Weekly Update: August 30, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: August 30, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Yale Law School: Time In Cell
Time-In-Cell 2021 is the only comprehensive, current national data on the number of prisoners in solitary confinement. The number of prisoners subjected to “restrictive housing”, as solitary is officially known, stood at between 41,000 and 48,000 in the summer of 2021. They were being held alone in cells the size of parking spaces, for 22 hours a day on average and for at least 15 days.

Solitary Watch: These Labor Unions Are Fighting to Keep Solitary Confinement
Back in May 2021, the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA), which represents state correctional and police officers, filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the HALT Solitary law, arguing that it violates their members’ civil rights. In mid-June 2022, federal district judge Mae D’Agostino dismissed their suit. She wrote that the union’s claim that the state was constitutionally obligated to use solitary for people under age 21, over age 55, or for more than 15 days at a time “strains credulity”.

KHN: Policies to Roll Back Abortion Rights Will Hit Incarcerated People Particularly Hard
Policies governing abortion and reproductive health care services in U.S. prisons and jails were restrictive and often hostile even before the Supreme Court removed Roe v. Wade’s constitutional protections for abortions. After the June ruling, many reproductive services stand to be prohibited altogether, putting the health of incarcerated women who are pregnant at risk. That threat is particularly urgent in states where lawmakers have made clear their intentions to roll back abortion rights.

Texas Tribune: Texans who perform abortions now face up to life in prison, $100,000 fine
Performing an abortion is now a felony punishable by up to life in prison in Texas after the state’s trigger law, which has only narrow exceptions to save the life of a pregnant patient. The law was “triggered” when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its judgment in Dobbs v. Jackson, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade and allowed states to set their own laws about abortion.

BJS: More Than 374,000 Persons Held In State And Federal Prisons Tested Positive For Covid-19 In 2020–21
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.

Bolt: The Big Lie Messengers Who Carry a Badge and Gun
Arizona’s Mark Lamb and a network of far-right sheriffs around the country are partnering with leading purveyors of election fraud conspiracies, part of an escalating campaign to police the vote. Big Lie messengers have looked to far-right sheriffs for a veneer of credibility as both Democratic and Republican election officials, prosecutors, judges and state attorneys general across the country reject every baseless lawsuit blaming Trump’s loss on voter fraud.


ABC: 1st case of monkeypox in Harris Co. jail confirmed, health leaders optimistic cases are leveling off
The Harris County Jail is reporting its first case of monkeypox. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said on Twitter that an inmate who arrived on Aug. 15 was placed in quarantine, which is a standard COVID-19 protocol for the jail. A week later, while still in quarantine, the inmate began showing possible symptoms of monkeypox.

Queens Daily Eagle: Public defenders look for answers about monkeypox on Rikers
Though there has yet to be a case detected in the city’s jails, the Legal Aid Society is calling on the city to be more transparent with its plans for vaccinating and treating its incarcerated population for monkeypox. Conditions in the jails – including close quarters, non-air conditioned and crowded living spaces, lack of laundry services and the Department of Correction’s recent failures to produce incarcerated people to medical appointments – leave the population detained there vulnerable.

Pregnancy and Birth

Boulder Weekly: Birth behind bars
Dr. Carolyn Sufrin with Johns Hopkins University estimates that there are more than 58,000 admissions of pregnant people into U.S. jails and prisons every single year. That figure is extrapolated from data Sufrin gathered in a first-of-its-kind study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2019. She found that in one year, 1,396 pregnant women were admitted into prisons; 92% of those pregnancies ended in live births, 6% ended in miscarriages and 1% ended in abortions.

AP News: $480K to inmate who miscarried after stop for coffee
Southern California’s Orange County has agreed to pay $480,000 to an inmate who was pregnant but suffered a miscarriage after sheriff’s deputies stopped at a Starbucks while driving her to a hospital. County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the payment. The lawsuit said no jail staff responded for two hours after Quinones pushed a call button in her cell when her water broke.

San Diego

KPBS: Oversight board wants San Diego jail staff to be scanned for drugs
A recent report showed that San Diego County jails had the highest rate of overdose deaths in the state based on population. Sixteen people have died so far this year in San Diego County jails. Paul Parker, the executive officer of the Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board, said "As far as contractors, and employees and county employees (go), (there should be) at minimum search, pat down, metal detector — something to make sure that people that are being to be introduced into a facility, no matter who, they are somehow scanned".

Fines & Fees

KGET: At $249 per day, prison stays leave ex-inmates deep in debt
All but two states have so-called “pay-to-stay” laws that make prisoners pay for their time behind bars, though not every state actually pursues people for the money. Supporters say the collections are a legitimate way for states to recoup millions of taxpayer dollars spent on prisons and jails. Critics say it’s an unfair second penalty that hinders rehabilitation by putting former inmates in debt for life. Efforts have been underway in some places to scale back or eliminate such policies.

GoErie: Pennsylvania's prison co-pay threatens people's lives - suspend it
Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform recently issued a letter to Acting Secretary George Little of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections requesting the elimination of the $5 prison co-pay currently required of incarcerated individuals in Pennsylvania state prisons to receive health care. The co-pay was previously suspended for COVID-19 and should be suspended again to eliminate this barrier that keeps people from requesting health care.

NCCHC: Eliminating Financial Assessments for Health Care Services During Incarceration "
The National Commission on Correctional Health Care is opposed to charging or causing assessment of fees, copays, or any other monetary assessments or creating or causing other disincentives that may restrict people’s access to health care. NCCHC further encourages correctional health leadership to advocate against local mandates, internal policies, and informal culture that restrict access to care.

Pal-Item: Insured inmates key to managing jail's infectious disease drug costs
Sheriff Randy Retter of Wayne County (IN) was alerted one month to an unusually high pharmacy bill for jail inmates. Then it happened again. And again. Retter found a trend that was unsustainable for his budget with multiple inmates being treated for infectious diseases, such as hepatitis C and HIV, with high-priced medications. Wayne County's commissioners discussed working with the jail's healthcare provider, Quality Correctional Care, to best serve the inmates and the community's public health while reducing the jail's costs.


Honolulu Civil Beat: ‘An Epic Fail:’ Hawaii Inmate Medical Records System Hasn’t Worked Right For Months
The electronic health care record-keeping system for thousands of Hawaii prison and jail inmates has been on the fritz since June. The failure of the electronic medical records system was described as “an absolute crisis”. Staff identified the software company as eClinicalWorks, which has been the subject of federal scrutiny in recent years. Corrections staff said the primary problem with the system is the state was supposed to pay extra for periodic software updates — and the medical staff had been asking for funding for those updates for years — but the money for the upgrades was never made available.

FOX 13: While families fear for inmate health, others worry about prison violence
The Utah Department of Corrections acknowledged that a switch to a new computer system for medical records on Aug. 1 caused the department to lose 15,000 prescriptions and other data. The Department of Corrections has brought in staff from the Utah Department of Health to examine inmates and fill prescriptions. The computer problems are compounded by a staff shortage. Nielson told the Utah Legislature last week the new billion-dollar prison only has 60% of its needed employees.

CBS: CDCR: Medical data on California prison visitors, staff, inmates exposed
California corrections officials said Monday that there has been a potential exposure of medical information for employees and visitors who were tested for the coronavirus, although they have not found any improper use despite the data breach. The data was for people who were tested for COVID-19 in the department between June 2020 and last January.

Medical Release

AP News: California may allow more ill, dying inmates to leave prison
California would allow more ill and dying inmates to be released from state prisons under legislation that cleared the state Senate and heads to the Assembly for final approval. It would ease the current standard, which critics say is so restrictive that it keeps inmates locked up who are too sick to be dangerous. They not only fills prison beds unnecessarily but are costly because these inmates often require the most expensive care.

NPR: Released during COVID, some people are sent back to prison with little or no warning
More than 11,000 people like Cardoza have been released from federal prison in the last couple of years, to ride out the pandemic at home, often with their families and loved ones. But that situation can be precarious. This week, the Bureau of Prisons told NPR that 442 people who were released during the pandemic have now returned to prison. Only 17 people out of more than 11,000 who were released committed new crimes, mostly drug related ones, while they were out.


The Crime Report: Do Prison Rehabilitation Programs Really Work?
Inmate Assistance Programs are a cost- effective way to reduce recidivism, according to a George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper. In what they describe as the first empirical analysis of programs operated in state correctional institutions that offer training in work skills or provide mental health counseling, the authors of the paper conclude they generally live up to their promise of rehabilitation.

Daily Hampshire Gazette: New study highlights areas of improvement for inmate release
A recent study identified bridge doses of medication for those involved in medication-assisted treatment programs for opioid use disorder, as well as better communication and phone access, as three areas of improvement needed for Massachusetts county jails as incarcerated individuals transition back into the community. According to the study, people released from jail or prison are 120 times more likely to overdose on opioids than the general population in Massachusetts.

Messenger-Inquirer: Guthrie hears from correctional, mental healthcare stakeholders
U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY) toured Owensboro on Tuesday to hear from local officials at the Daviess County Detention Center and River Valley Behavioral Health. Jailer Art Maglinger touted his institution’s recently launched Reentry Success Program, with Josh Estep, one of the first five people to complete the program, also speaking at the event. The workforce reentry program was music to the ears of Sun Windows vice president of operations Chris Anderson, who said his company is struggling to find willing workers amidst a labor shortage.

Sexual Abuse

Fort Worth Star Telegram: They were sexually assaulted in prison. An overwhelmed mental health system failed to help
Cortez was incarcerated at FMC Carswell, a federal prison in Fort Worth, when she says a lieutenant at the facility raped her repeatedly from May to August 2019. But Cortez, and other sexual assault survivors at Carswell, say the Bureau of Prisons failed them twice — first when they were sexually assaulted on the agency’s watch, and again when they did not receive mental health care to deal with trauma from the assaults.

Daily Kos: Investigators confirm they are looking into sexual assault allegations at Stewart Detention Center
Instances of sexual abuse by a nurse reportedly occurred at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022, but it seems an independent investigation has only begun in recent weeks. According to the complaint, ICE and CoreCivic “enabled” the nurse’s actions by suppressing reports of the assaults and by allowing the nurse to continue treating detained people—including women.

Staffing Shortage

Daily Montanan: ‘It’s a dumpster fire’: Employees speak out about poor conditions at the Montana State Prison
Conditions at the Montana State Prison have long been deteriorating but have reached a boiling point in recent months, with employees asserting that treatment by management has created unsafe conditions for inmates and staff alike. The prison has gone from just under 300 employees to 158, and the staff vacancy rate at the prison increased from 20% in January to 30% in late June. DOC officials have largely blamed the staffing shortages at the prison on low funding, saying correctional officers can go make more money in other areas of law enforcement.

Air Conditioning

New York Times: In a Sweltering Texas Jail, Cool Towels but No Air-Conditioners
Rashes from heat are common. Metal furniture is hot to the touch. Hyperthermia and dehydration are a constant risk, mitigated with fans, tepid water and wet towels. Deaths, though rare, have occurred. This is life during much of the summer inside Texas’ stifling prisons, a majority of which have no air-conditioning for inmates despite increasingly extreme temperatures in the state.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Seattle Times: Seattle’s jail has an ‘astronomical’ suicide rate. Little is changing.
Suicides at the Seattle jail — one of two adult jails run by King County — is extreme, experts say. The rate of suicides since August 2021 has far exceeded national averages. All nine deaths in the King County jail system since 2020 have occurred in the downtown Seattle jail --that would put King County’s rate at more than four times the national pre-pandemic average.

Phoenix New Times: Teen Inmate Commits Suicide After AZ Department of Corrections Was Warned of Her Mental-Health Problems
New evidence shows that a few weeks before a teenager held in solitary confinement at Perryville Prison died in what appears to be an act of suicide, the Arizona Department of Corrections had been specifically warned about her deteriorating mental health and notified that the conditions in which she was being kept likely violated state policy.

WFPL: Tenth person dies in Louisville Metro Corrections custody since November
A man being held at Louisville Metro Corrections died Friday, following a suicide attempt earlier in the week. Earlier this month, jail director Jerry Collins told WFPL News he’s working to improve mental health and address the issue of suicide at Metro Corrections. “We’re currently adding plexiglass where there were bars to reduce suicide. As we speak, we’re installing suicide prevention beds in the mental health ward, adding seven of those”.

Corrections 1: Warehousing the mentally ill: Texas sheriff, county attorney see need for action in jails
On a recent day at the Hunt County Jail, more than half the beds were filled with mentally ill people. On Aug. 2 the jail held 299 inmates, 156 of whom (52%) had been flagged with some form of mental illness. The sheer number of mentally ill inmates in the county lockup demonstrates the onus placed on the local criminal justice system by mental illness — from patrol officers to jail staff to nurses to court officials. The preponderance of mentally ill people in the jail poses tough challenges for jail staff.

Correctional Health Care Providers

The News Tribune: Pierce County inmate who had leg amputated sues medical provider with rocky legal record
A former Pierce County inmate alleges the jail and its medical provider missed the signs of a severe blood clot and should have provided treatment to prevent the amputation of his leg, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Seattle last week against Pierce County and Alabama-based medical provider NaphCare.

In Observation Of Labor Day
COCHS Weekly Update Will Not Be Published Next Week