Weekly Update: September 13, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: September 13, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Daily Beast: Pregnant Woman Held in Alabama Jail for Months to ‘Protect’ Fetus
A number of women in Alabama accused of using drugs while pregnant were held in a jailhouse for weeks or months, left in limbo after failing to qualify for special bond conditions, according to a Wednesday report from AL.com. After she was arrested for carrying a small amount of marijuana and a firearm without a permit, 23-year-old Ashley Banks was brought to the Etowah County Jail.

New York Times: Medical Impact of Roe Reversal Goes Well Beyond Abortion Clinics, Doctors Say
In Wisconsin, a group of doctors and lawyers is trying to come up with guidelines on how to comply with a newly revived 173-year-old law that prohibits abortion except to save the life of a pregnant woman. They face the daunting task of defining all the emergencies and conditions that might result in a pregnant woman’s death, and the fact that doctors could be punished with six years in prison if a prosecutor disagrees that abortion was necessary.

The Marshall Project: They Lost Their Pregnancies. Then Prosecutors Sent Them to Prison
Some were already mothers, excited about having another baby. Others were upset or frightened to find themselves pregnant. All tested positive for drugs. And when these women lost their pregnancies, each ended up in jail. More than 50 women have been prosecuted for child neglect or manslaughter in the United States since 1999 because they tested positive for drug use after a miscarriage or stillbirth.

Corrections 1: Controversy over why CO delivered a baby inside a N.Y. jail cell
When a baby was born inside the Niagara County Jail in July, the jail's top administrator said the child arrived so quickly there was no time to get the mother to a hospital for the delivery. The mother, however, says there was plenty of time. And the jail's internal reports back her up.

LAW 360: Former Defense Secretary On Veterans Justice Commission
The Council on Criminal Justice announced late last month that it had launched a 15-member Veterans Justice Commission chaired by former Obama administration Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The commission was formed to study why about a third of veterans have been arrested and booked in jail at least once, compared to less than 20% of nonveterans, and recommend evidence-based policy changes to help them.

The Crime Report: New Veterans Justice Commission to Explore Why Ex-Military ‘Fall Through the Cracks’
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will head a 15-member national commission to explore why military veterans become entangled in the justice system and devise approaches to help them avoid it. The commission will conduct a two-year inquiry into why so many military veterans land in jail or prison, said Army Col. Jim Seward, the commission’s director.

NPR: What's Being Done About The Rise In Jail Deaths?
Millions of people enter jail in the U.S. every year. They've become a revolving door for those with mental health issues or substance-abuse disorders. Jail deaths rose 11 percent since 2000 when the U.S. Department of Justice began tallying these deaths. Suicides are the leading cause of jail deaths. Fatal drug overdoses are the fastest growing cause of death. What makes jails so harmful? What mental health and substance abuse resources are available to inmates?

WMTW: 'Stop killing us' rally to protest prison deaths held in Augusta
Incarceration and civil liberty advocates gathered at Capitol Park in Augusta Saturday for a "Stop Killing Us" rally to remember those who have died in Maine prisons, including the nine who have died this year. Protesters called on those with mental health and substance abuse issues to be treated rather than incarcerated.

BJS: Annual Survey of Jails in Indian Country, 2021
The purpose of the Survey of Jails in Indian Country is an enumeration of all known adult and juvenile facilities -- jails, confinement facilities, detention centers, and other correctional facilities operated by tribal authorities or the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), U.S. Department of the Interior. For the purpose of this collection, Indian country includes reservations, pueblos, rancherias, and other Native American and Alaska Native communities throughout the United States.

BJS: Impact of COVID-19 on State and Federal Prisons, March 2020–February 2021
State and federal correctional facilities performed 4,816,400 viral tests for COVID-19 on persons in prison from the beginning of March 2020 to the end of February 2021. Of these tests, 396,300 (8.2%) were positive for COVID-19, representing 374,400 unique infected persons in state and federal prisons. The infection rate in prisons during this 12-month period was 219 per 1,000 state prisoners at risk of exposure to COVID-19 and 298 per 1,000 federal prisoners at risk of exposure.

BJA: Advancing Fairness and Transparency: National Guidelines for Post-Conviction Risk and Needs Assessment
This study is a critical resource for policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and agency administrators to help them make better decisions that support people’s success following a conviction.

NIJ: Use of Restrictive Housing in Prison to Reduce Recidivism (New Jersey)
The state of New Jersey uses restrictive housing as a tool for managing disruptive and violent incarcerated individuals. In the New Jersey Department of Corrections, restrictive housing includes both disciplinary segregation and administrative segregation (protective custody is not considered restrictive housing in New Jersey). Restrictive housing occurs in four separate units, which are located at four separate prisons.

Rikers Island

New York Times: Man Held at Rikers Dies From Razor Wound After Guards Fail to Intervene
Two correction officers and a captain failed to act for at least 10 minutes when a mentally ill man slit his throat with a razor at the Rikers Island jail complex last week, with the guards looking on as the man bled, according to five people with knowledge of the matter.

San Diego

San Diego Union Tribune: Jail reform bill prompted by San Diego jail deaths passes Legislature
A bill authored by San Diego Assemblywoman Dr. Akilah Weber that aims to improve mental health care, medical services and safety standards in California jails has passed both chambers of the state Legislature. Weber introduced AB 2343, also known as the Saving Lives in Custody Act, shortly after the release of a state audit that found that between 2006 and 2020, San Diego jails had the highest mortality rate among California’s largest counties.

San Diego Union Tribune: Shortage of health workers at county jails makes limiting inmate deaths even harder
The departure of San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore increasingly controversial years in which he rejected criticism of the unusually high death rate at county jails led to hopes that better days were ahead. But inmates are still dying. The current surge in county jail deaths is also part of a larger story about a U.S. health care system that has seen nearly one in five health workers quit during the pandemic. The numbers are even more stunning locally. Sheriff’s Department records show that, as of June, it had 523 budgeted positions in its jail medical staff but just 324 employees


AZ Central: Lawmakers will tour Arizona prison after concerns raised by Republic reporting
In response to whistleblower testimonials published by The Arizona Republic exposing staffing and security concerns within the Arizona Department of Corrections, lawmakers have demanded access to state prisons and will begin touring facilities this week. Reports of medical neglect, abuse and isolation of prisoners at the Eyman prison were the centerpiece of the evidence put forth in a 2021 trial in which a plaintiff class of incarcerated people alleged unconstitutional conditions.

AZ Central: Green Valley traveling court highlights barriers to justice in rural southern Arizona
The Green Valley Justice Court will begin traveling to two locations in September to prioritize more than 600 outstanding warrants that accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic. In many of these rural areas, he said, there are barriers to engaging with the court. A primary obstacle is transportation. Public transportation is often limited or nonexistent in rural areas, and often, defendants might have a suspended driver's license.

Solitary Confinement

News 1: State corrections officers push HALT Act repeal while advocates stress enforcement
Prison staff and advocates continue to butt heads over the use of solitary confinement in New York and the reason for increased violence in prisons after the HALT Act took effect this spring. The Humane Alternatives to Long Term Solitary Confinement, or HALT Act, caps the amount of time a person in New York's prisons or jails can be held in segregated confinement housing to 15 days, or 20 days over a two-month period. Officers and incarcerated people continue to clash over the law's implementation.

Substance Abuse Treatment

AP: S.C. prison to treat substance abuse with digital therapy
The South Carolina Department of Corrections will offer a new digital tracking service to support addiction therapy for inmates in the state’s main prison for women. Eligible inmates will report their substance use, cravings and triggers on a smart device, and counselors will use the results to inform their therapy sessions. The $159,840 program is funded by the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services.

News 1: New ECSO program aims to help those in jail with substance abuse disorders
For the past six weeks, a new medication-assisted treatment program has been used by the Erie County Sheriff's Office. The program provides continued care for those admitted to the holding center that are currently prescribed medication for opiate addiction, like suboxone or methadone. The program also helps those with a substance abuse disorder who were not already prescribed medication.

Star Tribune: St. Louis County jail offers opioid antidote kits to some departing inmates
The St. Louis County Jail now offers opioid antidote kits to inmates when they're released, the only jail north of the metro area taking such measures to avoid overdose deaths. The kits containing naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan. Jail is a place of abstinence that can lead to "an extremely high risk" of overdose upon discharge for someone with a substance use disorder.

Yahoo News: County to use state grant to help treat inmates for addiction
A state grant will help improve drug treatment for Clatsop County Jail (OR) inmates struggling with opioid addiction. The county Public Health Department is slated to receive about $267,600 of a $6.2 million Behavioral Resources Health Network grant awarded to organizations that tackle the issue of substance abuse: treating addiction, preventing overdoses, providing mental health care and helping to house and employ people.

Food and Water

BMC: Nutritional adequacy of meals and commissary items provided to individuals incarcerated in a southwest, rural county jail in the United States
This study assesses the macronutrient distribution, caloric composition, and diet quality of the seven-day cycle menu and commissary items provided in a southwest, rural county jail in the United States. Poor diet may contribute to deleterious chronic health among individuals incarcerated.

Hawai'i Public Radio: Contaminants found in water samples at Oʻahu prison
The state Department of Health has detected low levels of two contaminants in water samples at the Waiawa Correctional Facility on Oʻahu. The health department detected Tetrahydrofuran (THF) and 2-Butanone at amounts that exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional screening levels. Both are used in many common items from cellophane to glue.


NC Health News: After prison, individualized reentry plans are cutting recidivism
Since the reentry initiative began in April 2020, it has served 125 individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities from 13 state prisons. Currently, 86 percent of program participants have not reoffended and returned to prison. According to the NC Department of Public Safety, it costs an average of $35,009 in taxpayer funds to house one person in prison for a year. Staff from the Alliance of Disability Advocates say that even with the program’s $300,000 annual price tag, it’s a terrific return on investment.

Legal Reader: The Reality of Reentry: Fact Sheet
People may think that once a convicted criminal has served their time, they’re released and just magically re-enter society. This is not the reality of re-entry.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

OUPBlog: Formerly incarcerated women of color face worse health in later life
This study found that formerly incarcerated older adults had worse mental and physical health than their peers who had not been incarcerated. Moreover, formerly incarcerated women reported worse mental and physical health than formerly incarcerated men—even after controlling for a host of social, economic, and early life factors. Investigation of differences by gender and race/ethnicity, revealed startling disparities among formerly incarcerated women of color.

Salon: Have American jails become the inferior replacement for mental hospitals?
A new study by George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government, and published in the medical journal BMC Health Services Research, suggests that any improvement may not be as great as we'd like to think. At present, there are 10 times as many people with mental illnesses in jails and prisons than in state psychiatric hospitals.

WJTV: An average of 25 mentally ill Mississippians wait in jail for hospital bed each day, report finds
The wife of a man who sometimes experiences crises related to his bipolar disorder feels he has been “subjected to treatment that should not happen in a civilized society.” The unnamed woman told the court-appointed special monitor of the state’s mental health services that her husband was held in jail without medication and continued to decline as he waited for a bed at a state hospital. In 2016, the Department of Justice sued the state over its mental health system. U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves sided with the federal government in 2019, finding that the state had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

Insider NJ: NJ Human Services Announces Pilot Program to Provide Mental Health Screening & Support to Individuals on Pretrial Release
In an effort to ensure better outcomes for defendants with serious mental health needs who are on pretrial monitoring, Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman today announced a new pilot program in Camden, Essex and Middlesex counties to identify and connect these individuals to mental health treatment and other vital social services.

Staffing Shortages

Corrections1: Inmate claims N.M. prison dangerous, but judge lacks jurisdiction to order investigation
Advocates for the incarcerated and at least one inmate who has launched a so-far unsuccessful effort to force an investigation into conditions at Northeastern New Mexico Correctional Facility say understaffing at the prison is leading to dangerous conditions and abusive treatment of inmates. On Thursday, District Court Judge Francis Mathew denied a request to impanel a grand jury to investigate prison conditions. In denying the motion, the judge said he didn't have jurisdiction to grant the request.

West Hawaii Today: Overcrowding at HCCC ‘a serious and immediate concern’
A report by the Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission details the effects of chronic overcrowding at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo. The report noted “severe safety and security concerns,” “lack of programs and basic services,” deficiencies in recreational opportunities and “a complete lack of humane treatment and decency as a whole towards individuals with potentially self-harming ideations and/or actions.” A combination of staffing shortages, lack of visibility, and padlocks on the cell doors is of grave concern for how often individuals are being checked on and monitored.

Qualified Immunity

LAW 360: ACLU Takes On Qualified Immunity In The 5th Circ.
Suits against police are hard to win in the Fifth Circuit, in part because there is a lack of recognition of the "state-created danger" doctrine recognized by other federal circuit courts, which can make state employees liable for death or injury resulting from their actions. In addition, state law does not require local departments to collect data on arrests. That makes it harder to monitor police misconduct and racial disparities, the ACLU said. At the federal appellate level, Fifth Circuit jurisprudence around qualified immunity is generally viewed to be more favorable to police officers than plaintiffs alleging abuse. Ahmed called it a "challenging venue."


Brennan Center: A New Path Forward for Community Supervision
In 2022, every major wire­less carrier will shut down their 3G networks in what is known as the “3G Sunset.” The move will allow compan­ies to alloc­ate more resources to oper­at­ing and main­tain­ing their faster 4G and 5G networks. However, it will also render 3G-reli­ant devices obsol­ete. Many elec­tronic monit­or­ing devices — ankle brace­lets and other wear­able GPS devices used to track people in the immig­ra­tion and justice systems — will be affected by the change, which could negat­ively impact people involved in the crim­inal legal system.

Private Prisons

Daily Kos: 23-year-old Brazilian man dies while in custody of ICE at abusive New Mexico detention center
A 23-year-old Brazilian national died following a suicide attempt while in the custody of federal immigration officials in August. Kesley Vial had been held at the Torrance County Detention Facility in New Mexico. House lawmakers just this year called for the private facility’s closure, following a blistering watchdog report that urged the release of all detained people inside. Advocates said the death was a result of “a fatal suicide attempt,” and that Kelsey had been detained at the CoreCivic facility for months without any updates on his case.

Sentencing Project: Private Prisons in the United States
Private prisons incarcerated 99,754 American residents in 2020, representing 8% of the total state and federal prison population. Since 2000, the number of people housed in private prisons has increased 14%. States show significant variation in the use of private prisons. At one end of the spectrum, Montana incarcerates half of its prison population in privately run facilities, but in another 22 states, private prisons are not used at all. A total of 26 states and the federal government use private corporations like GEO Group, Core Civic, LaSalle Corrections, and Management and Training Corporation to run some of their corrections facilities.

Correctional Health Care Providers

Washington Examiner: Florida's prison healthcare scandal
Privatizing the Florida Department of Corrections's various prison services has long meant good business. Overcharging for telephone calls, messages across platforms such as JPay, and allowing vendors to raise the cost of food items sold in the institutional canteens 10% every six months were easy ways for businesses to make money. Still, these financial abuses pale in comparison to the effects that privatized healthcare has had on inmate populations.

Data Breaches: CorrectHealth notifies employees of breach in 2021
CorrectHealth in Georgia is a private provider of healthcare services to incarcerated individuals. In November 2021, they discovered a data breach involving some employees’ email accounts. They did not reveal when the breach occurred, and it seems it took them until July 2022 to investigate and identify the 54,066 individuals they are notifying. Nothing on their site indicates whether they are HIPAA-covered entities, subject to notification regulations.

Alabama Political Reporter: Committee OKs contract renewal with prison health provider Wexford Health Services
The Alabama Legislature’s joint Contract Review Committee allowed a short-time contract renewal with Wexford Health Services, the Alabama Department of Corrections’ primary healthcare services provider and a company that has continually failed to meet court-mandated levels of mental health care staff for each state prison, to go through unchallenged.

WAFF: Former Morgan Co. jail inmate wins case against jail, medical provider
While incarcerated in Michigan in 2005, John Andrew Kister, 58, was diagnosed with priapism. According to medical records and Kister, he was prescribed tramadol because it was determined as the only effective treatment for his condition. Quality Correctional Health Care did not prescribe Kister tramadol, instead prescribing him antidepressants. Kister said the antidepressants caused urinary retention and increased his pain.