Weekly Update: September 27, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: September 27, 2022

Highlighted Stories

The Regulatory Review: The ADA’s Power to Reduce Overdose Deaths in Prison
Overdose is the third leading cause of death for people in prison. After their release from prison, people are about 129 times more likely to die from a drug overdose than the rest of the population. Opioids remain the largest driver, 72.9 percent, of drug overdose deaths. In a recent article, David Howard Sinkman and Gregory Dorchak argue that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a powerful enforcement tool for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to help jails and prisons provide medications used to treat opioid use disorder, and prevent overdose deaths.

Orange County Register: Southern California jails trying to keep fentanyl out, but inmates are still dying
Jails in Southern California are taking steps to guard against fentanyl-related deaths among inmates, but some are still dying and now deputies and nurses at the institutions are facing the threat of exposure. Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco recently announced that fentanyl has been confirmed in the deaths of three inmates and suspected in two other deaths so far in 2022.

Prison Policy Initiative: Class-action settlement reveals Global Tel*Link’s addiction to seizing customer money
On August 30, a federal court in Georgia approved a settlement in the years-long class action lawsuit against Global Tel*Link Corporation (“GTL”), one of the two major providers of phone services in prisons and jails. This litigation challenged GTL’s policy of seizing customer money from “prepaid accounts” after a short period of inactivity. Just as important, though, it shows why the FCC needs to take action to end this type of abusive practice throughout the industry.

Nevada Current: Lawmakers eye legislation to rein in commissary costs, medical debt for incarcerated people
Following a recent state audit that found prisons mark up the prices of commissary goods more than 40% and people leaving prison faced millions of dollars in debt, lawmakers are proposing legislation to rein in the high costs of incarceration. The interim Legislative Judiciary Committee in late August approved drafting a bill to discharge certain debts, like medical debts, owed to Nevada Department of Corrections by people once they are released from prisons.

The Hill: Dangerous arsenic levels may be lurking in California prison water
Incarcerated Californians — and those who live in neighboring rural communities — may be exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic in their drinking water, a new study has found. Arsenic concentrations in the water supply of the Kern Valley State Prison and three nearby Central Valley communities exceeded regulatory limits for months or even years at a time, according to the study, published on Wednesday in Environmental Health Perspectives.


WSFA12: ACLU of Alabama publishes new statehouse-to-prison pipeline
Some state lawmakers are making the state’s poor prison system worse, that’s according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama. The organization released its second ever Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline report that shows legislation that could contribute to the prison population. “If the bill somehow creates a new or enhanced criminal penalty, adds additional funding, or expands the scale scope, and power of law enforcement,” said ACLU’s Dillon Nettles.

GPB: Alabama calls off execution for time and medical concerns
Alabama officials called off the Thursday lethal injection of a man convicted in a 1999 workplace shooting because of time concerns and trouble accessing the inmate's veins. Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said the state halted the scheduled execution of Alan Miller after they determined they could not get the lethal injection underway before a midnight deadline.

Alabama Political Reporter: Incarcerated man dies at St. Clair Correctional Facility
An incarcerated man at St. Clair Correctional Facility died last Tuesday, according to a spokesperson from the Alabama Department of Corrections. A source within the corrections system told APR that thes death was an overdose and that it is one of six overdoses that occurred last week in the St. Clair County facility. Another incarcerated man is said to have died of an overdose on Friday, according to the source.

AL.com: ‘Get Help’: Woman says brother is seriously ill in Alabama prison, ADOC says he is getting ‘necessary treatment’
A south Alabama woman is pleading for help for her brother after she says she received photos showing him in dire medical distress in a state prison. The post included a photo of a healthy Kastellio, age 32, accompanied by disturbing photos showing him emaciated. In one of the photos, his eyes appeared to be rolling back into his head.

AL.com: Alabama inmate in viral photos got medical care at least 11 times since July, prison officials say
An Alabama prison inmate whose photos of his physical deterioration have gone viral on social media has sought and received medical attention nearly a dozen times since July, prison officials said Saturday. Prison officials said Vaughan has requested and received medical attention with the ADOC at least 11 times between July 30, 2022, and September 22, 2022. As a result, they said, each time he received appropriate medical treatment and/or care.

Rikers Island

Corrections 1: Rikers lapses contributed to 10 deaths in 2021
An exhaustive report on 10 of the 16 deaths in 2021 in city jails details a range of staffing problems, systemic failures and mismanagement by jail staff that contributed to the fatalities. The Board of Correction report focused on the six suicides and four overdoses last year and was based on interviews with detainees and staff, video surveillance and DOC and medical records. Eight of the 10 deaths involved correction officers not doing rounds and poor supervision.

News 1: Two Rikers guards plead guilty to bribery scheme
Two city correction officers have pleaded guilty to accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to smuggle drugs and cellphones into Rikers Island for alleged Bloods gang members, federal prosecutors reported.


Reason: Hiring Formerly Incarcerated People Is Good, Actually
The notion that people should be expelled from polite society after leaving prison might sound tempting to those who want revenge. But that pound of flesh was extracted by prison, and post-incarceration employment is one of our most effective ways to discourage recidivism.

King5: Formerly incarcerated people paid to return to jail to help those behind bars
After spending 11 years in and out of county jails, Jennifer Gonzales now gets paid to spend time behind bars. The certified peer counselor meets with incarcerated people at the Grays Harbor County Jail, sometimes daily. “I love being able to give back to the community. And proving people wrong,” Gonzales said.

Parents & Children

Brennan Center: Protecting the Connection Between Parents in Prison and Their Children
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that at least half of state and federal prisoners had one or more minor children, totaling just under 1.5 million minor children with an incarcerated parent. Indeed, 1 in 14 children in the United States has experienced parental incarceration. A few years ago, I was one of those kids.


Corrections 1: Prison to parole: A push for alternatives in California
In the post-pandemic world, where much of business has transitioned to remote or blended work via the internet, there is an opportunity for CDCR to provide Wi-Fi access to parolees to streamline mental health services; strengthen family systems, employment and education; and create a pathway for remote work both while incarcerated and when on parole. Web-based connection can bring together licensed facilitators to guide restoration, rebuild damaged relationships, and can contribute to the development of personal responsibility and self-reliance.


KGW8: Oregon State Hospital faces dilemma with judge's order to discharge patients early
Oregon State Hospital will start releasing a group of patients every month because the hospital is so full that people are being delayed treatment as they wait to get in, a federal judge ruled. The judge's ruling stems from a lawsuit filed 20 years ago. In 2002, the nonprofit Disability Rights Oregon sued the state, claiming it was taking too long for people with mental health issues facing criminal charges to get into the state's primary psychiatric hospital.

Washington Post: Missouri county settles underwire bra jail dispute for $405K
A Missouri county has agreed to pay $405,000 to settle two lawsuits filed in a dispute that began when some underwire bras set off metal detectors at the county detention center. The Jackson County Legislature approved the settlement this week for two longtime jail employees who alleged in sexual discrimination lawsuits that they were reprimanded and given different duties when they repeatedly failed to pass the screening machines at the jail.

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

WAVE: Scott County Jail creates new rehab program for inmates
The Scott County Jail in Scottsburg, Indiana was one of the five jails in the state of Indiana to receive funding for a new pilot program. According to officials, this new program is focused around the evaluation of inmates the moment they enter the justice system and help those who struggle with addiction or mental health issues. It is known as the Integrated Re-entry and Correctional Support program or IRACS for short.

Auborn University: Auburn criminology expert explains how prison conditions affect mental health
As prisons become more and more overcrowded, this leads to a higher average rate of depression and hostility for people incarcerated in those prisons. People who are in prisons with less overcrowding have less depression and less hostility, and so as overcrowding increases, so do the mental health effects. A higher proportion of work assignments in the prison is associated with reductions in negative mental health.


Herald Review: Technology, health care needs discussed for proposed jail
A Cochise County jail as proposed by staff needs new communication technology and a fully staffed health care clinic. The Jail District Public Outreach Committee met Sept. 16 and heard from county Information Technology Chief Information Officer Joe Casey about the problems inherent with detention staff closed-channel communications in a brick building with a lot of metal, as well as the need to provide better video conferencing in order to connect prisoners with the courts and a system of closed circuit cameras to provide better security for staff and inmates.


Tennessee Lookout: Private prison contractor CoreCivic hit with two new lawsuits over inmate deaths
The parents of three inmates who died behind bars in a span of just four months in 2021 are accusing private prison operator CoreCivic of Tennessee of repeatedly placing profits over safety and failing to police its own guards. “CoreCivic needs to be held accountable, and the (parents) intend to do just that,” attorney Janet Goode wrote in one of two wrongful death lawsuits filed recently in U.S. District Court against the Nashville-based company.

Washington Post: Staffing shortages, violence plague Oklahoma prisons
Working as a prison guard in Oklahoma is becoming an ever more dangerous job as the state, with one of the highest incarceration rates in the United States, struggles with violence and understaffing at detention facilities. Long hours, dangerous conditions and remote, rural locations have meant fewer guards and a system plagued with increased killings and violence. Davis Correctional Facility, a men’s prison in Holdenville operated by Tennessee-based private prison operator CoreCivic, has been operating at only about 70% of its contractually obligated staffing level, according to a 2021 audit.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Yahoo News: Lackawanna County prison board seeks audit of prison's medical provider
The Lackawanna County Prison Board will seek an audit of the prison's medical provider after learning it failed to supply the contracted number of hours for several medical positions over a monthlong period. Commissioner Chris Chermak, one of seven members of the board, shared a staffing report from June 26 to July 30 that shows Wellpath provided a total of 2,801.87 staffing hours whereas the contract calls for it to provide 4,260 hours — a difference of 1,458.13 hours.

HPPR: Kansas inmates say medical care is so bad ‘they will let someone die in here before they try to help’
Dozens of current and former inmates in the Kansas prison system told The Kansas News Service their medical care threatens their health. Complaints touch nearly every area of medical care. Delivery of medications can be delayed and even if the medicine comes, inmates say, they are sometimes given treatments that trigger allergic reactions. The system ditched its old provider in 2020. It hoped its new medical services contractor, Centurion of Kansas, would usher in an era of better care.

The Bay State Banner: Activists target medical neglect in Mass. prisons
Organizers and advocates from the DeeperThanWater Coalition — a coalition of currently and formerly incarcerated organizers, their loved ones and prison abolitionist organizations in Massachusetts — came together virtually last Friday to demand an end to what they say is medical neglect in state prisons. Wellpath, formerly known as Correct Care Solutions, is a billion-dollar company that provides contracted medical care to prison facilities across the country. It has previously come under fire for its inadequate care to inmates.