Weekly Update: August 10, 2021

COCHS Weekly Update: August 10, 2021

Highlighted Stories

Legal Action Center: Sign-on Letter to CMS: Improving Health Care Access to People in the Criminal Legal System
Please fill out the below form to sign your organization onto the below letter asking CMS to strengthen Medicaid coverage and access to care to better meet the health care needs of people in the criminal legal system. Strengthening Medicaid coverage and access to care for people in the criminal legal system represents a tremendous opportunity to achieve a number of central goals of the Biden-Harris administration: such as, expanding health care access, eliminating health inequities, responding to the overdose crisis, and reforming the criminal legal system.

Health Day: Severe Opioid Overdoses Rose by Nearly a Third During Pandemic
Opioid overdose-related visits to U.S. emergency departments rose by nearly one-third during the COVID-19 pandemic last year. That's the key finding in a new analysis of data from 25 emergency departments in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. "COVID-19, and the disruptions in every part of our social and work lives.

O'Neil Institute: National Snapshot: Access to Medications for Opioid Use Disorder in U.S. Jails and Prisons
This 50 State Snapshot presents current laws, policies, and court actions related to access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) in correctional facilities in the U.S as of April 2021. Where available, this survey also includes examples of programs that are county- or facility-specific. This report focuses specifically on three categories of medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat opioid use disorder (OUD): methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone, but also mentions branded versions of these medications, which include combination medications, long-acting versions, and medications with different methods of administration (for example, injectable or oral).

New York Times: Man Was Held for More Than 2 Years Over Mistaken Identity, His Lawyer Says
The long ordeal of Joshua Spriestersbach, a homeless man in Hawaii, began on May 11, 2017, when a Honolulu police officer woke him up and arrested him. He had fallen asleep as he waited in line to enter a shelter for food, but, instead, he was sent to a jail on Oahu for a crime he didn’t commit, according to a petition his lawyer filed this week seeking to clear his record. The police officer thought that Mr. Spriestersbach, now 50, looked like Thomas Castleberry, who was wanted on charges stemming from a 2006 drug case.

COVID-19 Delta Variant Surge

Colorado News Line: Vaccination rates in Colorado prisons remain low as COVID-19 cases spike across the state
COVID-19 vaccination rates remain low in Colorado’s state prisons as the delta variant drives a spike in cases across the state, largely among unvaccinated people. From July 26 through Aug. 1, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recorded an average of 798 new cases of COVID-19 per day, the highest seven-day average since mid-May, according to state data.

The Star: Over two dozen inmates and staff at Cleveland County jail test positive for COVID-19
Four staff members and 21 inmates at the Cleveland County Detention Center are quarantining after testing positive for coronavirus. "It has come and gone in the detention center, and we are not the only ones," said Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman. The current crop of positive cases are confined to the main jail. The 83-bed jail at the law enforcement center is currently COVID-free.

KCUR: If Missouri Fails To Contain COVID-19 Outbreaks In Prisons, Outside Communities Will Be At Risk
One Missouri inmate says prisoners feel "powerless" to control the spread of the coronavirus. He's worried guards are taking it home to their communities. LeVar Aikens, a Kansas City man incarcerated in the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri, says he is watching a COVID-19 outbreak happen around him.

Current: Boone County Sheriff’s Office reports COVID-19 outbreak at county jail
The Boone County Sheriff’s Office has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at the Boone County Jail, where 25 inmates have tested positive for the disease since July 16, including eight who were vaccinated. At the beginning of the pandemic, the BCSO created policies to protect staff, inmates and citizens. In late May of 2021, the BCSO began a “slow open” of the jail by lifting some COVID-19 restrictions and allowing more inmates to enter the facility.

COVID-19 Preventive Measures

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland’s state jail, hospital and health care workers will need COVID vaccine or have to wear masks and be tested
Maryland will require state employees who care for people in prisons, hospitals, veterans centers and juvenile facilities to get COVID-19 vaccinations, or submit to regular testing and mask-wearing restrictions starting Sept. 1, Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday. Hogan’s order applies to 48 state-run “congregate care” facilities. Those who do not get at least one dose of the vaccine by September will have to be tested multiple times a week, Hogan said.

Modesto Bee: California prison overseer calls for mandatory COVID vaccines for all guards, staff
The federal receiver overseeing medical care inside California’s prisons asked a federal judge Wednesday for a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination order for guards and staff at the prisons, saying the delta variant of the virus “poses enormous risks. “The risk now is grave,” federal receiver J. Clark Kelso wrote in a 27-page report to the court about conditions inside California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation facilities.

northjersey.com: NJ health care workers required to get COVID vaccines by Sept. 7 — or test weekly
Every health care worker in New Jersey's private and public health care facilities, along with those who work at state prisons and county jails, will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 7, or get tested once or twice every week for the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.

Hometown News: Brevard Health Alliance brings vaccines to county jail
Joining together with the Brevard County Jail Complex (FL), Brevard Health Alliance (BHA) provided free access to COVID-19 vaccines to inmates and staff on Tuesday, July 27 with the help of Corizon Health Staff. Brevard Health Alliance is a Federally Qualified Health Center providing adult and pediatric primary and dental care, behavioral health.

Healthcare In Jail

The City: Rikers Detainee Endured ‘Horrible Conditions’ Before Dying in Cell, Jails Overseer Finds
A detainee was held in “horrible conditions” — no pillows, blankets or regular food — in an intake pen on Rikers Island for several days before his death in April, according to the city’s jail oversight board. Thomas Earl Braunson III, a 35-year-old new father jailed on a parole violation stemming from shoplifting arrest, was found dead in his cell in the Eric M. Taylor Center on April 19 at about 8:30 a.m. He’s one of three men to die in Correction Department custody since April.

Nevada Public Radio: A Mother’s Death In Tribal Jail Highlights Need For Medical Care On Site
At least 19 people have died in tribal jails overseen by the federal government since 2016, according to an investigation by NPR and the Mountain West News Bureau. As part of our ongoing coverage of mistreatment of inmates on reservations, the bureau is highlighting some of the victims and the circumstances around their deaths, which reflect decades of mismanagement, neglect and poor training.

Women In Corrections

NBC: One state is trying to make pregnancy in prison slightly more bearable
Nationwide, 4 percent of women in state prisons and 3 percent of those in federal prisons are pregnant at sentencing, according to the Child Welfare League of America. Depriving infants from bonding with a parent shortly after birth can effect the child's cognitive, social and emotional development according to a 2016 analysis published by the National Institutes of Health. The Healthy Start Act allows mothers to be with or in contact with their newborns for up to a year.


Corrections 1: Some Calif. inmates could see reduced sentences under new state program
Merced is of nine California counties chosen to participate in a pilot program that aims to bring justice to people who may be serving excessive prison sentences by returning them home to their community. The California County Resentencing Pilot Program was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom as part of California's 2021 Budget, allocating $18 million to county governments for prosecutor-initiated resentencing. Merced County is slated to begin the program in September and expected to receive over $1 million to cover costs associated with the pilot program, which is set to run through Jan. 31, 2025.

Inquest: A 'Warm' Closure
Prison agencies across the country have long resisted progressive reform. But with COVID-19 pushing court proceedings to a crawl, reducing the number of felony cases to a trickle and slowing the flow of people transferring to prison, some agencies have begun floating plans to close prison units and reinvest the saved dollars elsewhere. This might sound like decarceral progress, but don’t be fooled.

Racism & Violence in Corrections

AP: Inside a KKK murder plot: ‘Do you want him six feet under?’
It was 11:30 a.m. on March 19, 2015, and the klansmen were celebrating what they thought was a successful murder in Florida. But the FBI had gotten wind of the murder plot. A confidential informant had infiltrated the group, and his recordings provide a rare, detailed look at the inner workings of a modern klan cell. That investigation would unearth another secret: An unknown number of klansmen were working inside the Florida Department of Corrections, with significant power over inmates, Black and white.

The Hill: Ex-deputy accused of racist posts sentenced to prison for illegal gun
A former sheriff’s deputy in Georgia who was accused of racist posts was sentenced to three years in prison Tuesday for illegal possession of firearms, federal prosecutors said. Cody Richard Griggers, 28, in April pleaded guilty to one count of owning an unregistered firearm and has been sentenced to three years and eight months in prison. FBI investigators found Griggers's home to have 11 firearms, including a machine gun that was not issued to him.

Healthcare Data & Corrections

Law 360: Data Collection Is Crucial For Equity In Diversion Programs
Prosecutorial diversion programs are intended to create equity in the criminal justice system by stopping the incarceration of people who have mental health and substance abuse problems, but without proper data collection, prosecutors can't ensure equity in these programs, experts say. The Prosecutorial Performance Indicators project, an initiative led by researchers at the Florida International University and Loyola University of Chicago to help prosecutors collect data to improve their methods, recently released a report that looked at racial disparities in the number of people who had their cases diverted from criminal courts to diversion programs, like mental health or drug courts.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact on Mental Health

OPB: Serious gaps in mental health care in Washington prisons, report warns
Inadequate mental health care in Washington State prisons is putting some prisoners at heightened risk of self-harm and suicide, and contributing to lengthy stays in solitary confinement, according to a new ombudsman report. The report, months in the making, sounds the alarm about numerous shortcomings, including mental health workers with hefty caseloads and distressed prisoners who have to wait to see a mental health professional.

Yahoo News: Bipolar man's prison term ended, but NY held him for months over lack of mental health facilities, suit says
A 40-year-old man was held 291 days past his prison release date because state officials couldn’t find housing to treat his bipolar and depressive disorders, says a new lawsuit — and he was one of an unknown number of mentally ill New York prisoners in the same situation.

The Gainsville Sun: Handwritten letters are all Florida prisoners have left. Now FDC wants to take that away
Under the proposal, original mail would be scanned to a digital copy, which inmates could view on a tablet or kiosk or as a printed copy. Printed copies would cost 25 cents per page for black and white or $1 for color, said Molly Best, deputy communications director with Florida Department of Corrections (FDC). Under the current rule, there is no limit to the number of pages of written correspondence that can be sent with routine mail, and up to 15 inserts like photos and newspaper clippings can be included. Many advocates, as well as formerly and currently incarcerated people and their loved ones, are opposed to the change. They say physical mail is an important connection to family and friends that helps positively motivate prisoners for reentry into society.

Correctional Healthcare Vendors

Daily Journal Online: Corizon Health out; Missouri officials reject appeal of massive prison health care contract
In a decision affecting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, Gov. Mike Parson’s administration moved to bring on a new company to provide health care to Missouri’s prison inmates. The ruling, issued Friday but not made public until Tuesday, rejects an appeal of a bidding process that saw the long-time prison medical vendor (Corizon) lose its contract to a competing firm (Centene).