Weekly Update: October 3, 2023
Can Medicaid Impact The Overdose Epidemic In Corrections?

COCHS Weekly Update: October 03, 2023

Highlighted Stories

Editor's Note
This week’s highlighted articles describe how drug contraband enters corrections through multiple sources, sometimes by medical providers at other times by correctional officers. This influx of illicit substances has created an alarming increase in overdoses throughout the criminal justice system. One article from South Carolina describes how individuals in holding cells waiting for court appearances were found unresponsive and had to be administered Narcan. Meanwhile, a story from New York describes opioid treatment in one correctional facility as so dysfunctional that many of the people there have relapsed. The situation has gotten so out of hand that the sheriff in Sacramento County has called for a complete health care overhaul.

In a previous Editor's Note, we have discussed the extent to which those in charge of correctional facilities such as sheriffs may be at odds with non-correctional officials such as county supervisors, select persons or commissioners on how to implement health care delivery within a facility. The Sacramento story is particularly germane to this divergence of opinions and implementations. In Sacramento County the board of supervisors had removed authority for health care services from the sheriff and had hired a vendor over which the sheriff has little control.

This environment where a sheriff must maintain control but at the same time provision health care over which he or she has no control would not be tenable within a Medicaid frame. The Medicaid rules require that health and safety standards must be maintained (see June 6, 2023 Editor's Note). Medicaid coverage will in and of itself not be able to stop the overdose epidemic but a shift to a regulatory environment has the potential to at least create boundaries that are difficult to implement at a local jurisdictional level.

Drug Contraband In Corrections
Sacramento Bee: ‘I’m at my breaking point’: Sacramento sheriff calls for jail health care overhaul
Following the discovery that a county medical contractor was smuggling fentanyl into the Sacramento County Main Jail, Sheriff Jim Cooper is calling for an overhaul of the jail’s health care system. The announcement follows a Sheriff’s Office investigation into a spike in overdoses at the jail. The office has now arrested six people for their involvement in an operation to smuggle drugs into the jail in exchange for money. They included Zareonna Harris, who was working on-call for Avid Healthcare Services.

Altoona Mirror: Nurse files suit against prison
A 43-year-old licensed practical nurse at the Blair County Prison has filed a federal lawsuit against Blair County Prison and the Prison’s health care provider, PrimeCare Medical of Harrisburg. She observed a nurse, who was not licensed to prescribe medication, give a Z-pak (antibiotic) to a corrections officer. She noted also that several nurses “pocketed prescription medications from the (prison) to take home with them.” The Friday lawsuit also stated, “Younger employees in the department also brought contraband into the jail without permission.”

WSFA: ADOC correctional officer arrested for allegedly selling drugs at Staton Prison
A correctional officer with the Alabama Department of Corrections has been arrested and charged with promoting prison contraband and using her official position for personal gain, according to court documents. Court filings indicate Laneitria Shanaye Hasberry, 29, of Prattville, brought 170 grams of marijuana into Staton Correctional Facility around 3 p.m. Wednesday where she then received $1,000 as payment for the drugs.

Charlotte Observer: 3 inmates sent to Charlotte hospital after suspected drug overdoses in courthouse
Emergency responders revived three inmates found unresponsive in a Mecklenburg County Courthouse holding cell on Monday afternoon, jail officials said. Charlotte Fire Department personnel were first to arrive at the courthouse. The three patients were administered Narcan.

New York Focus: ‘Doom County Jail’: Dysfunction Plagues Program for Incarcerated Opioid Users
Men locked up in the Broome County jail describe an opioid treatment program so shoddy, they risk withdrawal, relapse, and overdose. Access is so limited that some men save spit-caked, half-used doses and reconstitute them to sell to others in need. Others try to smuggle medication into the jail. They face disciplinary action if discovered, but they’re desperate enough to risk it.

Medicaid Expansion

The White House: Statement from President Joe Biden on North Carolina Enacting Medicaid Expansion
As our subscribers know, a previous COCHS Editor's Note expressed concern about Medicaid's expansion in North Carolina. If expansion were not approved, it might negatively impact the possibility of using Medicaid to provide continuity of care to people transitioning from corrections to life outside of the criminal justice system. The impasse that could have possibly derailed expansion has been resolved and this statement from the President acknowledges this milestone.


Washington Post: Study of Md. in-custody deaths finds many occur in first 10 days in jail
A new report of Maryland in-custody deaths from 2008 to 2019 — authored by national and D.C.-area organizations that advocate for criminal justice reform — reveals that deaths soon after being detained is not uncommon. The study analyzed 180 in-custody deaths in 10 Maryland detention centers and found that about half of those people died within the first 10 days of incarceration. And for those whose deaths were deemed to be from natural causes, the report shows they died nearly three decades younger than the state life expectancy.

Vera: Changing Prison Culture Reduces Violence
An NIJ-funded evaluation of Restoring Promise, an initiative to transform housing units for young adults in prison, found that this approach significantly reduces violence and the use of solitary confinement. The study offers a new, replicable model for improving safety in correctional settings.

Data & Statistics

BJS: Prisons Report Series
The Bureau of Justice Statistics provides key prison statistics prior to release of the annual prison report. The counts below include all prisoners under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities and those sentenced to more than 1 year under the same authorities. Data shown include counts from 2012 through 2022 and a year-to-year comparison of 2021 and 2022.

BJS: Jails Report Series
The Bureau of Justice Statistics provides key jail statistics prior to release of the annual jail report. The statistics below include the number of inmates held in local jails, by inmate demographics and conviction status; the number of admissions to jail; and jail incarceration rates, between 2012 and 2022.

Solitary Confinement

NC Newsline: NC prison staffer sounds alarm on overcrowding, neglect of basic prisoner health and safety
A prison so packed that people on suicide watch are sleeping in 5-by-5-foot holding cages. A disabled Vietnam veteran sent to segregation after his peers attacked him. Incarcerated people spending months in solitary confinement, not because of misconduct inside the prison, but because they’re waiting for a bed to become available elsewhere. These were among the conditions of confinement described by a prison employee in an email shared with NC Newsline.


Spectrum News: In-person visits suspended at Erie County Correctional Facility due to COVID cases, sheriff says
In-person visitations at the Erie County Correctional Facility (NY) have been temporarily suspended due to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among the incarcerated individual population. The Division of Correctional Health says there are 15 confirmed COVID cases among the incarcerated population and the number is expected to increase.


NPR: Why 1 in 4 inmate deaths happens in the same federal prison in North Carolina
A quarter of federal inmate deaths occur at North Carolina's Butner prison complex. Some federal inmates only arrived at its medical facility after waiting months or even years for care elsewhere. It's a prison hospital, and it's the Bureau of Prisons' main cancer treatment facility. And to an extent, more death there makes total sense. But it doesn't explain all of it. It is indicative of inmates all over the country going without needed medical care. It is reported that dozens of inmates have waited months, and some of them even years, for medical care.

State Roundup

ABC 3340: Cost of new state prison jumps $482 million to over one billion dollars
The new state prison now under construction in Elmore County will cost millions of dollars more than initially projected. The facility is being built to help meet federal requirements to overhaul the state prison system which is severely overcrowded. It will have specialized medical and mental health units. The prisons are 7,000 inmates over capacity.

Courthouse News Service: Attorneys clash over fines in decades long fight for mental health care in California prisons
Attorneys in a decades long federal class action argued over whether California should pay millions of dollars in fines for failing to meet a court mandate over the number of mental health professionals for prisons. The court proceeding stems from the 1990 class action called Coleman v. Newsom, a legal action about mental health care in state prisons. However, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has had some success. Its vacancy rates for mental health professionals dropped between 2018 and 2022. It’s also increased its use of telepsychiatry.

The Appeal: Georgia Prisoners Can Be Denied Vital Halfway House Placement Due to Medical Conditions
In Georgia, some incarcerated people seeking transfers to transitional centers may face a troubling predicament: they may need to choose between access to vital medical treatments and the opportunity for successful rehabilitation. There are only 12 transitional centers in Georgia, which contain roughly 2,300 TC beds. Only two of those centers are accessible to women. Denying medical care to incarcerated people with chronic medical needs, who also need placement at these centers, can significantly reduce their chances of successful reintegration.

New York Times: F.B.I. Investigating Charges of Abuse by Baton Rouge Police in ‘Brave Cave’
A grandmother detained by the Baton Rouge police for mixing two different prescription pills in the same container said officers interrogated and humiliated her in an unmarked “torture warehouse” known as the Brave Cave, according to a lawsuit. She was held at the warehouse for more than two hours before being released without being charged, according to the suit, which identified the officers as Troy Lawrence Jr. and Matthew Wallace.

KY3: Starting Monday, Missouri prison inmates no longer able to receive books from friends or family
Inmates in Missouri correctional centers are no longer allowed to receive reading materials purchased by family and friends from a bona fide vendor. This is all under a new policy adopted by the state Department of Corrections. These new restrictions come after a decision last year to ban all physical mail from entering DOC facilities. Although family members and friends could not personally bring books to inmates before, now they won’t be able to pick out what books inmates receive.

North Carolina
NC Health News: Expanded prison medical release eligibility provides opportunity for more sick, aging incarcerated people to go home before they die
Advocates hope to see the North Carolina prison system grant more medical release to ease the burden of an aging prison population and to give families time with loved ones before death. Language in this year’s state budget that passed last month expands the eligibility criteria for medical release from North Carolina prisons, potentially providing more sick and aging incarcerated people the opportunity to go home before they die.

The Oklahoman: Another lawsuit filed in federal court against Oklahoma County's jail after inmate's death
Oklahoma County and its troubled jail face yet another lawsuit that claims a detainee was denied constitutional rights. The latest lawsuit filed earlier this week seeks financial compensation for the death of Kyle Steven Shaw, 36, who is one of more than 40 detainees who have died at Oklahoma County's jail since July 2020 after its operation was taken over by the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority.

The Messenger: Scabies Outbreak Reported at Utah Prison
An outbreak of scabies has forced dozens of prisoners in Utah into quarantine. The skin condition, caused by parasitic mites crawling into a person’s skin and laying eggs, has been detected in at least 57 people in the Green Unit of the Utah State Correctional Facility, in Salt Lake City.

Vermont Public: Vermont renews out-of-state prison contract with private company
The Department of Corrections announced that it will renew its contract with CoreCivic and continue to incarcerate about 120 Vermonters out-of-state. Vermont has held more than 100 people at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Mississippi since 2018. Criminal justice reform advocates say it’s unclear why the state still needs to incarcerate people out-of-state. Prison population has been greatly reduced.

Rikers Island

The City: New Council Bill Would Shine Light on Jail Deaths
Department of Correction officials would have to notify the public after any death in custody within 24 hours if a bill set to be introduced Thursday becomes law. Eight people have died behind bars this year so far, including three at the George R. Vierno Center, one of eight jails on Rikers Island.

Hospice Care

Hospice News: Incarcerated Seniors Lack Access to Hospice Care
The end-of-life experience looks very different for seniors in prison, with many lacking access to support around the most basic human needs, according to David Garlock. He is a formerly incarcerated criminal justice reform advocate and reentry expert. Not only do clinicians have limited windows of time at the bedside with incarcerated patients, but they also may not be able to provide the full scope of interdisciplinary services involved – including basic comfort and pain management

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

WGBH: Why people leave prison 'more broken' than when they entered
For years, advocates have recognized incarceration can lead to mental health trauma in inmates that continues after their release. In 2001, addiction specialist Terence Gorski coined the term “post-incarceration syndrome” (PICS) for this trauma, describing it as a combination of post-traumatic stress disorder, institutionalization, antisocial personality traits, social sensory deprivation and substance use. Although the term PICS is widely used among inmates and justice reform organizations, it is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

Spotlight PA: Four takeaways from our event discussing incarceration and mental health in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania laws and policies meant to aid people with severe mental health issues and who have been accused of a crime often do just the opposite. They often trap people in the very place making them worse — jail. The system can strand people with serious mental health needs in jail and prolong their detention for low-level crimes that experts say are often a symptom of mental illness.

New York Times: 9 Deputies Indicted in Death of Man Beaten in Memphis Jail
Nine sheriff’s deputies in Memphis have been indicted in the death of a man with mental health problems who died in custody last fall after being stomped, punched and pinned down. It is the latest case to draw attention to how law enforcement responds to people in mental distress.

Missouri Independent: Missourians wait an average of 8 months in jail for court-ordered mental health services
Missourians who are arrested, deemed unfit to stand trial and ordered into mental health treatment are now detained in jail for an average of eight months before being transferred to a mental health facility. Those patients languish in jails — often solitary confinement because they must be isolated from the incarcerated population.

Corrections 1: Prison reform and staff wellness are inextricably linked
Corrections staff operate under work conditions and in environments that research convincingly shows are GUARANTEED to produce poor health and undermine the wellbeing of those who function in them. To name a few, custody staff in particular deal with excessive workloads, time pressure, low social support, low rewards, exposure to traumatic and other high-stress events, and the ever-present, endemic partial chronic sleep deprivation. Physically harsh environments add to the negative conditions.


Correctional Nurse.Net: Addressing Food Allergies in Corrections
A coordinated response to food allergies is needed in every facility. Facilities should have a protocol addressing actions custody and medical staff will take to respond to true food allergies. Besides diet, housing and work detail issues, a coordinated emergency response to a reaction is needed. Epi-pens are the standard mechanism for emergency treatment of an allergic reaction. Incarcerated individuals are not able to carry needles on their person so the location and accountability for epi-pens should be considered.


Alive: Fulton County Jail starts to use wristbands to monitor inmates' health
After months of delays, the Fulton County Sheriff's Office (GA) is starting to use wearable wristbands to monitor the health of county inmates. In April, county commissioners, approved a contract for $2 million in emergency funds, after an inmate was found dead in his cell covered with bedbugs. The contract was for 1,000 watches.

Truthout: “E-Carceration” Is the Newest Surveillance Trend Spreading Across the Globe
The United States remains the largest site of electronic monitoring usage. While prison populations in the U.S. have declined by about 13 percent since the 2010 census, ankle monitors and other e-carceration devices have widened their net. The average daily case load of people on pretrial and post-prison monitors in the U.S. in 2021 was approximately 368,000, an enormous leap from the 2015 figure of 125,000. Colorado-based BI Incorporated, the world’s largest supplier of electronic monitors, began as a cattle tracking company.


Immigration Impact: Biden Administration Fights to Keep Private Immigration Jails Open, Despite Promises
“There should be no private prisons, period, none, period. And we are working to close all of them.” Those are the words of President Joe Biden in April 2021, when he was called out by immigrant rights activists at a rally celebrating his 100th day in office. Now, more than two years later, the Biden administration has successfully advocated to keep private immigration jails open in the state of New Jersey. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kirsch ruled in favor of private prison company CoreCivic to hold unconstitutional a New Jersey law that bans private corporations.

Nashville Scene: Prison Watchdog Urges Federal Oversight of Tennessee Prison
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a national criminal justice reform organization, has called for a federal investigation into Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, a state prison in Hartsville operated privately by CoreCivic. Despite a string of state fines that total close to $20 million, CoreCivic continues to operate four Tennessee prisons. The company — founded in Nashville as the Corrections Corporation of America in 1983 — won a five-year contract extension at Trousdale in 2021 and a two-year extension at South Central Correctional Center this year.

Citrus County Chronicle: Jail contract should be scrutinized
A letter to the Citrus County Chronicls criticizing CoreCivic's contract with Citrus County (FL): The last contract with Citrus County was for approximately $16 million. Yet, according to a response to our FOIA request, no county employee is directly supervising the contract. Under CoreCivic's management in Citrus County, two people have recently died in jail (2022). One was a suicide, but the other died of dehydration after four days in an isolation cell. But Citrus County is willing to discount CoreCivic's inability to meet its contractual standards. They don't need a 70% discount for failing to staff the jail correctly.

Correctional Health Care Providers

Armor Correctional Health Services/Naphcare
Tributary: From Armor to NaphCare: Unraveling the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s jail health deals
Both NaphCare and its predecessor, Armor Correctional Health Services, are fraught with controversy: hundreds of federal lawsuits filed against them, gruesome and preventable deaths of inmates and millions of dollars worth of fines for not upholding contractual standards. There’s the Georgia man who entered a NaphCare jail with no disabilities and left unable to walk, bathe himself or use the bathroom because staff ignored his pleas for medical care. In Duval County, NCCHC found that Armor staff did not finish initial health screenings – which are supposed to be done within four hours of an arrest – about 65% of the time. The review also found staff did not complete 30% of 14-day health screenings.

New York Times: Prosecutor Dismisses Last Criminal Charge in Inmate’s Death
In the end, no one will be held criminally responsible for the death nearly four years ago of a man who repeatedly exclaimed, “I can’t breathe,” as officers tried unsuccessfully to remove his handcuffs at a North Carolina jail. During his first night in custody, after he missed at least two doses from his inhaler, Mr. Neville, who had asthma, experienced a medical emergency that caused him to fall from a top bunk to the concrete floor, his family said in a lawsuit. The on-call nurse at the jail who worked for Wellpath, and five former officers at the jail were charged in July 2020 with involuntary manslaughter in Mr. Neville’s death.

Monterey County Weekly: Judge finds Monterey County Jail’s health care contractor in violation of inmate conditions settlement.
A federal judge ruled that Monterey County Jail’s for-profit health care provider, Wellpath, is in violation of a class-action settlement over inadequate inmate conditions at the Salinas facility—and has given the company six months to improve its services or risk paying over $1 million in penalties. U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman ruled that Wellpath “is not in substantial compliance” with 43 of 44 requirements laid out in the 2015 settlement agreement that are meant to improve medical, mental and dental health care conditions at Monterey County Jail.

WIS 10: WellPath employee charged with abuse of vulnerable adult
A WellPath Recovery Solutions employee is facing charges for physically assaulting a vulnerable adult who was in his care. According to an incident report, 38-year-old Aubrey James Womack grabbed a WellPath resident around the neck and pushed them into the wall. Womack was charged with physical abuse of a vulnerable adult. “The allegations were corroborated through interviews, surveillance videos and information provided to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED),” the incident report read.

USA Today: A prison medical company faced lawsuits from incarcerated people. Then it went ‘bankrupt.’
Corizon, a company that provided healthcare in prisons and jails across the country, moved most of its debts to a new company called Tehum Care Services that then declared bankruptcy, in a controversial corporate restructuring known as a “Texas Two-Step.” Then, Corizon executives created another company to do business under a new name — YesCare — a move that critics say could allow Corizon to minimize its liability. In fact, YesCare inked a contract worth more than $1 billion in Alabama, even as Corizon’s creditors may be left empty-handed.

In Observation Of Indigenous Peoples' Day
COCHS Weekly Update Will Not Be Published Next Week