Weekly Update: October 19, 2021

COCHS Weekly Update: October 19, 2021

Highlighted Stories

Center for Popular Democracy Action: Tell Congress to Pass The Medicaid Reentry Act
Please join this social media call to action TODAY Tuesday 10/19 12-3pm ET and tell Congress to include the Medicaid Reentry Act in the final Build Back Better Reconciliation package! Join Community Catalyst, Center for Popular Democracy Action, and partners across the country in support of #MedicaidReentryAct. The bipartisan Medicaid Reentry Act would allow Medicaid to cover health services--including physical, mental health, and substance use disorders care--in the last 30 days of incarceration for people who meet Medicaid eligibility criteria. This would help connect people to the care they need as they return to their communities. The Medicaid Reentry Act would save lives, reduce drug overdoses, advance equity, save money, and increase reentry success.

North Carolina Health News: Six Republican counties in WNC pledged their support for Medicaid expansion. What’s changed?
In North Carolina politics, the issue of Medicaid expansion usually falls along rigid partisan lines: Democrats support it, Republicans oppose it. But Cooper held steadfast to the belief that this Republican region of the state could be persuaded to depart from the party line if only someone would give residents the straight facts. By addressing each county individually specific data could be teased out the that might persuade people, regardless of their party affiliation, such as how many more people would gain coverage, how many jobs would be created, how much money the counties might save on things like health care for people in jail awaiting pretrial detention, and more.

Institute for Innovation in Prosecution: Webinar (October 26) Registration
The Prosecution, Drug Use & Public Health panel discussion will focus on the current state of drug prosecution, the recommendations put forth in the IIP's newly launched guide A New Approach: A Prosecutor’s Guide to Advancing a Public Health Response to Drug Use, and how prosecutors can uplift treatment over incarceration.

New York Times: Video Shows Louisiana Sheriff’s Deputy Slamming Black Woman to the Ground
The video is short but harrowing. The camera lens quickly zooms past a car and focuses on the scene behind it: A sheriff’s deputy in Louisiana, who towers over a small Black woman, is slamming her onto the ground. The woman is lying on her back, and the deputy is hunched over her. He is clenching her left wrist with one hand, and her left forearm with another, and hoisting her body off the ground. He throws her back onto the ground. Down. Up. Down. Up.

New York Times: ‘Fiscal Justice Ratings’ Fight Police Brutality With Finance
Napoleon Wallace, a bond analyst and municipal budget wonk, sees disaster in the finances of America’s largest cities where others do not. When it comes to assessing the value of municipal bonds issued by many American cities, he says investors — and the public — are often looking at the wrong numbers, overlooking the true embedded costs of a social justice system that has become normalized. The ratings include the potential cost of police misconduct, which traditional rating agencies have typically ignored. In one exception that illustrates how police killings can destabilize city budgets, Moody’s downgraded the bonds of Ferguson, Mo., after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager.

Public Policy Institute of California: Racial Disparities in Law Enforcement Stops
Racial disparities within the criminal justice system continue to be a pressing issue for the US and California. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, discussions around police reforms have heightened and centered on how law enforcement engages with people of color. This report provides an analysis of data for almost 4 million stops by California’s 15 largest law enforcement agencies in 2019, examining the extent to which people of color experience searches, enforcement, intrusiveness, and use of force differently from white people.

The Sentencing Project: The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons
Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at nearly five times the rate of whites, and Latinx people are 1.3 times as likely to be incarcerated than non-Latinx whites. This report documents the rates of incarceration for white, Black and Latinx Americans in each state, identifies three contributors to racial and ethnic disparities in imprisonment, and provides recommendations for reform.

The Crime Report: Wisconsin Leads Nation in Imprisonment of Black Adults: Report
A new report, authored by the Sentencing Project has found that Wisconsin imprisons Black residents at a higher rate than any other state in the country, reports the Wausau Pilot & Review. One of every 36 Black Wisconsin adults is in prison, the report found. Black people comprise 42 percent of the Wisconsin prison population, but just 6 percent of the state’s population. Nationwide, Black Americans are imprisoned at nearly five times the rate of white Americans, the report found, and in Wisconsin, the ratio is even higher.

Washington Post: Judge calls for Justice Dept. civil rights probe into D.C. jail’s treatment of Jan. 6 detainees
A federal judge found the warden of the D.C. jail and director of the D.C. Department of Corrections in contempt of court Wednesday and called on the Justice Department to investigate whether the jail is violating the civil rights of dozens of detained Jan. 6 defendants. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Washington acted after finding that jail officials failed to turn over information needed to approve surgery recommended four months ago for a Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendant’s broken wrist.

COVID-19 Vaccines in Corrections

The Crime Report: How States Shunted Prisoners Aside in Vaccine Rollout
By failing to prioritize incarcerated people, the state-by-state rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine represented a legal and ethical failure, argue the authors of a California Law Review paper. Scientists cited the ease with which a virus can spread in congregate settings, and advised states to administer vaccines to prison occupants. But an analysis of state-level vaccination plans by researchers found that jurisdictions rarely ranked incarcerated people as a group entitled to vaccination in the first phase, shunting most of of the prison population to the back of the line for later phases.

AP News: Pritzker delays vaccine deadline for some state workers
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has pushed back a deadline for state employees of veterans’ homes, prisons and other congregate facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as his office negotiates with labor unions representing some workers. Pritzker, who in August set an Oct. 4 deadline for state workers covered by his requirement to get the vaccine, on Friday said employees have until Nov. 30 to be fully vaccinated, the Chicago Tribune reported. The workers are employed by the departments of Corrections, Veterans Affairs, Human Services and Juvenile Justice.

Sacramento Bee: California judge blocks COVID-19 vaccine order for correctional officers
A Kern County Superior Court judge on Thursday granted a request from the state prison guards’ union to block a vaccine mandate that was set to take effect Friday. Judge Bernard Barmann issued a temporary restraining order that partially prevents the state from enforcing an Aug. 19 Department of Public Health order that required all employees — including correctional officers — who work in or around prison health care settings to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 14.

West Hawaii Today: State will pay inmates $50 to get coronavirus vaccines
The Department of Public Safety says certain inmates will get $50 to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Hawaii inmates who were incarcerated on or after March 3 are eligible. More than 2,500 inmates in Hawaii and at an Arizona facility that houses inmates from the state qualify. The effort is one of several nationwide. Hawaii received $615,000 in federal funds to pay for the program. At least nine Hawaii inmates have died and 2,863 have been infected with coronavirus. Nearly 400 corrections staff have been infected.

Rikers Island

New York Times: Rikers Death Pushes Toll in N.Y.C. Jails to 13 This Year
A Bronx man who was being held at the Rikers Island jail complex died on Friday after, his lawyer said, he contracted the coronavirus — the 13th death in custody during an especially deadly year in New York City’s jails. Mr. Mercado was not the only person to come to harm in the jail system this week. At around 5 p.m. Thursday, another detainee, Anthony Scott, 58, tried to hang himself in a holding pen at the Manhattan criminal courthouse. The incidents this week occurred as city officials faced increasing pressure to restore order at the Rikers Island complex, where inmates have committed violent acts while wandering freely and guards have participated in beatings or failed to intervene in emergencies.

New York Times: Amid Chaos at Rikers, Women and Transgender People to Be Transferred
Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced that women and transgender people held at the Rikers Island jail complex will be transferred to two state prisons 40 miles north of New York City, in the latest effort to stem a crisis that has engulfed the correction system. The transfers might allow women who have not received medical and mental health care at Rikers amid a shutdown of such services during the pandemic to access that care in the state prisons. But it also could make it more difficult for the detainees — a majority of whom are awaiting trial — to attend court hearings and meet with lawyers and family members who will now be at least an hour’s drive away from Manhattan.

San Quentin

KQED: Marin Judge Tentatively Rejects Cutting San Quentin Crowding
A Marin County judge tentatively ruled Friday that state prison officials acted with deliberate indifference when they caused a deadly coronavirus outbreak at San Quentin last year. But he said vaccines have since so changed the landscape that officials are no longer violating the constitutional rights of those incarcerated. The lawsuit stemmed from the botched transfer of infected inmates in May 2020 from a Southern California prison to San Quentin, which at the time had no infections. The coronavirus then quickly sickened 75% of those incarcerated at the prison, leading to the deaths of 28 incarcerated people and a correctional officer.

Indigenous Americans

Prison Policy Initiative: The U.S. criminal justice system disproportionately hurts Native people: the data, visualized
In 2019, the latest year for which we have data, there were over 10,000 Native people locked up in local jails. Although this population has fluctuated over the past 10 years, the Native jail population is up a shocking 85% since 2000. And these figures don’t even include those held in “Indian country jails,” which are located on tribal lands: The number of people in Indian country jails increased by 61% between 2000 and 2018.

BJA: Planning a Reentry Program: A Toolkit for Tribal Communities Now Available
Developed with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Planning a Reentry Program: A Toolkit for Tribal Communities is designed to help tribal justice system practitioners create or enhance reentry programs for American Indians and Alaska Natives returning from jail or prison. It also offers guidance for practitioners who are currently working in a reentry program.

The Guardian: ‘They just didn’t care’: families of missing Native women call out indifferent police
There has long been a devastating epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in the US. Yet too often their cases receive little to no news media attention and their families can face doubts and delays from law enforcement agencies. In 2018, the Urban Indian Health Institute released a report documenting hundreds of cases of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls across 71 US cities. More than 150 of the cases they found were not included in law enforcement records.

Pregnancy and Childbirth In Corrections

Talk Poverty: Minnesota Will No Longer Take Newborns from Incarcerated Parents
Until this summer, incarcerated people who gave birth in Minnesota had a maximum of 72 hours with their newborns before they were separated. (The length of time depended on the type of birth.) In many other states, the parent and child have as little as 24 hours. As Alysia Santo wrote in PBS Frontline, “giving birth means saying goodbye.” But recently, stories such as Brown’s and the advocacy of organizations such as the Minnesota Prison Doula Project — an initiative that provides pregnancy and parenting support to incarcerated people in Minnesota — have driven a major policy change. As of August 2021, people who are serving a prison sentence in the state will no longer be separated from their newborns after giving birth.

Juveniles In Correcctions

New York Times: Complaints Against Texas’ Juvenile Prisons Include Violence and Sex Abuse
In October 2019, a prison officer who worked at a juvenile detention center in Central Texas was charged with sexual assault and accused of forcing a boy in custody to perform oral sex on him in his cell. The incident came to light the day after the alleged crime, when the boy tried to kill himself. Two months before that, at another detention facility in Texas, a corrections officer was fired after a teenage girl said she was pregnant with his child. He was later charged in connection with that case.

New York Times: Justice Dept. to Investigate Reports of Abuse in Texas’ Juvenile Prisons
The Justice Department said on Wednesday that it was investigating juvenile correctional facilities in Texas over allegations of physical violence, sexual abuse and other mistreatment of children held there. The investigation, which will also examine the state’s use of isolation and chemicals like pepper spray, is part of a broader effort to overhaul the criminal justice system and address conditions in prisons.

Tennessean: Phase 1 underway in plan to overhaul Williamson County's judicial, juvenile and jail facilities
The $281 million project, one of the county's largest capital projects to date, would include an overhaul of the county's judicial, juvenile and jail facilities to meet needs associated with a growing county population and outdated facilities. For it, the county commission approved an intent to fund worth over $16 million at its September county commission meeting for the first phase of the project.

Sheriffs In The News

YouTube/PBS: A Florida sheriff's Brief But Spectacular take on mental illness in county jails
Ken Mascara has been the sheriff of St. Lucie County in Florida for the past 20 years. He has seen funding for mental health facilities plummet, and as a result, more and more mentally ill patients end up languishing behind bars. Now, he gives his Brief But Spectacular take on making county jails safer, and smarter.

Politico: He Calls Himself the ‘American Sheriff.’ Whose Law Is He Following?
Mark Lamb, the sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, supported the “stop the steal” campaign in Arizona and has expressed sympathy for the Jan. 6 rioters. He has called vaccine mandates “garbage” and spoke at a recent anti-vaccine rally in Phoenix, where he told supporters, “We’re going to find out what kind of patriots you are. We’re going to find out who is willing to die for freedom.” When the coronavirus pandemic hit, he publicly resisted Arizona’s mask mandates and stay-at-home orders — before catching Covid himself last year, which he discovered when he was denied entry to the White House for a meeting with Trump.

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Two new lawsuits filed against Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill
Two new lawsuits have been filed against Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill and his jail staff over the use of restraining chairs, with detainees claiming they urinated on themselves after being confined to the devices for hours. The U.S. Justice Department in April indicted Hill on four counts of violating the civil rights of Clayton County Jail detainees in the use of restraining chairs. A fifth count was added in August. Hill has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Gov. Brian Kemp suspended Hill from duty in June.The new litigation adds to a stream of lawsuits against Hill and the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office that have been filed over the past several months.

Criminal Justice Reform

VT Digger: Proposal nixes expungement, expands sealing of criminal records
The questions of when criminal records can disappear and just how completely they’ll be hidden are at the heart of the latest attempt by lawmakers to allow more people convicted of offenses to clean their slate and get on with their lives. The Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee spent Friday reviewing a proposal to eliminate expungement from the legislation — that is, making the criminal record disappear — in favor of expanding the sealing process in court.

Wrongful Convictions

National Archive Of Criminal Justice Data: Estimating the Prevalence of Wrongful Convictions, Virginia
This study extends research on wrongful convictions in the United States and the factors associated with justice system errors that lead to the incarceration of innocent people. Among cases where physical evidence produced a DNA profile of known origin, 12.6 percent of the cases had DNA evidence that would support a claim of wrongful conviction.

Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice

AP News: Tennessee prisons announce suicide prevention hotline
The Tennessee Department of Correction now has a suicide prevention hotline which friends and family of inmates can call if they are concerned about their loved one, the department announced. Calls will be will be routed to the department’s Central Communication Center, which is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Analysts at the center will notify the facility where the inmate is housed so intervention can take place immediately.

Denver ABC 7: Denver Sheriff's Department to create crisis response team for jails
The Denver Sheriff’s Department is creating a Crisis Response Team (CRT) to help provide mental health services for inmates. The team will be made up of 11 clinicians, 7 will work at the downtown detention center and 4 will focus on the Denver County jail. There will be one supervisor for the CRT at both jails.

Star Press: Officials say rehab coming to Delaware County Justice Center
Since the Delaware County Justice Center moved early this year from its longtime home downtown to a former middle school on Muncie's southwest side, signage at the new location has indicated the jail-and-courts facility has an expanded mission. The plan is that when a person gets brought to the jail for whatever reason, a counselor sits down and talks with the detained person. In the event the person has a drug issue, the hope would be instead of being (held) on the jail side, that person would go to the drug rehabilitation side and complete a program that's outlined by the facility's coordinator and the courts. The non-inmate status of participants could be a key point in financing the program's operation, allowing for pursuit of Medicare or Medicaid payments.

The Crime Report: DOJ Awards $7M in Grants for Police Mental Health and Wellness
The Justice Department will award $7 million in grants to “improve mental health and wellness services” for police officers. The 65 grants announced Thursday under the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act Program, will be used for training, and developing pilot projects in areas like suicide prevention and peer mentoring.