Weekly Update: January 31, 2023

COCHS Weekly Update: January 31, 2023

Highlighted Stories

CMS: Medicaid will become available to California inmates 3 months before release
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is approving California’s (the “state”) request to amend the section 1115(a) demonstration titled, “California Advancing and Innovating". California’s amendment to provide limited coverage for pre-release services for certain justice-involved individuals. Care would begin 90 days before someone is scheduled to be released, offering supports that don’t now exist.

HHS: HHS Approves California’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) Demonstration Authority to Support Care for Justice-Involved People
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), approved a first-of-its-kind section 1115 demonstration amendment in California which will provide a set of critical pre-release services and improve access to critically needed care for people returning home from jails and prisons. For example, Medi-Cal will be able to cover substance-use treatment before a Medicaid beneficiary is released from jail, prison, or youth correctional facility. Additionally, the state will be able to help connect the person to community-based Medicaid providers 90 days prior to their release to ensure they can continue their treatment after they return to the community.

Health Affairs: Prison Hospital Data Is Omitted From Federal Data Sets
Given the evident impact on health and the historical inequities of the criminal legal system, it is clearer than ever that carceral health is vital to public health. Yet, we lack basic data about health care being provided to the incarcerated population. Carceral health researchers and advocates are largely left to rely on data sources external to the criminal-legal system. These omissions represent a fundamental failure.

Brennan Center: Garland Takes on Mandatory Minimums
Attorney General Merrick Garland’s December 16 directive restores many of Obama-era AG Eric Holder’s reforms — which were rescinded during the Trump administration — and adds new and welcome recommendations. The Garland order directs prosecutors to avoid charging drug crimes in ways that trigger federal mandatory minimum sentences, absent aggravating factors.


Forbes: Federal Prosecutors Have Increased Role In CARES Act Home Confinement Transfers
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has typically enjoyed a great deal of autonomy from prosecutors in how it deals with prisoner placement. In the end, the BOP runs the BOP. The CARES Act allowed health-vulnerable prisoners to serve a portion of their sentence on home confinement in order to allow them to avoid the contagion of a prison environment. This has been one of the few successes the BOP has enjoyed in its troubled past but the program could soon be coming to an end.

Women & Justice Involvement

Teen Vogue: Incarcerated Women Are More Likely to Be Abuse Victims, Have Mental Health Disorders
The experiences of women behind bars are not universal, but I discovered that, for many, traumatic experiences are what brought us into contact with the criminal legal system. Research supports my observations. Incarcerated women are more likely than their male counterparts to have been victims of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse and to struggle with emotional and behavioral disorders.

The Guardian: Survivors recount rampant abuse at Los Angeles’ juvenile jails: ‘Helpless, hopeless, lost and lonely’
Maisha was 16 years old when the officer inside Los Angeles juvenile hall began to take interest in her. At first, she said, he was friendly, and she would run errands for him, including delivering paperwork to his office; then, when no one else was around, he started grabbing her.

State Roundup
Salon: Alabama Supreme Court clears the way for more cruelty in execution
The Alabama Supreme Court's Jan. 17 order gave the governor complete discretion over the period of time during which a death warrant can be carried out is so disturbing. Governor Kay Ivey made her request in the wake of several botched executions in Alabama in which people condemned to die endured cruel and torturous treatment. In both cases, the only thing that saved Miller and Smith from even more torturous treatment was that corrections officials ran out of time before the midnight deadline specified in the two men's death warrants.

Fox News: AZ Gov. Katie Hobbs creates commission to study state’s prison problems
Gov. Katie Hobbs on Wednesday announced the creation of a commission to study problems in Arizona’s prisons, including staffing levels and the health care offered to those behind bars. The creation of the commission by Hobbs came several days after she ordered a separate review of the state’s death penalty protocols. The commission will examine inmate access to food, medicine and sanitary products; whether prison staffing levels are adequate; conditions of the prisons, including security measures and whether they are crowded; rehabilitation and education programs for prisoners; and access to medical and mental health care and drug treatment programs.

ACLU: Arizona Violated the Rights of Incarcerated People for More Than a Decade. That Will Finally End.
Arizona chose — for more than a decade — to violate the constitutional rights of the people in its custody. It denied medical care to the men and women incarcerated in the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADCRR) for years, causing untold suffering and deaths. It ignored the mental health needs of people in ADCRR, spraying them with pepper spray or shooting them with pepper ball guns instead of providing treatment.

Politico: Groups sue to block Newsom’s CARE Courts program for severe mental illness
Civil rights groups are challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new court program for people with severe mental illness. Three groups — Disability Rights California, Western Center on Law & Poverty, and The Public Interest Law Project — filed a petition to the California Supreme Court on Thursday challenging the constitutionality of the CARE Courts program, which Newsom designed, championed, and signed into law last year.

Fresno Bee: California state prisoners among the influx of Madera patients in Fresno-area hospitals
Fresno County officials are warning people to avoid local hospital emergency rooms as much as possible as hospitals absorb a surge of patients from Madera — including state prison inmates. 12 prison inmates and 24 guards arrived at the hospital and were held in the hallway of the emergency department. The hospital isn’t notified when inmate patients are on their way which makes it harder to plan for their arrival.

New York Times: Louisiana ‘Deliberately Indifferent’ to Keeping Inmates Past Release Date, Justice Dept. Says
The Justice Department has found that Louisiana’s longstanding practice of detaining more than a quarter of inmates beyond their court-ordered release dates violates the Constitution and accused state officials of ignoring repeated calls to overhaul the unjust system. The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections “is deliberately indifferent to the systemic overdetention of people in its custody,” according to a report on a yearlong investigation.

KTAL: Louisiana sheriff’s deputy accused of extortion of inmate
Avoyelles Parish Sheriff, David Dauzat says one of his booking officers was arrested on Monday. He says Hope Theriot, of Simmesport, La., was arrested for abuse of office, extortion, and malfeasance in office and booked into the parish jail. Sheriff Dauzat says the investigation revealed that Theriot used her position to compel or coerce a fist time offender to provide her with money she was not entitled to.

AP News: Jay-Z-funded lawsuits end as Mississippi improves prison
Attorneys hired by Jay-Z and other entertainers have ended two lawsuits they filed on behalf of Mississippi inmates in 2020 over what they said were squalid living conditions at the state’s oldest prison — a facility that came under Justice Department scrutiny after outbursts of deadly violence by inmates. The lawsuits were dismissed Jan. 13 after the inmates’ attorneys and the state Department of Corrections said improvements have been made during the past three years.

New Mexico
Source NM: N.M. prison medical care contracts leave ‘a lot to be desired’
The state’s understaffed and opaque prison system faces accusations of human rights violations and widespread neglect of incarcerated people who need medical care. The same problems can be found in local jails too. Spread of COVID and longstanding allegations of abuse and medical neglect behind the walls remain unaddressed by the state’s courts. Medical care in New Mexico prisons is provided through a contract between the state Corrections Department and Wexford Health Services for $58 million. The previous contractor, Centurion Health made $41 million per year.

WFIN: Former Memphis cop charged in Tyre Nichols’ death allegedly beat up inmate in 2015
One of five Memphis police officers accused of killing Tyre Nichols allegedly beat up an inmate nearly eight years ago, according to a lawsuit filed by the victim. Cordarlrius Sledge, 34, was serving a three-year sentence for aggravated assault when he was allegedly beaten in the Shelby County Division of Corrections by ex-Memphis police officer Demetrius Haley, 30, and another officer on May 16, 2015. Haley was a correction officer at the Shelby County Corrections Department at the time.

Reporters Committee: Tennessee court orders unsealing of records in death-row inmate’s civil rights case
A Tennessee court has ordered the state to publicly disclose certain judicial records in a case in which a mentally ill death-row inmate accuses prison officials of providing inadequate medical care and subjecting him to abuse. In an order issued on Jan. 12, Davidson County Chancellor I’Ashea Myles held that the Tennessee Department of Correction must unseal portions of videos showing prison officials’ treatment of inmate Henry Hodges, including their use of security restraints. Last December, the prison officials sought protective orders that would prevent publicly sharing records obtained in discovery and require those same records to be filed with the court under seal.

West Virginia
WDTV: Dr. Amjad placed over W.Va. inmate health
The West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (WV DCR) has established a new partnership with Marshall Health for medical management of health care services across WV DCR facilities. Ayne Amjad, M.D., M.P.H., has been named director of correctional healthcare for the West Virginia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and an assistant professor of medicine at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. In this role, Amjad will provide medical oversight for the correctional facilities throughout West Virginia.

Rikers Island

Gothamist: Adams’ office snubs request for Rikers data from AOC and congressional Dems
Mayor Eric Adams’ administration is rebuffing a request from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues for data on the crisis at Rikers Island. Last month, Ocasio-Cortez and two congressional colleagues wrote a letter asking the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice to provide the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, which has been investigating city jails since 2021, information on correction officers’ use of force, overdoses, self-harm incidents, staffing absences, and disciplinary actions against staffing.

The City: After Two Decades in Prison, Exonerated Man Still Held at Rikers by Ankle
When a Brooklyn judge tossed Kareem Mayo’s 23-year-old murder conviction last week, Mayo was elated. His lawyers had successfully argued that the sole eyewitness who claimed to have seen the murder lied about not needing to wear glasses to see far distances. But Mayo, 48, remains locked up inside the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island. He’s waiting to be fitted with an ankle monitor which he’s required to wear as Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez weighs his options to either appeal, drop the charges, or completely retry the case.

Bail Reform

Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation : Is Bail Reform Causing an Increase in Crime?
As jurisdictions throughout the U.S. consider reducing or eliminating the use of pretrial detention and cash bail, criminologists Don Stemen and David Olson of Loyola University Chicago examine whether crime has increased in places that have implemented bail reforms since 2017.


NowThisNews (YouTube): Voter Disenfranchisement, By the Numbers
Last year, 4.6 million people could not vote due to felony convictions — that’s 1 in every 50 adult citizens. But some states have put forth legislation to help change that.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Forbes: Mental Health Statistics
An estimated 2 million times each year, people with serious mental health conditions are jailed or imprisoned in the U.S. Women are disproportionately impacted at twice the rate as men. For this population, incarceration may exacerbate pre-existing symptoms. The trauma and stress associated with incarceration have a potential snowball effect, exacerbating existing conditions and potentially contributing to new diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse.

Legal Reader: LGBTQ+ Inmates Have Worse Mental Health than Their Straight Peers
A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics has shed light on the mental health struggles faced by queer youth who are incarcerated. The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, surveyed over 500 young people between the ages of 12 and 24 who were incarcerated in juvenile detention centers in California. Previous studies have also determined that LGBTQ+ inmates received inadequate mental health care while incarcerated.

Oklahoma Watch: Previously Withheld Video Shows Man’s Fatal Struggle With Pottawatomie County Jailers
Family members have been seeking answers about what happened to Ronald Gene Given in the Pottawatomie County jail since his 2019 death, which a medical examiner ruled a homicide. Newly released video shows county detention officers twice slamming Given — arrested days earlier in the midst of a mental health crisis — to the concrete floor, kneeling on his upper body and dragging the unconscious man by the ankles across a cell. 

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

KSNT: Shawnee County jail proposes mental health unit for inmates
The Shawnee County Department of Corrections (KS) is asking county leaders to pay for a project its says would help better meet the mental health needs of its jail inmates. In 2021 and 2022, 51% of Shawnee County inmates reported experiencing problems with their mental health.Because the jail doesn’t currently have proper mental health facilities, this proposed unit is crucial to inmates’ overall health.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

El Dorado News Time: Suit says jail, hospital at fault in local man's death
Union County is being sued by the estate of Eusebio Castillo Rodriguez, who died at 42 after a stint in the county jail. According to a lawsuit filed on Friday, Rodriguez, who was survived by three children and his partner, their mother, did not receive sufficient medical care after falling ill at the jail, resulting in his death. Named as defendants in the suit are Union County; the Association of Arkansas Counties Risk Management Fund; Turn Key Health Clinics.

The Spokesman Review: Spokane County Jail medical provider to increase staffing after $27 million verdict
NaphCare, the private contractor that provides medical services in the Spokane County Jail, is hiring more nurses and staff just months after a federal jury found it at fault in a $27 million wrongful death case.