Weekly Update: June 14, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: June 14, 2022

Highlighted Stories

NY Times: Supreme Court Rejects Bail Hearings for Jailed Immigrants
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a federal law does not require that immigrants detained for long periods while they are fighting deportation be granted hearings to decide whether they may be released on bond as their cases move forward. The ruling will affect thousands of immigrants detained for many months while their cases are decided by immigration courts facing long backlogs.

The Crime Report: Google Earmarks $8M for Job Skills Training for Formerly Incarcerated
Google announced that the company will be dedicating an additional $8 million to its justice reform work initiatives, particularly to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-access the job force through training and by supporting the development of a national automatic clearance tool for criminal records. Half of Google’s $8 million investment will go to a new Grow with Google Fund. $4 million will facilitate programming to build digital and career skills for at least 100,000 formerly incarcerated people by 2025.

The Crime Report: Congress Needs to Invest in Returning Citizens
Research shows that only 55 percent of individuals returning from prison report earnings in the year post-release. Over the past two decades, public investment in federal programs like the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, passed in 2014, has declined by 40 percent. We spend more than $80 billion on prison and corrections alone annually, yet only dedicate about $100 million in federal reentry employment training to ensure that individuals have a quality job and do not return to prison.

Community Health Systems: Grantee Spotlight – West Hawaii Community Health Center
The Georgia Health Policy Center recently spoke to Dan Mistak, acting president and director of health care initiatives for Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS), about building a health justice collaborative to care for justice-involved populations transitioning back to the community in Hawaii.


Bakersfield.com: COVID-19 outbreak at California City prison leads the state
An outbreak of COVID-19 at the California City Correctional Facility has prompted officials to significantly restrict movement, programming and visitation at the facility, according to a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The June 10 report of confirmed COVID-19 cases among individuals incarcerated at CDCR facilities had the California City prison at the top of the list with 323 active in-custody cases — a full third of 951 cases among the state's 34 adult prisons.

Sacramento Bee: San Quentin inmate: “Two years after a deadly COVID outbreak and not one lesson learned”
Since COVID first arrived at San Quentin State Prison, infecting more than 2,000 incarcerated people and killing 29, lawmakers and the courts appear to be less concerned about the dismal conditions at the prison. Many of them contend that the vaccines are a game changer, but prisoners are still existing in a perpetual state of sickness. Today, San Quentin has once again become the epicenter for another COVID variant — the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron. It’s a highly transmissible virus easily fueled by overcrowding and poor ventilation.


CT Post: 977 CT prison inmates receive Hepatitis C treatment as part of lawsuit settlement
In July 2018, Robert Barfield filed a federal lawsuit, claiming he was sick with Hepatitis C, but he wasn’t receiving what had become the standard of care for the disease from the DOC, alleging the agency violated of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Since then, Barfield is among the nearly 1,000 state inmates who were cured of the disease after being given proper treatment. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shea on Tuesday approved a settlement agreement that includes $112,000 in legal fees for Barfield’s attorney to end the nearly four-year legal battle.

The Advocate: Inmate medical treatment at Angola still not improved since judge's ruling, attorneys argue
Dissatisfied with what they believe is a lack of progress in how sick and disabled inmates are treated at Louisiana State Penitentiary, lawyers for those incarcerated at the facility were in federal court Monday arguing that little has changed since a judge ruled corrections officials had been "deliberately indifferent" to the inmates' medical needs. In an April 2021 ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick found that inmate access to health care is unconstitutionally inadequate in the areas of clinical care, specialty care, infirmary care and emergency care.

Pittsburgh City Paper: Lawsuit alleges "brutal treatment" of people with psychiatric disabilities at Allegheny County Jail
Lawyers from two advocacy groups and a national law firm have filed a motion in federal court seeking class-action relief for all incarcerated people at the Allegheny County Jail who require mental health care. The motion alleges severe and systemic violations of the U.S. Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act for what plaintiffs describe as the jail’s “failure to provide adequate mental health care and its discriminatory and brutal treatment of people with psychiatric disabilities.”

Staffing Shortages

Corrections 1: Understaffing at N.M. detention center leads to state of emergency
The sprawling Metropolitan Detention Center is on the outskirts of Bernalillo County, almost 20 miles from Downtown Albuquerque. Over the past month it has housed an average of more than 1,300 inmates each night. The vacancy rate among correctional officers is 51.09%. Staff with Corizon Health, the jail's medical provider, have also been raising concerns about their staffing levels. Fewer correctional officers increases the possibility that inmates could riot, get into physical fights or hurt themselves. Two inmates have killed themselves in the jail so far this year.

Civil Beat: Staffing Shortages At The Oahu Jail Are Raising Alarms About Safety And OT Costs
Employees at Hawaii’s largest jail say short staffing at the facility has reached a crisis point that is putting both inmates and exhausted corrections officers at risk, with prisoners locked down for prolonged periods and Covid-19 once again spreading through the facility. There are currently 92 vacant adult correctional officer positions at the Oahu Community Correctional Center out of a total authorized position count of 413.

Sexual Abuse

Fox 7 Austin: California prison guard awaits sentencing for brutal sexual assault of woman in COVID quarantine
A federal correctional officer in California is now awaiting sentencing after he pleaded guilty to brutally sexually assaulting a woman who was in COVID quarantine. Jose Viera, 49, of Monterey Park, entered the plea in late May before United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II. He is out on supervised released until his March 13, 2023, sentencing date, where he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. In his plea agreement, Viera admitted that on Dec. 20, 2020, entered the cell of the woman to bring her breakfast who was in COVID-19 isolation having contracted the virus.

Solitary Confinement

Capitol Weekly: Call it what you like, but solitary confinement equals torture
In an op-ed, Eric Harris, director of Public Policy Disability Rights California and Bianca Sierra Wolff, executive director of California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, write: Study after study has documented just how devastating the practice of solitary can be, and why it has no place in our society. Despite the overwhelming evidence pointing to this fact, many states, including California, continue to employ the practice in jails, prisons and private immigration detention facilities. That is why we are part of a diverse coalition of organizations with expertise in disability rights, criminal justice and immigration detention have come together to sponsor the California Mandela Act on Solitary Confinement by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena). The coalition includes NextGen California, Immigrant Defense Advocates, Initiate Justice and the Prison Law Office, in addition to our organizations.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

KHN: Long Wait for Justice: People in Jail Face Delays for Mental Health Care Before They Can Stand Trial
More than 2 million people with serious mental illness are booked into jails nationwide each year, often for nonviolent “nuisance” crimes such as loitering or vagrancy, according to a 2020 report from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. Once jailed, people with mental illness are incarcerated twice as long as other defendants, the report said, and few receive treatment for their condition.

Bakersfield.com: Inmate suicide highlights prison system's challenges with mentally ill
During the previous four years in prison, Adam Collier had been hospitalized for mental health crises 14 times. His many letters to family and friends wobbled between lucidity and gibberish. His medical records proffered graphic descriptions of self-harm. Between 2016 and 2020, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation transferred Collier 39 times, ping-ponging him between mental health crisis beds and increasingly high security prisons. The constant relocation that Collier experienced is a symptom of the system’s brokenness. Too often, in lieu of an effective treatment plan, challenging inmates are simply moved along.

Fines and Fees

Wisconsin Public Radio: Formerly incarcerated people warn of 'agonizing' choices around Wisconsin’s prison copays
At $7.50, Wisconsin has one of the highest prison medical copays in the country, according to state-by-state data the Prison Policy Initiative gathered in 2017, although there are some exceptions to get out of paying. Those interviewed shared how much $7.50 is worth to incarcerated people whose jobs might pay nickels and dimes per hour. They gave a glimpse about what it's like to choose between paying for medical care and getting some toiletries, calling home or filing documents for court appeals.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Oregon Capital Chronicle: Confusing decision about what is ‘public accommodation’ could shift issue into public spotlight
In Andrew Abraham v. Corizon Health, Abraham sued in federal court on grounds of discrimination in “a place of public accommodation” because he is “an individual with a disability.” Abraham is deaf and communicated through American Sign Language, which no one at the jail apparently understood.The Ninth Circuit’s question was, “Is a private contractor providing health care services at a county jail a ‘place of public accommodation’” under Oregon law? The Oregon Supreme Court majority (in a decision written by Chief Justice Martha Walters) said it was. “If defendant qualifies as a place of public accommodation because of the services that it provides, it does not matter whether it provides those services at a physical location that independently qualifies as a place of public accommodation,” she wrote.

Yahoo News: ACLU settles lawsuit over New Mexico prison medical contract records
The New Mexico Corrections Department has agreed to pay the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico $37,500 to settle a lawsuit over the agency's alleged failure to release public records related to its multimillion-dollar contract with the company that provides medical care to prison inmates. The settlement resolves a lawsuit ACLU-NM filed in March 2020, which alleged the department had failed to comply with the Inspection of Public Records Act in responding to a request from the civil rights group for records relating to a four-year, $246 million inmate medical care contract the state had awarded to Wexford Health in 2019.

Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Arkansas Medical Board takes no action against jail doctor who treated inmates with ivermectin for covid
The Arkansas State Medical Board voted to take no action at this time against,Dr. Robert Karas, a physician embroiled in a federal lawsuit over prescribing Washington County jail inmates ivermectin, an anti-parasitic medication some doctors have given as an off-label treatment for covid-19. Four inmates are suing Karas, his health care company, the jail and the Washington County sheriff after they say they were unknowingly given "incredibly high doses" of ivermectin after contracting covid-19 last summer, according to court documents.