must Face Lawsuit Over Meth Overdose
Southern Health Partners Inc. must face a lawsuit brought by the estate of a man who died of a methamphetamine overdose shortly after being admitted to a county jail because its providers allegedly took no action to help him, a federal court in Alabama said.