Weekly Update: June 29, 2021

COCHS Weekly Update: June 29, 2021

Highlighted Stories

NACO: Medicaid Re-Entry Act Letter Sign On
The link to this form will allow you to sign your organization on to the letter supporting the Medicaid Re-Entry Act. If you have any questions, please contact Blaire Bryant at NACO (bbryant@naco.org). The deadline to sign is today June 29.

Washington Post: Biden administration endorses bill to end disparity in drug sentencing between crack and powder cocaine
The Biden administration endorsed legislation Tuesday that would end the disparity in sentences between crack and powder cocaine offenses that President Biden helped create decades ago, a step that highlights how his attitudes on drug laws have shifted over his long tenure in elected office. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Regina LaBelle, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, expressed the administration’s support for the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act, or Equal Act.

New York Times: Thousands of Prisoners Were Sent Home Because of Covid. They Don’t Want to Go Back.
Ever since she was sent to a sober living facility six months ago, part of a mass release of nonviolent prisoners to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Wendy Hechtman has tried to do all the right things. She is making up for lost time with her children, one of whom was only 6 when Ms. Hechtman was locked up roughly three years ago. She goes to weekly drug counseling sessions. But now, Ms. Hechtman is among some 4,000 federal offenders who could soon return to prison

Washington Post: A grandmother didn’t answer her phone during a class. She was sent back to prison.
After serving 16 years in different federal facilities for dealing heroin, Levi was allowed to leave last June and finish her 24-year sentence in home confinement under the supervision of federal prison officials. But Levi’s season on the outside ended June 12 after she attended a computer word-processing class in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. A Federal Bureau of Prisons incident report said she was out of contact for a few hours with the officials supervising her. Levi is now at the D.C. jail awaiting transfer to a federal facility, according to her attorney.

Washington Post Magazine: The Endless Trap of American Parole
America’s approach to parole is still plagued by problems.The number of people on supervision per capita remains historically high, up several hundred percent from 1980. National data also shows that between 30 and 40 percent of state prison admissions are for “technical violations,” i.e., failing to observe the conditions of supervision. In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, 58.8 percent of California’s parole population went to prison for a technical violation. Parolees have been sanctioned for infractions such as forgetting to return a steak knife to the kitchen after eating dinner in front of the living room TV; outside the kitchen, the knife is considered a weapon.

COVID-19 Post Pandemic

New York Times: For the first time in more than a year, visitors can return to New York City jails.
In-person visits resumed at New York City jails on Friday after they were halted for more than a year to stave off the coronavirus, according to the city’s Department of Correction. The department has struggled since the start of the pandemic, facing surges of violence, overworked guards and staffing shortages, and the department’s commissioner characterized the return of in-person visitation as a positive development for inmates and guards alike.

Safety + Justice Challenge: The Impact of COVID-19 on Crime, Arrests, and Jail Populations
This research showed that in all eleven jurisdictions there is a clear, consistent pattern of both crime and jail populations declining in tandem with one another. The COVID-19 restrictions that served to greatly restrict the U.S. economy and the traditional, “every day” social and economic activities/transactions of the public served to lower crime rates, and in particular the crime of larceny-theft. Unemployment rose which, contrary to public opinion, is traditionally associated with lower, not higher, crime rates.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

East Bay Times: Why do so many Los Angeles cops refuse COVID vaccines? Politics, conspiracy theories, distrust, chief says
Only around half of Los Angeles Police Department employees have received at least one vaccine dose protecting them against COVID-19, the chief of police said Tuesday. LAPD fell behind despite employees having priority access to vaccine appointments for months — with some getting shots in January that were left over from L.A. city firefighters, who had the earliest access — before most people were able to sign up. But why aren’t police and civilians in LAPD getting the vaccine? The same reason as many other Americans: Politics and misinformation, according to LAPD Chief Michel Moore.

West Hawaii Today: ‘Inhumane’ conditions at HCCC trigger lawsuit as outbreak continues
A former pretrial detainee at Hawaii Community Correctional Center disputes Lt. Gov. Josh Green’s statement that an outbreak of COVID-19 at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo is because of the reluctance of inmates to be vaccinated. In a statement Tuesday, DPS spokeswoman Toni Schwartz disputed Pittullo’s claim that he was denied vaccination, saying the department “offers the vaccine to all jail and prison inmates.”

Women and Criminal Justice

Newsweek: Most Women Don't Need Prison, They Need Support
In an op-ed, Lauren Crosby Medlicott writes: Most women in custody, primarily held in local jails rather than state prisons, have committed non-violent, low-level crimes—32 percent for property offenses, 29 percent for drug offenses and 21 percent for public order offenses. These women should not be behind bars given their rates of experiences of childhood and intimate partner abuse, mental health issues, poverty, addictions and dependent children. Women in custody are more likely than men to have experienced both historic and current trauma related to abuse. In a recent report, it was found that 86 percent of women in jails experienced sexual violence and 77 percent experienced intimate partner violence.

Office of Justice Programs: Female Re-entry and Gender-Responsive Programming
Although men in re-entry significantly outnumber women, the challenges confronting women returning from incarceration are formidable and complex, pointing to a need for specialized and appropriate re-entry programming. Those challenges upon release can include employment, addiction, mental ill-ness, housing, transportation, family reunification, childcare, parenting, and poor physical health. Importantly, the majority of incarcerated females are parents to children under the age of 18.

The Crime Report: Women Lead Toll of U.S. Jail Deaths: Study
Women account for a disproportionate number of jail deaths, many of them as a result of complications from alcohol or drug intoxication that occur within days of being admitted to custody, says the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI). The median time served by jail detainees before a death caused by drug or alcohol intoxication was just one day. The growth in jail deaths is compounded by the fact that the highest rates occurred in rural facilities, again with women the leading victims.

Juveniles and Criminal Justice

The CT Mirror: State reaches deal to improve education, mental services for incarcerated youths
Lawyers representing young people incarcerated in adult prison have reached an agreement with the state over the Department of Correction’s delivery of educational and mental health services to youth held at Manson Youth Institution as the pandemic wanes in correctional facilities across Connecticut. The settlement, which is in place until Sept. 30, 2021, ensures the DOC will provide support to incarcerated young people after a year in which they were largely kept in their cells to protect them from COVID-19. Broadly, the accommodation deals with three topics: education, access to mental health and cell confinement in medical isolation and quarantine units.

Violent Interactions and Police

NBC News: Violent encounters with police send thousands of people to the ER every year
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that since 2015, more than 400,000 people have been treated in emergency rooms because of a violent interaction with police or security guards. But there's almost no nationwide data on the nature or circumstances of their injuries. Many of the country's roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies don't tally or make public the number of people who need medical care after officers break their arms, bruise their faces, or shock them with Tasers. Researchers point out that only a tiny portion of arrests involve force. But when police do use force, more than half of the incidents ended with a suspect or civilian getting hurt, according to a 2020 analysis

Jail Closures

Los Angeles Daily News: LA County Supervisors vote 4-1 to close Men’s Central Jail
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Tuesday, June 22, to set up a team to implement the long-promised closure of Men’s Central Jail. The workgroup’s report estimates that it will take 18-24 months to close the jail. It envisions redistributing some of the inmate population across other correctional facilities over time, while also releasing about 4,500 people currently behind bars to residential programs or into community treatment. Sheriff Alex Villanueva also warned the board against moving forward with the plan. “Releasing 4,500 inmates onto the streets is not a legal option for the county … and trying to cram 12,500 inmates into 8,500 beds is … unconstitutional,” Villanueva said.

Staffing Shortages

Politico: Union boss: Bureau of Prisons faces dangerous cash crunch
The Bureau of Prisons has partially paused onboarding new employees due to budget problems. Shane Fausey, the national president of the Council of Prison Locals 33 and a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) lock and security specialist, sent an email which stated that the Bureau faces a budgetary shortfall which “will continue to impact the entire agency and all of us.” The news comes as the Bureau faces bruising watchdog reports and the coronavirus pandemic. A Justice Department Inspector General report released last year found that the Bureau spent more than $300 million on overtime pay in 2019 because of staff shortages.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact on Mental Health

ABC News: Judge rips federal prison officials after inmate with mental health issues dies by suicide
A judge is excoriating federal prison officials who refused to admit an inmate needing mental health care who later killed himself in a local jail cell. Sixty-two-year-old Christopher Lapp of Great Falls, Virginia, died by suicide at the Alexandria Adult Detention Center last month while he awaited sentencing on carjacking and armed bank robbery charges. Lapp was bipolar and had a history of mental health problems.

The North Platte Telegraph: Former Nebraska prisons administrator sues state, says prison was manipulating housing stats
The administrator who oversaw the state prisons' mental health and substance abuse services and sex offender program is suing her former employer alleging, among other things, that the prison was manipulating housing statistics by moving inmates who weren't mentally ill into the mental health unit. In a lawsuit filed in Lancaster County District Court, Alice Mitwaruciu alleged that the deputy director of the Department of Correctional Services since 2018, made clinical decisions affecting the mental health care and treatment of inmates, regardless of a lack of medical or mental health training.

Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice

Clinton Herald: Mental health board weighs medication issues
The Eastern Iowa Mental Health region is looking to find a solution to improve inmate access to medications upon release from county jails. As Clinton County was putting together the new County Resource Center, one of the big issues identified was trying to get individuals help with medication supply when they leave the jail. One of the issues Clinton County sees is the Clinton County Jail medication prescriber is only available one day a week, typically on Tuesdays, Irwin said. If an individual comes to the jail on a Wednesday, they could possibly be released before being able to meet with the prescriber.

The Atlanta Jounal-Constitution: Gwinnett sheriff starts mental health task force
Gwinnett County Sheriff Keybo Taylor, who campaigned in part on better de-escalation training in the county jail, announced this week the creation of a mental health task force. The task force will be led by Lt. Trakida Maldonado, a former hostage negotiator in the sheriff’s office who is a licensed professional counselor. Maldonado has clinical experience with crisis intervention, substance abuse and psychotherapy in addition to her law enforcement work, and she worked as a behavioral specialist in the Emergency Department of Emory Healthcare.

Correctional Healthcare Vendors and Food Service Providers

VT Digger: Public or secret? High court weighs records of prison health care contractor
The Vermont Supreme Court will decide whether a private contractor working for the state has to abide by the same rules as a state agency in providing information to the public. At issue is whether a private company contracted by the state to provide health care to Vermont prisoners has to publicly release information related to legal claims against it. Since 2017, the Human Rights Defense Center has been seeking the records from Correct Care Solutions between 2010 and 2015, while the company held the contract to provide health care for incarcerated individuals in Vermont. Correct Care Solutions, has since merged with another company and is now called Wellpath.

Bloomberg Law: NaphCare Settles Prison Health-Care Overbilling Claims, DOJ Says
NaphCare Inc. will pay $694,593 to resolve allegations it submitted false claims to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in connection with health-care services provided to inmates, the Justice Department announced Friday. NaphCare subcontracts with physicians to provide inmates with health-care services. It allegedly violated the False Claims Act by charging the government for higher-level services than were provided when certain physicians didn’t specify how they treated patients, the DOJ said. The company allegedly submitted the inflated claims for services at facilities in Terre Haute, Ind., and Victorville, Calif., the DOJ said.

The Denver Post: Aramark, which has served rotten food in other states, could win $9M Denver jail contract
The Denver County Sheriff’s Department wants to hire a private company, Aramark, to serve meals to its inmates. But inmates in Jefferson and Arapahoe county jails — not to mention state prisons across the country — have complained of Aramark’s rotten and expired food, food that’s been stored at improper temperatures and too-small portions. Two Denver City Council members say they will examine the company’s history before they vote whether to approve the contract. Just this year in Mississippi, the state ended its agreement with Aramark, something Michigan did in 2015.