Weekly Update: April 27, 2021

COCHS Weekly Update: April 27, 2021

Highlighted Stories

New York Times: In N.Y.C. Jail System, Guards Often Lie About Excessive Force
One New York City Correction officer struck a jailed person in the face for no legitimate reason. Another put a detainee in a banned chokehold several times. A third failed to stop subordinates from using unnecessary force, according to newly released discipline records. But what was equally notable was what happened after the encounters: In each case, the guards lied or provided inaccurate information about what had occurred.

USA Today: 'Absolutely intolerant of this behavior': California deputy burned inmate in mental health unit, authorities say
A sheriff's deputy in Southern California is accused of burning an inmate with hot water at a jail's mental health center. Three deputies were put on administrative leave and an investigation was immediately launched, according to the sheriff's department. The deputy, who was not identified in a statement by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, was working in the mental health housing module in the Orange County Jail The case was submitted April 21 to the Orange County District Attorney's office for evaluation of the charges.

New York Times: Dozens of inmates at a prison in Iowa are recovering after receiving overdose amounts of the Pfizer vaccine.
Dozens of inmates at an Iowa prison were sickened this week after the prison’s nurses inadvertently administered overdoses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, an error medical experts fear could erode trust among a population already wary of vaccinations. At least 77 inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison received shots on Tuesday that contained six times the recommended dosage.

AP News: California Senate OKs supervised sites for drug users
Instead of putting opioid-users in jail, a proposal moving through the California Legislature would give them a place to inject drugs while trained staff watch them to make sure they don’t die from accidental overdoses. The state Senate passed a bill on Thursday by just one vote that would allow the programs in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles County. But the bill must still pass the state Assembly before it can go to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who would decide whether to sign it into law.

FORE: Webinar: Integrating MOUD into Primary Care: Medicaid Strategies for Improving Treatment Engagement and Outcomes and Reducing Disparities
New Jersey’s Medicaid program has eliminated prior authorization requirements for buprenorphine, increased reimbursement for intake assessments, and now pays for navigation and peer support services. With a grant from FORE, Rutgers University has been assessing whether these changes have made opioid use disorder care more accessible and have improved treatment outcomes

COVID-19 Vaccinations in Corrections

VT Digger: More and more Vermont prisoners are refusing vaccinations against Covid-19
Prisons have been a hotspot in Vermont’s Covid-19 crisis. And yet, a surprising number of incarcerated people and staff members have refused vaccinations. James Baker, Vermont’s interim corrections commissioner, said two weeks ago he wasn’t happy about the rate of vaccine refusal among incarcerated people — and now, things are even worse.

WRBL.com: ‘It feels good, that they care about us’: Muscogee County inmates have received their COVID-19 vaccine
The Columbus Health Department has partnered with the Muscogee County Jail (GA) to provide inmates with the Moderna Vaccine. The health department began administering vaccines around 10 a.m. April 19, at vaccination sites set up on the floors of each dormitory. There are roughly 900 inmates inside the jail and 140 inmates and employees were able to receive their vaccine. Jail officials are working on getting the Health Department to come out again to continue administering the vaccine to inmates who were unable to get vaccinated.

Press Herald: Jails struggle to get vaccines for people in custody
Even though people held in jails or prisons are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, the Maine Department of Corrections has been slow to get doses to county jails, so much so that some have looked to other options to get shots in arms. Some jails are seeking doses from health care providers in their communities.

COVID-19 Transmission in Corrections

New York Times: 4 Takeaways From Our Investigation Into ICE’s Mishandling of Covid-19
The New York times compared estimated infection rates in ICE detention centers with infection rates in prisons and in the general population. As Covid-19 cases rose last June, ICE detention facilities had an average infection rate five times that of prisons and 20 times that of the general population. To understand the risks the ICE facilities posed, interviews were conducted with former detainees, data scientists, lawyers, county officials and the family of a former ICE contractor about the spread of Covid-19 inside and outside ICE detention centers.

COVID-19 Lockdown and Mental Health

New York Times: In Vermont, Isolating Inmates Kept Covid at Bay, but at a Price
During the pandemic, Vermont took more extensive precautions in its prisons than other states did. And its strategy worked: Relatively few of its inmates have tested positive, and Vermont is the only state where not a single inmate has died from Covid-19. But those measures have also taken a heavy toll on many inmates’ mental health, and driven some to psychological despair. There has been at least one suicide and a suicide attempt inside the isolation cells where incoming inmates in Vermont are required to quarantine for 14 days.

Washington Post: An ‘insane’ coronavirus lockdown two miles from the Capitol, with no end in sight
More than a year ago, about 1,500 men and women at the D.C. jail were locked in their cells for 23 hours a day to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Such extreme confinement has been adopted at other jails and prisons during the pandemic as a temporary, last-ditch measure. But the District’s lockdown differed in a crucial way: It never ended. For almost 400 straight days, the entire population of the D.C. jail has been subjected to what experts say is essentially a form of mass solitary confinement.

Lawsuits in Corrections

OPB: Oregon sued after charging inmates with disabilities for medical devices
Donald Terrill, who is imprisoned at the Snake River Correctional Institution in eastern Oregon, was fitted with a prosthesis after a lower leg amputation. He’s paid more than $10,000 toward his own prosthetic leg and still owes another $14,000. He makes $45 per month working in prison. Terrill is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed this week in federal court that claims the Oregon Department of Corrections is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because it charges prisoners with disabilities for prosthetics and other medical devices they need.

WABE: DOJ Weighs In On Suit Filed By Trans Woman In Georgia Prison
Prison officials must keep transgender people reasonably safe from substantial risk of harm and provide them with adequate medical care, the U.S. Justice Department said, wading into a lawsuit filed by a transgender woman against Georgia prison officials. Ashley Diamond sued in November, saying prison officials failed to protect her from repeated sexual assaults in the men’s prison where she’s housed and failed to provide her with adequate medical treatment for her gender dysphoria.

Criminal Justice Reform

Tennessean: Criminal justice reform shouldn't leave anyone behind in Tennessee | Opinion
As someone who spent 22 years in prison, I know first-hand that you are not the same person at sentencing that you are when you are released – and that there is too often not a path to have an excessive sentence reconsidered. I was the first person released under the federal First Step Act, landmark federal legislation signed by President Trump. The First Step Act, and places an appropriate check on the system to make sure that each individual’s case is being re-examined before a release is deemed appropriate. It also provides the only pathway to a second chance — something that has been closed off to these folks due to the rigid nature of the mandatory minimum sentences that the legislature saw fit to change last year.

Pregnancy and Shackling

CBS17.com: NC bill would ban shackling pregnant inmates
Some pregnant women in North Carolina prisons and jails face the possibility of giving birth in restraints. Some state North Carolinian lawmakers are working to make sure pregnant inmates and their unborn babies have proper care through a new bill called the Dignity for Women Who are Incarcerated Act. It would prohibit the use of restraints on women during their second and third trimesters of pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum recovery.

Reentry Reform

The Center Square: Lee's criminal justice reform focuses on re-entry, imprisonment alternatives
Gov. Bill Lee has promised criminal justice reform in Tennessee, and several of his proposed bills that are set to move forward in coming weeks could have a significant effect on those in the state’s prison system. Many of the changes proposed in the bills and in Lee's amended budget aim to reduce the prison population while focusing on re-entry for nonviolent offenders. The Reentry Success Act – House Bill 785/Senate Bill 768 – would create a mandatory supervision program for those released from prison while also creating an assumption that a prisoner will be released when the parole date is reached.

The Hill: Those returning from prison are part of the American family too
In an op-ed, José Santos Woss, writes: Currently, there are anywhere between 70 to 100 million formerly incarcerated people living in the United States — A disproportionate share of whom are Black and brown. We have criminalized nearly a third of our population. In more than 30 states, a drug felony conviction makes you completely or partially ineligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The 1996 welfare reforms created these bans, put in place partly in response to the deep prejudices that existed against drug use and users. But TANF doesn’t just provide cash assistance — it also provides childcare, education, and job training services. SNAP helps people afford food. We see a bipartisan opportunity to correct this cruel wrong of denying returning citizens with a drug felony access to basic SNAP and TANF services. The president in his American Family Plan can lift the bans signaling to Congress that it is a priority and will survive reconciliation. These bills only need 51 votes to pass the Senate.

Opioid Epidemic

The Orange County Register: Sheriff’s department to give out bags designed to deactivate drugs during Saturday drug take back events
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is distributing a tool that people can use to safely get rid of unwanted, unused and expired prescriptions: a specialized bag that deactivates the drugs they contain. The Deterra pouches can deactivate up to 45 pills or six ounces of liquid or six patches. The way it does this is with activated carbon. A person puts the drugs inside the pouch with warm water, seals it shut, gently shakes it and then can throw it away.

Princeton University: COVID-19 reduces access to opioid dependency treatment for new patients
COVID-19 has been associated with increases in opioid overdose deaths, which may be in part because the pandemic limited access to buprenorphine, a treatment used for opioid dependency, according to a new study led by Princeton University researchers.

Homelessness and Mental Health

CNN: All homeless people on Los Angeles' Skid Row must be offered housing by the fall, judge orders
All homeless people living on Los Angeles' Skid Row must be offered housing by October 18, a federal judge ordered Tuesday. The order comes in response to a federal lawsuit filed last year by several citizens, business owners, and community leaders who argue officials have failed to address the homeless crisis in Los Angeles, as tents line full city blocks and makeshift shelters cramp under street overpasses.

The Ceres Courier: Newsom’s Tweet & California’s free range mental ill homeless population
In an op-ed, Dennis Wyatt, a Courier columnist, writes: The biggest overwhelming issues with those with mental health concerns that are also homeless are getting them to accept help. You might be surprised to know they aren’t exactly lining up at the doors to available services asking for assistance. They have rights; that’s a given. But the difficulty to applying what laws there are for involuntary holds – even for 24 hours – makes connecting most of the problematic with mental issues among the homeless to services. This is not a black-and-white issue where it is either absolute individual rights or the ability of the state to lock away people at will. However, the level of problems that the homeless are allowed to create running the gamut from compromising the rights and safety of others through their actions and even to the determinant of their own health, well-being, and safety should not be tolerated.

Minors in Prison

Washington Post: I was sentenced to 30 years to life at 16. I shouldn’t have been sent into the adult system.
In an op-ed, Robert Barton, a D.C. resident currently serving a sentence in a federal prison in Florida, writes: I grew up on some of the meanest streets of D.C., the child of a man who rotated through prison and abandoned me and my mother. The few visits I had with him taught me the wrong kind of lessons. When my mother sent me to him for a “man-to-man talk” after a shoplifting incident at age 10, he drove me to the strip where he hustled drugs, parading me around like his mascot. For the rest of that day, he sold crack out of his car while I watched.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

KTVU: DOJ finds mental health care, overuse of isolation at Santa Rita Jail unconstitutional
The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division issued a damning report on Thursday saying that the mental health care system in Alameda County, and in particular, Santa Rita Jail, violate parts of the Constitution. The Civil Rights Division found that the jail has essentially become the largest provider of mental health services in Alameda County because the political leaders have not invested in the proper community services. The DOJ investigators noted that in Santa Rita Jail the housing Unit for male inmates with mental health needs is supposed to act as a therapeutic setting but instead, in reality, it is a restrictive housing unit, because incarcerated people are confined to their cells for the vast majority of the day.

Daily News: Judge, inmate slam conditions at NYC federal jails in pandemic’s 13th month
A Manhattan judge and an inmate agree on one thing: Conditions at New York City’s federal jails are a disgrace. A decision by Manhattan Federal Judge Katherine Polk Failla and a desperate letter sent by inmate Maurice Washington highlight the ongoing crisis at the two lock-ups in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Due to the extreme lockdown conditions at the [Metropolitan Correctional Center] and [Metropolitan Detention Center], Ms. Hatcher has been unable to receive mental health care, drug abuse treatment, and other important services that the Court envisioned her receiving while incarcerated.

New York Times: Arrest of Colorado Woman With Dementia Prompts Investigation
The video shows a 73-year-old woman, clutching wildflowers and her wallet, being thrown to the ground and handcuffed in Loveland, Colo., last year by police officers who suspected her of shoplifting items worth $13.88 from a Walmart. The woman, Karen Garner, has dementia, a lawsuit says. Repeatedly, she cries out in pain and appears confused, telling officers she was “just going home.”

East Oregonian: County officials push for jail renovations amid concerns for mental health, addiction treatment
With the closure of the Aspen Springs Psychiatric Hospital in Hermiston, which provided the county and state with sorely needed mental health treatment beds for patients needing acute care, some officials are concerned the Umatilla jail could see an even greater influx of inmates in crisis. Officials are pressing for state funding to renovate the Umatilla County Jail amid growing concerns of the jail’s ability to care for people who are arrested while suffering from addiction or mental health crises.


Washington Post: We’re making progress on the ‘what’ of reimagining safety. But what about the ‘how’?
In an op-ed, Phillip Atiba Goff, professor of African American studies and psychology at Yale University and co-founder and chief executive officer of the Center for Policing Equity, writes: Local organizers, elected officials and other leaders are doing the hard work of turning reimagining safety. While federal and state actors play an important role, local efforts will ultimately determine whether we emerge with a more equitable paradigm or repeat the cycle of “hand-wringing, inaction and forgetting” that has followed racial violence for generations. In the United States, ultimate decision-making about public safety often rests at the local level — often under the radar.

Private Prisons and Correctional Healthcare Vendors

WHBL: CoreCivic to move ahead on Alabama prison bonds after losing underwriters
U.S. private prison operator CoreCivic Inc said on Monday it expects to move forward with a bond sale for Alabama prisons after two of three underwriters dropped out of the deal, which had come under attack by social justice activists. Barclays Plc, the senior underwriter for the taxable bond deal originally sized at $633.5 million, and KeyBanc Capital Markets, a co-manager, confirmed they were no longer participating in the bond pricing in the U.S. municipal market.

LegalReader.com: Private Prison Operator CoreCivic Settles Shareholder Lawsuit for $56m
Private prisoner operator CoreCivic has reached a $56 million settlement with its shareholders, who accused the company of misrepresenting the quality and value of its services. As The Denver Post reports, the lawsuit was filed in 2016, shortly after the Department of Justice issued guidance instructing the federal Bureau of Prisons to not renew or issue any new contracts to private prison companies. In its directive, the Justice Department noted that privately-run prisons are less safe and less secure than those managed by the federal government.

Albuquerque Journal: Jail health care provider terminates contract
The Metropolitan Detention Center’s medical provider, Centurion Detention Health Services, has informed Bernalillo County that it intends to leave in six months – more than a year before the end of its contract. In mid-March, the Journal published an article detailing how nine people had died at MDC in the course of a year. Six of those people died while detoxing from drugs or alcohol or in medical units under the care of Centurion.

MLive: Prison medical contractor sued over death of inmate who overdosed on antipsychotic medication
A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Corizon Health contracted by Michigan state’s prison system after a prisoner was given a lethal dose of antipsychotic medication. Ashley Harris, 31, who died while incarcerated in the Huron Valley Women’s Correctional. The lawsuit claims Harris, who was being treated for mental illness while incarcerated, was given a lethal dose of Thorazine over the course of several days causing her to overdose and die while medical staff ignored her pleas for help.

WSJ.com: Nonprofit Prison Health Provider Files for Bankruptcy After Government Lawsuit
Connections Community Support Programs Inc., a nonprofit provider of drug addiction and mental illness treatment, has filed for bankruptcy, blaming costly litigation with the Justice Department and the loss of a key prison contract in Delaware. The Wilmington, Del.-based organization filed for chapter 11 protection Monday in its hometown bankruptcy court with plans to look for a buyer.