Weekly Update: December 07, 2021

COCHS Weekly Update: December 07, 2021

Highlighted Stories

Bloomberg Law: Medicaid Funding for Soon-to-Be-Freed Prisoners Eyed in States
Vermont and several other states are asking federal regulators to approve the use of Medicaid funds for prisoners shortly before their release, setting up a debate over how much flexibility the states should have in running their Medicaid programs. Approval by CMS would mark the first break in the firewall that has kept Medicaid out of prisons, and would address the problem of interrupted care faced by newly released prisoners suffering from chronic illnesses, mental health problems, or substance use disorder.

Marshall Project: Banned From Jobs: People Released From Prison Fight Laws That Keep Punishing Them.
People convicted of those crimes are barred from a slew of jobs in behavioral health, child care and elder care. Some states have a waiver system or laws that allow agencies to consider applications on an individual basis, but the only way around the restrictions for many crimes in Virginia is a pardon, which is something most people don’t get.

Politico: ‘A humanitarian crisis’: Why Alabama could lose control of its dangerous prisons
Alabama sends so many people to prison that the state can no longer safely house its inmates, consequences of a tough-on-crime mentality among politicians and the public that keeps aggressive sentencing laws on the books. The end result: The Department of Justice concluded that the constitutional rights of prisoners were being violated every day, in every men’s prison the state runs.

Injustice Watch: Fewer people in Cook County are being charged with crimes. Why are Black people making up a larger share of defendants?
The number of people charged in criminal cases has declined steadily in Cook County over the last two decades. But a closer look at the trend reveals stark racial disparities that have only worsened over time. More than 3 million criminal cases were filed in Cook County between 2000 and 2018. Over 60% of those were filed against Black people. Our analysis shows that Black people make up a larger share of defendants charged in criminal court in recent years compared to 20 years ago.

COVID-19 Surge in Corrections

Daily Herald: Lake County jail COVID-19 outbreak grows
Lake County (IL) jail officials said Friday that 48 inmates and 11 correctional officers have tested positive for COVID-19 since last weekend. The numbers have grown since Monday, when jail officials said 14 inmates and seven correctional officers had tested positive for the virus.

Post Independent: Garfield County Jail dealing with another COVID-19 outbreak
Garfield County (CO) jail and county public health officials are working to keep a COVID-19 outbreak at the jail in check. Last weekend, Garfield County Public Health contact investigators were informed of an outbreak at the jail. Three of the inmates infected during the latest outbreak will reach their 14 day quarantine time soon, and assuming they test negative, will be returned to their normal housing pods.

Times of San Diego: Sheriff Orders Health Restrictions at County Jails After Surge in COVID Cases
The San Diego Sheriff’s Department announced new health restrictions Thursday at five county jails after a surge in coronavirus cases over the past week. The department reported 125 cases and three hospitalizations. As a result, the department has returned to “a more restrictive environment” with all social visits suspended and quarantines for newly arrested people. The department said it offers vaccinations to all inmates, but so far only about a quarter — 4,096 to date — have accepted.

VT Digger: 16 new cases broaden Covid-19 outbreak at Newport prison to 54 people
A Covid-19 outbreak at the Newport prison continues to grow, with 16 new cases detected — bringing the total to 54 since it started last month. The results from testing earlier this week revealed 13 new Covid-19 cases among incarcerated individuals and three among staff, according to a news release from the state Department of Corrections Thursday afternoon.

COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate in Corrections

AP: Hundreds of NYC jailers face suspension over vaccine mandate
New York City’s troubled jail system is facing more turmoil: the suspension of hundreds of corrections officers for failing to meet a Tuesday night deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Corrections Department Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said Wednesday morning that about 700 jail workers who’ve applied for religious or medical exemptions can continue to work while their cases are reviewed.

Legionnaires Disease in Corrections

US News & World Report: Indiana Inmate Dies Amid Prison Legionnaires Disease Cases
A central Indiana prison inmate has died after being among those confirmed ill with Legionnaire’s disease amid an outbreak of the bacterial lung infection at the facility. The agency had announced Wednesday that three inmates had confirmed cases of the illness and two others had probable cases.

Medical Parole

Los Angeles Times: California now limits medical parole to those on ventilators
A new California policy could send dozens of quadriplegic, paraplegic or otherwise permanently incapacitated incarcerated people from nursing homes back to state prisons. Prison officials say a change in federal rules led them to limit medical parole to those so ill they are hooked to ventilators to breathe, meaning their movement is so limited they are not a public danger. The state previously included a much broader range of permanent incapacities allowing people who were incarcerated to be cared for in nursing homes outside prison walls.

Sexual Abuse in Corrections

US News & World Report: 3rd Worker at Federal Prison Charged With Sexual Misconduct
A federal correctional officer at a women’s prison in California was charged Friday with sexually abusing an inmate, just months after the prison’s warden was arrested for similar conduct. The officer is the latest employee of the federal Bureau of Prisons charged with criminal wrongdoing in a prison system rife with corruption and misconduct. More than 100 Bureau of Prisons workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for crimes since 2019, as the agency turned a blind eye to misconduct allegations.

Statistics & Data

BJS: Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, 2019 – Statistical Tables
This report presents data collected from state, federal, and private adult correctional facilities on the characteristics of facilities by type, operator, size, physical security level, capacity, court orders, and programs. The distribution of the prisoner custody population is presented for demographic characteristics, sentence length, and custody security level by facility type and operator.

BJS: Mortality in State and Federal Prisons, 2001–2019 – Statistical Tables
These reports present detailed statistical tables on mortality in state and federal prisons and in local jails. They provide information on cause of death; decedent characteristics, such as age, sex, and race or ethnicity; and mortality rates of inmate populations, compared to the general U.S. adult population.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Annenberg Media: A close look at mental illness in Los Angeles County jails
Twin Towers Jail in Los Angeles is the nation’s largest mental health facility. There are about 2800 inmates... all struggling with mental illness. Mentally ill people commit ten percent of all homicides in the United States. They constitute probably 25% of people who are shot by police. Since this demographic is not mentally stable enough to follow laws, they end up in jail. But a jail it’s not a hospital, and the number one consideration in a jail has to be security.

NorthcentralPA.com: Father files lawsuit against state Correctional Institute alleging gross negligence by prison staff
On December 4, 2019, Dominic Ingle, 24, of Lancaster, PA, hanged himself in his cell at the State Correctional Institution in Camp Hill, PA. He died 11 days later from his suicide attempt. His father, Joseph McQuaid, hs filed suit in the United States District Court. The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Ingle's struggles with mental illness were well-documented, but his needs for treatment and protection, were ignored.

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland prisons unconstitutionally placing mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement, lawsuit claims
Mentally ill inmates at Maryland’s prisons are being held in solitary confinement, exacerbating their illnesses and violating their constitutional rights against being submitted to cruel and unusual punishment, according to a federal lawsuit. Filed last month on behalf of several unnamed defendants by the nonprofit organization Disability Rights of Maryland, the suit claims that state prisons provide inmates “grossly inadequate” mental health services.

Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice

New York Times: Nation’s First Supervised Drug-Injection Sites Open in New York
In an attempt to curb a surge in overdose deaths caused by increasingly potent street drugs, New York City authorized two supervised injection sites in Manhattan. New York, the country’s most populous city, became the first U.S. city to open officially authorized injection sites. The two Manhattan sites were already operating as needle exchange programs, and some residents in the communities have previously raised concerns about the decision to place the sites in less affluent areas of the borough.

WDRB.com: Louisville jail officer helps save lives of multiple inmates
Officer Ivan Sample, who is nearing his fifth year working at the jail, encountered several emergencies during one of his shifts last week. Sample said the incidents started with two people who had overdosed in a dorm. He said the inmates were unresponsive, so he performed CPR and used Narcan. At the same time, another officer was working on the other inmate who had overdosed. But before Sample could catch his breath, there was another emergency. He said an inmate had used a sheet to hang himself.

Private Prisons

Commercial Observer: Prison Operator GEO Group to End REIT Status
Private prison company The GEO Group will no longer be organized as a real estate investment trust (REIT). GEO shares tanked after the announcement, dropping more than 7 percent over the course of the day. REITs pay no corporate income tax, but they must pay out 90 percent of their profits. GEO’s shift follows a move by rival CoreCivic, another prison operator that also became a REIT in 2013. CoreCivic dropped its REIT status at the beginning of 2021.