Weekly Update: April 5, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: April 05, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Side Effects: How Medicaid enrollment can disrupt the cycle of incarceration
One of the first stops for people leaving prison in central Missouri is the Reentry Opportunity Center in Columbia. The center sees about 80 people a month who are in the process of putting their lives together after being incarcerated. Health care is one of the biggest needs for people reentering society. While they can typically access basic health services while incarcerated, that option goes away on the outside. A recent Medicaid expansion offers a new option for many uninsured individuals, as it opens eligibility up for most Missourians. Recent research has found states that expanded Medicaid had lower rates of recidivism than those that didn't: The Effect of Public Health Insurance on Criminal Recidivism.

NIJ: April 2022 Community Corrections
April is Second Chance Month, NIJ's effort to raise awareness of the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction, and unlock second-chance opportunities for people who have completed their sentences to become contributing citizens. To contribute to this effort, this month NIJ is looking at what “community corrections” means in terms of criminal justice. Community corrections is a term that usually refers to managing individuals serving a criminal sentence in a community, rather than in prison or jail.

BJS: Correctional Populations in the United States, 2020 – Statistical Tables
At year end 2020, an estimated 5,500,600 persons were under the supervision of adult correctional systems in the United States, 11% fewer than at the same time the previous year. This was the first time since 1996 that the total correctional population dropped to less than 5.6 million.

Jail Conditions

Oklahoma Watch: Many Oklahoma jails struggle to meet health and safety standards
Oklahoma requires city and county jails to comply with dozens of health and safety standards, such as providing detainees with a minimum amount of living space, ensuring access to hot showers and maintaining a working fire alarm system. The Oklahoma State Department of Health enforces these standards through annual unannounced inspections. Of the 122 county and city jails inspected from January through December 2020, 51 were not in compliance. At least 21 people died in Oklahoma pretrial detention facilities in 2020.

Courthouse News Service: Ninth Circuit won’t impose health measures on pest-prone jail kitchen
Despite alarming reports of pest invasions and contaminated food, a Ninth Circuit panel on Wednesday refused to impose stricter health and safety requirements at an industrial kitchen in one of the nation’s largest jails. Former inmates at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, California, sought to overturn a lower court’s March 2021 order denying a request for court-mandated changes to the jail’s food-handling and storage practices.

Lake County Ledger: Class action suit filed over Lake County jail conditions
A class-action lawsuit alleging inhumane and discriminatory conditions at the Lake County jail was filed in Missoula County District Court last week on behalf of 38 current or former prisoners. Plaintiffs allege that the jail is “dangerous, unhygienic, and overcrowded …” and that jail policies discriminate against Native American inmates.


The National Academies of Science Engineering Medicine: Decarcerating Correctional Facilities during COVID-19: Advancing Health, Equity, and Safety
This study offers guidance on efforts to decarcerate, or reduce the incarcerated population, as a response to COIVD-19 pandemic. This report examines best practices for implementing decarceration as a response to the pandemic and the conditions that support safe and successful reentry of those decarcerated.

The Seattle Times: WA state’s worst prison COVID outbreak is in Franklin County
The Coyote Ridge Corrections Center north of the Tri-Cities is in the midst of the biggest COVID-19 outbreak in the Washington state prison system. The state Department of Corrections reported Friday that 186 of the 199 active cases in all of the state’s prisons are currently at the Connell facility. Also, seven of the 32 cases among Washington prison employees statewide work there.

OPB: Federal judge orders Oregon’s Two Rivers prison to follow its own mask rules
A federal magistrate judge this week found some Oregon prison staff at the Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla have not followed the prison’s own pandemic-related mask rules. In a court, the judge required prison officials to follow their policies. During the course of the case, the Oregon Department of Justice revealed that around one-third of the employees at the Two Rivers prison had received medical or religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate.

Courier Post: COVID in custody: Prison concerns reflect pandemic's changing impact
When COVID-19 struck New Jersey two years ago, the pandemic spread on waves of fear and confusion, particularly in jails and prisons. But just as the coronavirus has mutated, its effect on society also changed — giving way to dissent and division. A lawsuit filed shortly after the pandemic’s onset sought early release for vulnerable inmates at a South Jersey prison. And this year, two police unions offered a more resigned view toward COVID-19 as they argued against a vaccine mandate for corrections officers.


NC Health News: Access to HIV care varies across NC jails, study finds
People with HIV have a high rate of ending up behind bars, but even though the diagnosis is common among people in county jails, it’s hard to know the kind of care these patients receive while they’re detained due to a lack of research. A recent study from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill attempted to glimpse through the curtain at what HIV treatment looks like for people living with HIV who cycled through 21 out of the state’s 95 jails.

Rikers Island

The New Yorker: The Disillusionment of a Rikers Island Doctor
The first COVID case on Rikers Island was reported on the evening of March 17th. Our first hospitalization followed soon afterward: a middle-aged man had been found sitting on the floor of his housing unit, dazed, with an oxygen saturation at seventy per cent of normal. By mid-March, New York’s hospitals were filling up, and Rikers Island was at the epicenter of the pandemic.

Daily News: NYC jail detainees missing hundreds more medical appointments despite court order
The number of missed medical appointments in city jails jumped again in February, despite a court order requiring the Correction Department to address the problem, statistics show. The figures show there were 8,402 missed appointments in February, an increase of close to 1,600 over January, which saw 6,792 missed appointments. “Despite a court order and its obligation under the law, the Department of Correction continues to deprive incarcerated people of their right to access medical care,” Redmond Haskins, a spokesman for the Legal Aid Society, said in a statement.

State Initiatives

The Nevada Independent: Report sought by governor recommends reducing prison population in health crises
An independent report commissioned by Nevada's governor and legislative leaders has recommended an action that inmate advocacy groups long supported but was never implemented — that the state should deliberately reduce its prison population to address current and future pandemics. The Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) had a significantly higher rate of death than neighboring states and the third-highest death rate out of 45 states examined by the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) in the report.

The Day: Connecticut legislature looks to establish oversight for prison health care
Advocates of a bill that would require oversight of the Department of Correction’s health care repeatedly criticized the care given at York Correctional Institution. State Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, and several organizations in support of the bill, said Tuesday that the DOC's health care system is inadequate at best and willfully negligent at worst. Senate Bill 448 would create a commission to oversee the DOC’s administration of health care, as the DOC currently oversees itself.

Health Care Billing

FlaglerLive.com: Flagler Sheriff and County Get Their Own Advocate to Help Control Inmate Health Costs
A new agreement to potentially save taxpayers thousands of dollars each year has been reached between the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners, the Florida Sheriffs Association and Prime Health Services. Just as individuals are billed, and sometimes–or often–overbilled by health care providers, so are companies and local government agencies. Prime Health Services will contest the billing on behalf of the county and the Sheriff’s Office. Bill advocacy does not affect services rendered, as those services have already been rendered.

Criminal Justice Reform

The Hill: House poised to pass bill legalizing marijuana
The bill legalizing marijuana has near-uniform support among Democrats and a top ally in Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who has been aiming to introduce a similar measure this spring. And it’s just one of several pieces of legislation that underlines the shift in Congress’s attitude — a change that has come about in part because of the way past drug laws have disproportionately hit minority communities.

The Crime Report: How Crime on Parole Drives Mass Incarceration
People jailed for committing a new crime while on parole or probation account for two-thirds of the total prison time imposed by federal and state jurisdictions, according to a Penn State law professor. Justice reformers have targeted the widespread use of so-called “technical violations,” in which parole or probation is revoked for committing non-criminal infractions, such as missing meetings with a probation or community supervision officer, skipping curfew, or filing late paperwork, has been a major target.

Criminal Justice Initiatives

Department of Corrections Washington State: Amend: Changing Correctional Culture
Washington State DOC’s partnership with Amend works to bring a health-focused approach to providing correctional staff with additional tools and resources with an emphasis on staff wellness while working to prepare incarcerated individuals and residents to become better neighbors when they return to society. In Norway the belief system is, “people go to court to be punished, they go to prison to become better neighbors”. This partnership’s goal is to ingrain that same belief system within Washington DOC.

Trib Live: Westmoreland County hires firm to reduce inmate recidivism
Westmoreland County Prison inmates with three months remaining on their sentences may have the opportunity to participate in a program beginning in May that is aimed at improving their chances of successfully reentering the world. The program, to be conducted by Peerstar LLC of Altoona, will teach life skills to prepare inmates for what they will do after incarceration, help them with mental health issues.

Opioid Epidemic

Orange County Register: Stronger sentences for fentanyl dealers face uphill battle in state legislature
For several years, bills that would stiffen penalties on fentanyl dealers have hit a brick wall in Sacramento from lawmakers wary of repeating mistakes seen during the “War on Drugs” era. Tougher sentences, many note, did little to deter traffickers, and unequal sentencing patterns too often targeted people of color. Legislators have been loathe to pile on sentencing enhancements that they fear will perpetuate those imbalances.

Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice

San Diego Union Tribune: A small court with a big mission: A second chance for criminals with mental illness
In San Diego, Behavioral Health Court teams a Superior Court judge — who leads the group — with a deputy district attorney, a city attorney, a public defender, probation officers, and representatives from the county Department of Behavioral Health Services and from the private, contracted service provider Telecare Corp. They sit down every week and discuss cases in detail. They decide who gets in to the program, who is on target with their goals, who needs extra help, and who needs to go.

Cal Matters: ‘People don’t think clearly in crisis:’ California law enforcement turns to mental health clinicians on toughest 911 calls
The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office is among the wave of law enforcement agencies across California and the country rethinking how they handle mental health-related calls. Demands have grown for communities to reconsider their approach to the personal crises. New programs pairing law enforcement officers with behavioral health clinicians as patrol teams have popped up throughout California, including in San Mateo County, Pleasanton, Palo Alto, Santa Maria, Sacramento County, Humboldt County and Modesto. The Los Angeles Police Department expanded its decades-old mental health unit and moved it from a secondary to frontline response.

13 WTHR: New Indiana law expected to better connect inmates to addiction, mental health resources
House Bill 1004 will become law in Indiana on July 1, giving judges the option to also sentence Level 6 felony offenders to the DOC. It's a small change, but a meaningful one, according to one of the bill's co-authors, Representative Mitch Gore, D-Indianapolis. The new law will help to ease the burden on county jails currently housing those inmates while also giving inmates access to the DOC's mental health resources and addiction treatment services.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

yes!: Interrupting Cycles of Harm, Inside and Outside Prison Walls
A 2016 study found that people reporting four or more traumatic experiences were five times more likely to be incarcerated than those reporting none. Around 30-60% of incarcerated men exhibit PTSD symptoms, and a 2020 Urban Institute study found the same for more than 50% of women. The harm, perpetuated both by other incarcerated people and staff, only continues inside prison walls.

US News & World Report: King County to Pay $3M to Settle Lawsuit Over Jail Beating
King County will pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit filed by an incarcerated man who was severely beaten in 2018 by another person in jail who officials knew was dangerous, psychotic and had a history of attacking his cellmates. The injuries Toby Meagher suffered “exacerbated his mental disorder and have deeply affected his ability to communicate,” the lawsuit said.

The Austin Chronicle: Austin Man’s Suicide in Jail After Seeking Medical Care Raises Question: Why Was He There?
Jared Bell's suicide is the fourth in Travis County's jails in the last year. On April 30, 2021, Nicholas Vanwhye killed himself in his cell. On July 11, Alexander McFarland was found asphyxiated. And on Nov. 14, Adan Torres hung himself, was resuscitated, but died days later. Each of these men had coiled a bedsheet into a rope. Attorney Dean Malone, who specializes in bringing civil lawsuits on behalf of families of inmates who kill themselves in jail, said that 30-minute checks, or even 15-minute checks, aren't enough.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

The Lens: After city contract solicitation produced only two bidders, panel recommends city stay with current jail health vendor
After months of delays, a city of New Orleans purchasing selection committee on Monday voted to recommend the city continue to work with Wellpath, its long-time jail healthcare provider, rather than accepting a competing bid for the contract from LSU Health Sciences Center. The decision came in spite of reservations from committee members, who acknowledged years of complaints about jail care from detainees, their advocates and members of a monitoring team appointed by a federal judge to oversee the jail. The selection also came over criticism of Wellpath from Orleans Parish Sheriff-elect Susan Hutson, who will take control of the jail next month.

Madison - St. Clair Record: Inmate files class action against health service, doctor for substituting opioid with Tylenol
An inmate claims he and others were harmed when a physician was required to substituted Tylenol for the opioid Tramadol. Taurus Blossom filed a federal class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois against Wexford Health Sources, Inc. and Dr. Vipin Shah. On Feb. 28, 2020, Wexford prohibited its physicians from prescribing Tramadol.