Weekly Update: November 2, 2021

COCHS Weekly Update: November 02, 2021

Highlighted Stories

Health Affairs: Prison And Jail Reentry And Health
Health Affairs Prison And Jail Reentry And Health In this policy brief, Health Affairs presents a summary of the many challenging health care issues that people reentering society confront. Key points: 1) Mass incarceration is a public health crisis that disproportionately affects Black and Brown people; 2)Disproportionate rates of mental health issues, suicide, substance use disorders, disabilities, and physical disorders plague the reentry population; 3)The reentry population faces complex barriers to health care access and often experiences homelessness, unemployment, and a lack of social and family support; 4)Public officials should include health care as a key component of community reentry programming by supporting access to Medicaid.

Health Affairs Blog: Medical Legal Partnerships’ Role In Improving Health Among People Released From Incarceration
Collateral consequences of conviction and other legal issues can be viewed as a manifestation of social determinants that can be detrimental to health. People returning from prison face a wide range of post-release civil penalties and restrictions known as the “collateral consequences” of conviction. These legal restrictions can affect many aspects of life by, for example, limiting access to social services and benefits; restricting occupational licensure; impeding custody and visitation of children; and limiting one’s right to vote.

Health Affairs Blog: Lack Of Standardized Chronic Condition Screening For Individuals In Jail
There has been a 282 percent jump in the average age of the jailed population, increasing the demand for adequate health care and prompting the need for standardized comprehensive health assessments at jail entry. In the era of COVID-19, it is even more important to properly screen newly admitted individuals to assess their current health status and prevent further harm to this vulnerable population.

JAMA Network: Trends in and Characteristics of Buprenorphine Misuse Among Adults in the US
In this survey study of 214 505 respondents to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health Data, nearly three-fourths of adults reporting buprenorphine use did not misuse their prescribed buprenorphine in 2019. Among adults with OUD, prevalence of buprenorphine misuse trended downward during the period from 2015 to 2019.

The Crime Report: How Harm Reduction Can Help Win the Fight Against Opioids
Despite three years of aggressive enforcement-based attempts to target the trafficking of these drugs, opioids increasingly dominate illicit markets across the country. The current approach is failing both to reduce supply and to prevent deaths. Furthermore, it has health and criminal justice consequences of its own, especially in communities of color. Harm reduction can be that solution, helping people mitigate the risks associated with certain behaviors.

PEW: Some States Are Cloaking Prison COVID Data
Florida and Georgia as well as Texas, provide even less information than they once did, according to researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles’ COVID Behind Bars Data Project, which collects and analyzes data on the pandemic in corrections settings. In an online post in late August, the project noted that while prison reporting had been “plagued by deep inadequacies” since the start of the pandemic, corrections systems cut back even more on public data in recent months. (COCHS' COVID-19 Data Map has been updated to reflect where COVID-19 data has become unavailable.)

NIJ: The Impact of Incarceration on the Desistance Process Among Individuals Who Chronically Engage in Criminal Activity
Research shows that imprisonment has few, if any, beneficial effects on criminal activity, except for the period when individuals are in a correctional facility. It also shows that imprisonment has disruptive effects on the life-course of individuals, leading to worse labor market outcomes, more disrupted family lives, and worse health. This population rapidly decreases their engagement in crime as they age, policymakers should still strongly consider shorter sentences. This is especially the case in the wake of deep budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

VERA: The Prison Paradox: More Incarceration Will Not Make Us Safer
There is a very weak relationship between higher incarceration rates and lower crime rates. Although studies differ somewhat, most of the literature shows that between 1980 and 2000, each 10 percent increase in incarceration rates was associated with just a 2 to 4 percent lower crime rate7

COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate in Corrections

PPIC: Uncertain Fate Awaits Prison Worker Vaccine Mandate
California correctional officers are fighting mandatory vaccinations—and the outcome is uncertain. Last month, a federal judge ordered the state to devise a mandatory vaccination plan for prison staff who do not work in prison hospitals, where the federal mandate for health care workers already applies. The Newsom administration have resisted the plan.

Sacramento Bee: Would California prison guards quit over vaccine mandates? Newsom administration says yes
California state officials are worried prison guards’ resistance to vaccines runs so deep that a strict vaccination mandate could lead many to quit their jobs, with potentially “crippling” effects to the prison system, according to a Monday court filing. Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are appealing a vaccination order for all prison employees issued last month by U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar in Oakland.

Los Angeles Times: Sheriff warns vaccine mandate causing ‘mass exodus’ among personnel
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva continues to rail against the county’s vaccine mandate, warning it is causing a “mass exodus” in his department and threatens public safety at a time when violent crime is on the rise. Under an executive order ratified by the Board of Supervisors in August, all Los Angeles County employees were required to register their vaccination status by Oct. 1 on an online portal, though religious and medical exceptions are allowed.

COVID-19 in Corrections

The Daily Item: 23 new COVID cases at federal prison in Allenwood; State records 4,100 new cases
The federal Bureau of Prisons reported 23 new active COVID-19 cases at the low-security unit in Allenwood on Wednesday, pushing the active case count to 29 at the facility. In Wednesday’s update, the BOP registered 25 active inmate cases and four staff cases. There had been three inmate and three staff cases.

UpNorthLive: Alpena County Jail staff dealing with COVID-19 outbreak
The Alpena County (MI) Sheriff's Office reported several staff members have confirmed cases of COVID-19 and are currently quarantining at home. Several inmates are also impacted, according to the sheriff. The exact number of inmates with confirmed cases was not released.

newstimes: Connecticut prison inmate dies of COVID-19
A 43-year-old man in prison died on Friday after a nearly month long battle with COVID-19. The inmate had been receiving medical care at a local hospital since Oct. 4. The man had underlying health issues, and had refused intubation within the last week. This is the second incarcerated person in the state’s Department of Correction to die from coronavirus-related health issues this year. Prosecutors also allege that Worrell had turned down earlier treatment at the jail for his cancer, among other medical conditions.

Rikers Island

The City: Adams’ Ties to Lobbying Firm That Represents Jail Workers Raises Questions on Rikers Island Future
The lobbyists, Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin, dual role with Eric Adams and the Correction Officers Benevolent Association (COBA) has some jail reform advocates concerned about the fate of plans to close Rikers Island by 2027 and replace it with four smaller, modern borough-based jails. Also in the balance are proposals to strictly limit the use of solitary confinement at city jails and whether the reform-minded jails commissioner recently hired by Mayor Bill de Blasio would get to keep his job in an Adams administration.

New York Times: Sexual Assaults Are Worsening a Crisis at Rikers, Jail Officers Say
New York City’s jails are facing a critical shortage of staff that is contributing to violence and lawlessness at the facilities, and officers say sexual harassment and assault by detainees are compounding the crisis. Female officers, who account for almost half of the city’s active correction officers, are at particularly high risk. Male officers are affected as well, but may be less inclined to speak out because of shame and stigma. There have been 24 such reports so far this year. Neither the department nor the union reported data on sexual assaults separately from other types of attacks before this year.

News12: Spurred by NYC jail deaths, health care workers demand access to facilities
Dozens of health care workers came together outside Vernon Bain Correctional Center to protest what they say are human rights violations within New York City jails. The group says they are concerned about the health and safety of prisoners incarcerated across the city. The rally was sparked by 14 reported deaths within city jails since the start of 2021.

Women in Corrections

WFYI: New season of ‘Sick’ podcast investigates death and sexual abuse inside Indiana Women’s Prison
This podcast uncovers stories of repeated denial of crucial health care and sexual assault inside the Indiana Women’s Prison, a maximum security facility in Indianapolis. The result is trauma and women dying by suicide or due to health complications.

Opioid Epidemic

National Council for Mental Health and Well Being: Deflection and Pre-arrest Diversion to Prevent Opioid Overdose
The current practice of criminalizing substance use in the U.S. hasn’t been effective in meeting public safety goals and has failed to improve public safety outcomes, despite costing more than $10 billion annually to enforce drug laws each year. In fact, it has led to negative public health consequences – especially in Black, Indigenous and other communities of color.

WBUR: Doctors and advocates criticize plan for addiction treatment at Suffolk County Jail
With a new courtroom and treatment facility soon to be operating at the Suffolk County jail, several doctors and political leaders are joining together to oppose the plan. Dr. Sarah Wakeman, addiction medicine specialist and primary care doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital and medical director for substance use disorders at Mass General Brigham. She said research shows that forced addiction treatment increases the risk of fatal overdose.

Health Care in Corrections

WTOP: DOJ pushes back against claims of mistreatment at DC jail where Capitol rioters are being held
Federal prosecutors on Wednesday pushed back against claims of mistreatment at a Washington, DC, jail where dozens of US Capitol rioters are being held — allegations that led a federal judge to refer the jail for an investigation into potential civil rights violations after holding its officials in contempt of court. The DOJ wrote in its filing that one doctor said that Worrell’s finger surgery was an “elective procedure”. Prosecutors also allege that Worrell had turned down earlier treatment at the jail for his cancer, among other medical conditions.

The Ellsworth American: Jail budget clobbered by inmate medical costs
The Hancock County Jail’s inmate health-care budget for the year was wiped out in three months, due in part to the medical costs of two inmates — one who is terminally ill and another who was expecting a baby, according to Jail Administrator Tim Richardson. A significant issue is that if an inmate enters the jail with MaineCare benefits, after 30 days the inmate loses MaineCare, according to Richardson. That’s because the federal Social Security Act prohibits Medicaid coverage for inmates, so medical costs are the responsibility of the jails and prisons.

VT Digger: Deal calls on state to pay $80K to incarcerated individuals with disabilities, improve care
An agreement with federal authorities requires the state Department of Corrections to provide better care of incarcerated people with disabilities, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Vermont. The deal includes a provision for the corrections department to pay $80,000 to compensate current and past incarcerated individuals who were harmed.

KPIX 5: Officers’ Shocking Neglect of Disturbed South Bay Jail Inmate Caught on Camera
Body camera footage recorded the day an inmate repeatedly beat his head while being transported to the Santa Clara County main jail and then pleaded to correctional officers for medical help was released Friday, three years after the incident. The release comes after county supervisors demanded the sheriff’s office share the footage with the public and called for a multi-agency investigation into Sheriff Laurie Smith who oversees the jail.

EMS1: Pa. county sheriff takes prison board to court over lack of EMS transports for inmates
Westmoreland County Sheriff James Albert is taking a dispute with the county's prison board to common pleas court. The sheriff and the prison board are sparring over a requirement that sheriff's deputies transport sick inmates to and from the county jail for medical treatment. "My guys aren't medically trained," Albert said. "If an inmate would require medical attention en route to an emergency room at a hospital, the EMS ambulance crew is better prepared than my deputies."

Probation & Parole

BJS Data Sets: 2018 Annual Probation Survey and 2018 Annual Parole Survey
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released two datasets on persons supervised in the community on probation and parole through the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: The ACLU is suing Montgomery County, saying it’s illegally jailing people without hearings
The ACLU of Pennsylvania sued Montgomery County court and probation officials on Tuesday, contending their practice of detaining people accused of even minor probation violations for months without a hearing is illegal, excessive, and destructive for defendants trying to care for children, maintain employment, or manage life-threatening health conditions.

Gerrymandering & Corrections

ABC: 'Prison gerrymandering' endures in Nevada, despite law
Incomplete demographic information that Nevada prison officials provided lawmakers preparing to redraw the state's political maps is prompting questions and frustration two years after the Legislature passed a law to count incarcerated residents in their home communities. The data gap suggests Nevada's efforts to end so-called “prison gerrymandering” are far from complete as lawmakers prepare to implement a recently passed ban of the practice.

Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice

Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazett: Washington County criminal justice panel sees need for mental health services
Diverting people with mental health problems away from the criminal justice system is a focus of Washington County's Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. Circuit Judge Cristi Beaumont told the committee a diversionary court for people with mental health problems would be similar to the drug court and veterans court programs already operating. Beaumont said the program would need to have caseworkers assigned to the jail to assess detainees and work on plans for them to reenter society without having to go through the court system.

Technology & Health Care in Corrections

6 Live: Tulsa County Sheriff's Office To Begin Use Of Sensor To Monitor Health Of At-Risk Inmates
The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office is the first department in the Midwest to roll out a new device to better track the health of inmates in the jail. Inmates wear the device, which checks their vitals more than 700 times a minute. This way, if there is a problem, jail staff will know immediately and can get help. This device Custody Protect will allow jail staff to keep an eye on the health of inmates from a phone screen. In the beginning, they will be able to monitor up to 32 inmates at once, with the goal of preventing deaths in the jail.

Prison Contractors

Jezebel: Heads Up, Sesame Street Is Part of the Prison Industrial Complex Now
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the long-running educational children’s program, has joined forces with Global Tel Link, a telecommunications company that has a virtual monopoly on inmate phone calls in the United States. GTL announced a grant to Sesame Workshop to “create new Coping with Incarceration materials for children dealing with parental incarceration.” This sounds promising, if you ignore the fact that GTL is complicit in some of the most ghoulish prison practices. Most notably, charging astronomical rates for prison phone calls.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Marshall Project: Arizona Privatized Prison Health Care to Save Money. But at What Cost?
Arizona has employed three prison health care contractors over the past decade: Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health, then Corizon, and now Centurion. Allegations of subpar care and chronic understaffing have dogged all three companies. The number of medical staff decreased by 11% from 2012 to 2019, despite Arizona’s prison population remaining relatively flat, leaving prisons with hundreds of fewer providers than they needed, according to court documents. During its six-year tenure, Corizon paid the state more than $3 million in fines for failing to hire enough doctors and nurses.

AP: Trial to begin over health care for 27K Arizona prisoners
A lawsuit challenging the quality of health care for more than 27,000 people incarcerated in Arizona’s prisons is headed to trial Monday after a 6-year-old settlement resolving the case was thrown out by a judge who concluded the state showed little interest in making many of the improvements it promised under the deal. The decision in mid-July came after the state had already been hit with a total of $2.5 million in contempt of court fines for noncompliance.

DCist: Arlington County To End Contract With Jail Health Care Provider After Incarcerated Person Died
Arlington County is terminating its contract with Corizon. Corizon Health has been the jail’s healthcare contractor since 2006, and in 2020 signed a contract renewal with the county that could have lasted until 2025. Earlier this month, a man named Antoine Smith, whose LinkedIn profile lists him as a licensed practical nurse for Corizon Health, was arraigned in Arlington General District Court on a charge of falsifying patient medical records.

South Bend Tribune: St. Joseph County strikes $2.9 million deal to outsource health care for jail inmates
Two years after the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department couldn’t find any bidders to provide health care to inmates at the county jail, officials with the department say they’ve reached a deal to outsource the services to a private company. Department officials Tuesday told the St. Joseph County Council they’ve inked a $2.9 million annual contract with Wellpath. St. Joseph County will become the latest jail to shift inmate healthcare to large companies such as Wellpath and Corizon, which have boomed in recent decades while also drawing scrutiny from critics who allege they put profits ahead of patients.