Weekly Update: June 27, 2023

COCHS Weekly Update: June 27, 2023

Highlighted Stories

JAMA: Nowhere Else to Go—Solitary Confinement as Mental Health Care
Solitary confinement is not a substitute for mental health care—the medical community must communicate this message loudly and demand investments in the community mental health services that patients need and deserve. Placing incarcerated people in psychiatric distress into seclusion may be well-intentioned, with the goal of ensuring safety long enough to determine appropriate next steps. Yet these seclusion practices raise clinical, ethical, and legal concerns. Incarcerated people in psychiatric distress are often placed in degrading conditions. Incarcerated people too often remain confined in these restrictive settings for prolonged periods.

Los Angeles Times: County avoids contempt hearing over jail conditions: federal judge approves settlement
Days before a federal court was set to consider whether to hold Los Angeles County in contempt for failing to fix problems inside the Inmate Reception Center, U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson has approved a settlement agreement under which local leaders are promising to make broad changes to improve jail conditions. The ACLU filed a 27-page motion alleging that the county had flouted the court’s order by tethering inmates to benches and gurneys for hours at a time, locking people in cells covered with trash and feces and leaving them to sleep on crowded intake center floors with nothing but plastic bags to keep warm.

Department Of Justice: Justice Department Releases New Tool to Manage Substance Withdrawals in Jails
The number of those in jail who died from drug or alcohol intoxication increased nearly 400% from 2000 to 2019. Less often recognized, but also potentially fatal, is the risk of substance withdrawal complications. A committee of clinicians compiled recommendations, grounded in evidence-based practice, for identifying individuals who are at risk for withdrawal and determining the appropriate level of medical care. “As a member of the expert committee, I can attest to the rigor of the process for developing the guidelines,” said Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Marc Stern of the National Sheriffs’ Association.

Federation Of American Scientist: Health Care Coverage for the Incarcerated Population to Reduce Opioid-Related Relapse, Overdose, and Recidivism Rates
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorders (OUDs) can help some sustain recovery. However, there are many barriers that interfere with the distribution of medication. A root of the issue is the failure to provide pre-release healthcare coverage to incarcerated individuals in order for them to continue having coverage post-release.


Prison Policy Initiative: New data on HIV in prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic underscore links between HIV and incarceration
The rate of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. has been steadily declining for decades, but people in prisons are still disproportionately living with the virus. New data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report HIV in Prisons, 2021 indicates that some state prison systems are completely out-of-step with the rest of the nation and have experienced an increase in HIV prevalence since 1991.


Chronicle: Tacoma Woman With Tuberculosis Asks for 'Relief From Confinement’
A woman was ordered to "remain quarantined in detention at the Pierce County Jail ... for a period not to exceed 45 days beginning on June 15, 2023. The woman was arrested on June 1. The arrest was the result of a civil bench warrant over noncompliance involving isolation and treatment dating back to January 2022. A year-long pursuit of compliance hit a new level of urgency in April after a report from law enforcement filed with the court noted the woman was seen riding a city bus and arriving at a local casino.

Customs and Border Protection

Washington Post: Inquiry after girl’s death reports unsafe medical care in U.S. border facilities
A Department of Homeland Security medical team investigating the recent death of an 8-year-old girl in Texas told U.S. border officials that their system of care for migrants is unsafe and needs a major overhaul. The girl's death prompted U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to remove the chief medical officer and place U.S. border facilities under the supervision of DHS medical officials and a team of doctors from the U.S. Public Health Service. CBP has not developed the kind of medical record-keeping and case-management system used by ICE


Sentencing Project: Left to Die in Prison: Emerging Adults 25 and Younger Sentenced to Life without Parole
Two in five people sentenced to life without parole were 25 and under at the time of their conviction, despite irrefutable evidence that their younger age contributes to diminished capacity to comprehend the risk and consequences. But more than a dozen states have introduced or passed legislative reforms in recent years to protect emerging adults from extreme punishment. These reforms utilize the latest scientific understanding of adolescence and young adulthood to recognize emerging adulthood as a necessary consideration in assigning culpability.

Medicaid Webinar

JD-Supra / Manatt: Medicaid Coverage Opportunities for Justice-Involved Populations: CMS Guidance and States’ Approaches
Manatt Health will share an overview of the federal guidance and other states’ approaches to pursuing and obtaining approval for a Justice-Involved Reentry Initiative 1115 Demonstration to provide critical services to support reentry.

State Roundup

Corrections 1: Ala. inmates’ HIV rates triple rest of population
Alabama prison inmates are about three times as likely as other residents to have HIV, according to a new report. The states with the nation’s highest rates of HIV in prison are in the South, according to the report, due to the high rates of HIV among Black men. The group found that Black inmates are also more likely to die of HIV.

FOX 40: Bill in California legislature aims to keep incarcerated parents closer to their children
A bill that would require incarcerated parents in California to be housed in facilities closest to their children is one step closer to becoming law. The bill would require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to make a concerted effort to house California inmates closer to their children or children in their legal care. Inmates with children who are currently incarcerated would also have the ability to request transfer to the facility closest to their custodial children.

Orange County Register: Gov. Newsom and the state’s prison guard union
For years, the California Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom have signed off on lucrative and unjustified contracts for the state prison guard union, despite warnings from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office that legally required compensation studies were not being conducted. Now, the Newsom administration is pulling a fast one on California taxpayers with a flawed study to justify big giveaways to the prison guard union.

KVTA: Ventura County Grand Jury Says Not Enough Being Done To Prevent Jail Inmate Deaths
The Ventura County Grand Jury has issued a report that says the Ventura County Sheriff's Office needs to do more to prevent inmate deaths in their facilities in Ventura and near Santa Paula. The panel says between 2016 and 2022 there were 25 deaths of persons detained by the sheriff's office. It was found that current protocols and training on suicide prevention do not follow recommended best practices.

CalMatters: More California prisoners are requesting gender-affirming health care, including surgeries
The number of California prisoners requesting gender-affirming health care more than doubled last year, and the state’s corrections agency expects the trend to continue even as the overall state inmate population is projected to decline. As of December, 20 inmates since 2017 had received gender-affirming surgery. Another 150 surgeries had been approved, but not completed, according to the budget documents.

Hartford Courant: Serious assault of CT correction officer highlights need for mental health support, time to ‘decompress’
Union representatives for Connecticut Department of Correction officers are calling for more mental health support and time to “decompress” after a correction officer was seriously assaulted by an inmate at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield. Union officials said the facility was put into lockdown following the assault and was back to normal operations the next day. They argued that the prison should have remained in lockdown for a day or two to allow both prison employees and inmates time to decompress.

UMass Chan: UMass Chan, Worcester County Jail to collaborate on substance use treatment program research
UMass Chan Medical School and the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and Jail & House of Correction are collaborating on a pilot program studying substance use treatment programs available to incarcerated individuals. The program, led by Ekaterina Pivovarova, PhD, assistant professor of family medicine & community health and clinical psychologist, will look at the substance use treatment programs offered at the jail, including the six-month abstinence Substance Abuse Treatment Opportunity Program, or STOP, and compare the programs to other treatments being offered at the jail.

The Advocate: 1 in 4 inmates killed in Louisiana jails hadn't been tried yet, study finds
Almost a quarter of inmates who died from violence behind bars in Louisiana over a six-year period were housed primarily in local jails and had not yet been convicted of the crimes of which they were accused, a recent report by Loyola University found. The study was conducted by Loyola Law students who gathered records of the 1,168 in-custody deaths reported between 2015 and 2021.

US News & World Report: 8 People Charged in Death of Mentally Ill Michigan Prison Inmate
Eight people were charged Tuesday in the death of a Michigan prison inmate who lost 50 pounds over two weeks and died of dehydration while being restrained in 2019. Two prison officials at the time and four nurses were charged with involuntary manslaughter, following an investigation by state police. Two prison officers face charges of misconduct.

Reno Gazette Journal: Advocates praise prison reform legislative victories
Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo has signed several bills lauded by prison advocacy groups, including legislation that ends medical copays, reigns in markups on hygiene items inmates purchase, requires policies to protect transgender and nonbinary inmates, and limits the use of solitary confinement.

New Jersey
NBC: 3 inmates convicted in ‘vicious' microwave, mop bucket beating that left NJ man brain damaged
Three jail inmates in New Jersey were convicted in the brutal beating almost two years ago that left a fellow inmate with permanent brain damage. The seven-on-one attack went on for two minutes and 23 seconds. The family of the man is now suing the county and correction officials. Attorney Brooke Barnett says the duration of the beating with no intervention by jail guards was unacceptable. According to internal documents, there have been a total of 17 inmate-on-inmate or inmate-on-staff incidents since March of this year.

New Jersey Monitor: Bill would expand effort to give nonviolent offenders mental health treatment
A Senate panel approved a measure Tuesday to expand an intervention program that diverts some nonviolent offenders to mental health treatment programs. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), would expand mental health diversion programs that exist in five New Jersey counties to three new court jurisdictions.

New York
Gothamist: Classrooms serve as cells at NYC’s troubled juvenile detention centers
Classrooms in the city’s juvenile detention centers are being used as cells nearly every day while staff struggle to curb a spike in violent attacks, employees say. Violence between detainees is so prevalent that employees say they have no choice but to lock the kids in classrooms with a staffer – often into the early morning, where they sometimes sleep on chairs lined in a row.

Conduit Street: Oklahoma Program is Reducing Female Incarceration and Combating Generational Effect
According to a Route-Fifty article, 80 percent of women in local jails have minor children. With these staggering statistics a Tulsa, Oklahoma program, Women in Recovery, was born out of a study commissioned by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Services offer group therapy and treatment for addiction, mental health issues, and past trauma. The program also helps with parenting and reuniting women with children, assistance with family relations, housing, education and stable, meaningful employment with livable wages.

VT Digger: The Deeper Dig: A spate of deaths focuses attention on Vermont prisons and the Department of Corrections
It’s not unusual for Vermont’s Department of Corrections to be at the center of debate. The department manages six prisons across Vermont, with more than 1,000 incarcerated people in the system. Since January 2022, 16 incarcerated people have died — 12 at one prison, the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield. That has focused even more attention on the Department of Corrections as well as the health care and conditions in Vermont’s prisons.

Filter: Medical Privacy Is Still Our Right in Prison, Unless It Involves Psych Meds
Psychiatric medications are a risk factor in Washington Offender Needs Evaluation, the classification assessment that determines a prisoner’s “likelihood of reoffending.” Privacy laws protect disclosure of any prescriptions or diagnoses but there is access to anything documented by security officers which can in turn lead to a request for a complete file.

Medical Express: As demand for mental health services overwhelms WA jails, judge revisits settlement
Wait times for people in Washington jails to get into state psychiatric facilities continue to "skyrocket" five years after a settlement promised to prevent that from happening, a court monitor told a federal judge in Seattle on Monday. The state has racked up millions of dollars in fines, court cases are delayed, and people with mental illnesses are stuck in jail for months, at a cost to their own health and to local jails who care for them.

Rikers Island

NY Times: Judge Casts Doubt on New York City’s Ability to Run Rikers Island Jails
A federal judge on Tuesday said that recent reports of violence and negligence on Rikers Island raised “profound questions” about New York City’s ability to protect detainees and jail staff — and for the first time signaled that she might be willing to consider a federal takeover of the notorious jail complex.

NY Times: Jails Officer Faked Suicide Prevention Training for 74 Guards, D.A. Says
Amid a suicide crisis in New York City’s jails, a correction officer falsified records to show that scores of her peers had taken a suicide prevention course that they had not actually completed. The Rikers Island officer, Vinette Tucker-Frederick, was said by the Bronx district attorney’s office to have awarded credit for the course to 74 officers who were on leave in 2021.

The City: Lawsuit Claims Rikers Officers Ignored Detainee Who Died Following Overdose
A Rikers Island detainee, Mejia Martinez, in the midst of a fatal methadone overdose was left alone and unconscious in his cell for more than three hours after staggering around a jail in plain view of correction officers, a new lawsuit charges. Still images of Rikers video footage that were included in court papers show a correction officer walking past Mejia Martinez while he was slumped over a stairwell.

San Diego County

San Diego Union Tribune: Sheriff agrees to reforms to improve jail conditions for disabled people in custody
San Diego County Sheriff has agreed to a series of reforms to better protect disabled people in department custody, days before a federal court hearing. The county was sued last year by disability-rights attorneys. The complaint accuses the sheriff of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by placing people with mobility issues in upper bunks, failing to provide sign-language interpreters and not adhering to other rules regarding detainees with special needs.

San Diego Union Tribune: Doctor, nurse face preliminary hearing in jail-death case
By every account Elisa Serna died a horrible death, slumped alone on the floor of a Las Colinas women’s jail cell for an hour while San Diego County sheriff’s deputies and jail medical staff went about their business. Now, nearly four years after Serna died in San Diego County custody, a nurse and doctor assigned to the jail will be fighting criminal charges in an El Cajon courtroom.

First Amendment Rights

Marshall Project: A Battle Over First Amendment Rights in Prisons
New York state prisons were quietly adopting new rules to clamp down on writing, music, art and other creative work from people inside. Incarcerated artists and outside nonprofits, who wanted to publish the materials, would both have to submit it to internal reviewers first. Facing a public backlash, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision announced Wednesday that it was rescinding the directive entirely. New York state has a history as a leading prison censor.

Prison Policy Initiative: How prisons suppress prison journalism
Which state correctional institutions permit journalism behind the walls? PPI provides a list of what each state allows.


Injustice Watch: ‘I call it pretend freedom’: Older adults coming out of Illinois prisons face steep roadblocks in their reentry journey
Older adults coming out of prison face unique challenges on top of the social stigma facing all former prisoners. Many end up homeless and unemployed, and their criminal records can sometimes block them from accessing safety net programs meant to prevent older adults from falling into poverty. Criminal justice reform advocates want state lawmakers to allow more incarcerated older adults to get out early, so they can have a better chance at building a stable life after prison, especially because older adults are less likely to reoffend.

Corrections 1: Two effective jail-based mental health interventions to reduce crime
A 2018 study by the National Institute of Justice that tracked more than 400,000 individuals for nine years post-release from incarceration suggests approximately 44% of inmates will re-offend within one year of release, 68% within three years, and a staggering 83% within nine years. Colorado’s Summit County Sheriff’s Office implemented a new program to confront this issue. Known as Strategies to Avoid Relapse and Recidivism (STARR), the core mission of the program team is to improve outcomes related to mental health, substance use and associated criminal activity.

OJP: Research and Evaluation in Corrections: Restoring Promise
A new report details an NIJ-funded evaluation of the Restoring Promise initiative, which creates prison housing units for young adults grounded in dignity. Researchers found that its approach to prison culture change led to significant reductions in violence among young adults — and overall improved safety of those both living and working in the units.

Mental Health Initiatives in Corrections

Corrections 1: Colo. prisons must reform use of restraints on mentally ill inmates under new law
Colorado’s prisons must reform their use of metal restraints on mentally ill inmates in the coming four years under a new bill signed into law Tuesday regulating a practice that one lawmaker likened to torture. There were 219 “restraint events” involving inmates in five Colorado prisons between 2020 and 2022, according to a state fiscal analysis of the bill. One former inmate told the Denver Post in October that he was chained at the wrists and ankles for 20 consecutive hours.

KXAN: What’s the latest on Travis County’s mental health diversion center?
Back in late March, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted to move forward with recommendations made by the Dell Medical School’s forensic mental health report — including the creation of a mental health diversion center. So far, the county has hired a project worker to assist with the community engagement components of the project. They are also looking into funding availabilities to bring on a project manager to oversee the project and make sure all the working groups are aligned on project goals.

Topeka Capital Journal: Shawnee County Jail seeks $17 million addition to assist inmates with mental health issues
Shawnee County (KS) took a key step toward creating a new jail addition that will specifically provide living quarters for inmates with mental health issues. County commissioners authorized the county corrections department to begin final negotiations with Topeka-based KBS Constructors Inc. on a contract to design and build the addition. The county expects the project to cost $17 million to $18 million.

Patch: Mental Health Care, Not Prison: NJ Bill Would Create Diversion Program
In New Jersey a bill might create a “first of its kind” statewide mental health diversion court initiative. The goal? To steer eligible people away from the criminal justice system and into “appropriate case management and mental health services,” according to one of its sponsors, Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (NJ-28).The bill would establish mental health diversion courts in three high-need vicinages in the north, central and south parts of New Jersey.

News On 6: Bill Veto By Gov. Stitt Means Delays For Inmate Mental Health Evaluations
The Rogers County (OK) Sheriff's Office is frustrated with Governor Stitt's decision to veto a bill that would have given inmates with mental health problems the help they need faster. As it stands now, inmates could sit in a jail cell, waiting to get an evaluation and eventually treatment. The bill had support from offices across the state including law enforcement, the court system and mental health.

Aspen Times: Mental health care to continue for jail inmates
The Pitkin County Jail will continue providing mental-health and substance-abuse services to inmates, thanks to a renewed contract the county commissioners. Colorado Department of Human Services and Office of Behavioral Health will provide $206,350 in Fiscal Year 2024. The county will subcontract with a clinician provider and a psychiatric provider to deliver behavioral services to incarcerated individuals.


Prism: Torture with impunity runs rampant in ICE facilities
Hunger strikes, federal investigations into abuse, and complaints against immigration agencies have made the Biden administration aware of the practices used at New Mexico’s Torrance County Detention Facility. Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported in 2022 that officials violated contractual obligations at Torrance by not meeting “standards for facility conditions, facility security, medical care, use of force, detainee classification, communication between staff and detainees, and access to legal services.”

Correctional Health Care Vendors

WJCT: Duval jail kept medical provider despite lawsuits and deaths
Despite hundreds of lawsuits against Armor Correctional Health Services, millions of dollars worth of settlements and dead inmates across the country, Jacksonville leaders signed contracts twice with the company, allowing it to run the Duval County jail’s health care for the last six years. For the last four months, every city official connected to the approval of the contract has failed to answer questions about the jail outsourcing its medical care when contacted by phone, email or text.

Action News Now: Federal lawsuit claims Butte County Jail, WellPath responsible for death of 62-year-old man
A federal lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of California on June 12 said that Dario Ceragioli, 62, died of an untreated infection while in jail custody. The lawsuit said that Ceragioli was suffering from an overwhelming infection that lead to violent and psychotic behavior, including attacking a logging truck while naked.

Atlanta Journal Constitution: DeKalb jail had medical staff shortages
“It has been brought to my attention that we are now NOT or minimally staffed in critical areas such as intake, medication room and main clinic, causing these operations to cease towards the end of the contract,” Kareem Martin, Dekalb County (GA) health services manager, wrote in an email to Wellpath. Wellpath and the jail’s other medical provider, Centurion Health, were named along with the sheriff in a lawsuit about the death of Anthony Lamar Walker, a mentally ill man who died from hypothermia in the jail.

Post & Courier: Calls to hospitalize Charleston County inmate days before death fell on deaf ears
Medical staff at the Charleston County jail disregarded two outside doctors’ recommendations to hospitalize an ailing inmate just days before he died from heart and renal failure in the jail, according to documents shared with The Post and Courier. The county contracts with Wellpath, the largest private health care provider to jails and prisons across the country, to provide inmate medical services.

Lens: City Council delays proposed $21 million contract extension for Wellpath, controversial jail healthcare provider
Despite serious concerns about whether detainees are receiving adequate care, city officials have asked the New Orleans City Council to sign off on a year-long $21.2 million contract with Wellpath. But the council declined to approve the contract, instead opting to quietly defer it to the June 22 meeting.

In Observation Of Independence Day
COCHS Weekly Update Will Not Be Published Next Week