Weekly Update: March 7, 2023

COCHS Weekly Update: March 07, 2023

Highlighted Stories

NEJM: Health Care in U.S. Correctional Facilities — A Limited and Threatened Constitutional Right
The recent Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization underscores the hazard of failing to codify health care rights through legislation. Justice Samuel Alito returned to a particular originalist interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of liberty and rejected the precedent of interpreting the amendment in an evolving way. A similar originalist turn could jeopardize the right to adequate health care for incarcerated persons. In Miller v. Alabama (2012), an Eighth Amendment case on the mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders Alito issued a dissent that hints at the contours of a possible overturning of Estelle v. Gamble.

Harvard Gazette: Supreme Court may halt health care guarantees for inmates
Interview with the authors of the NEJM article cited above.

GAO: Bureau of Prisons: Assessment of Health Care Reentry Policies and Procedures Needed
GAO found that BOP has not assessed the effectiveness of its health care reentry policies and procedures, including the targeting of assistance by inmate health needs and what assistance is provided. This is inconsistent with federal internal control standards, which recommend agencies periodically reassess policies and procedures for continued effectiveness. The GAO recommends that the Director of BOP should assess the effectiveness of the bureau's policies and procedures for facilitating enrollment in Medicaid or other health care coverage for inmates nearing reentry, and for helping ensure continuity of care upon release from BOP custody.

NC Health News: NC House and Senate Republicans reach milestone Medicaid expansion deal, but Democratic governor questions the timeline
Leaders of the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives announced Thursday morning that they had reached an agreement on how to expand the state’s Medicaid program to cover hundreds of thousands of mostly low-income workers with health care. Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) said that the proposal agreed upon Wednesday night will build upon a bill that passed the House of Representatives on Feb. 16 with a wide bipartisan majority. The Medicaid program will not be expanded unless a state budget for the coming biennium is passed and enacted.


FORE: Webinar: Expanding Access to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment During and After Incarceration (3/23/2023)
In response to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approval of California’s 1115 waiver amendment application to use federal Medicaid to pay for certain health care services inside jails, prisons, and youth correctional facilities, FORE has announced a webinar that will explore examples of what next steps are needed to leverage this policy change and expand access to MOUD treatmentn.

Corrections 1: Avoiding deliberate indifference in corrections
Inmates have a constitutional right to adequate medical care. A correctional facility and its employees cannot intentionally or recklessly deny an inmate medical care. This means a correctional institution cannot prevent access to care or ignore a physician’s order and prescriptions. One example that has played out in courts across the United States involves an inmate’s access to medications for opioid use disorder or OUD. Courts have found that withdrawal from opiate addiction can cause significant pain and medical risk. Courts have also held that denying or significantly delaying OUD medications could be considered deliberate indifference to an inmate’s medical needs.

Fierce Healthcare: Bicycle Health partners with Bureau of Prisons to provide opioid use disorder treatment at reentry centers
Bicycle Health has teamed up with Wellpath and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to provide opioid use disorder treatment to incarcerated individuals. Bicycle Health, the telehealth provider for OUD, will provide the care, while services will be reimbursed by Wellpath. Wellpath is one of the country’s largest providers for prisoners and other vulnerable patients.

Funding Opportunities

BJA: Available Funding
BJA has announced funding for corrections related opportunities which include: Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program, Improving Adult and Youth Crisis Stabilization and Community Reentry Program, Improving Substance Use Disorder Treatment, and Recovery Outcomes for Adults in Reentry, Collaborative Crisis Response and Intervention Training Program.


KTVU: Disabled woman says Dublin prison officials took away her walker
A disabled woman incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute at Dublin said her walker was taken away from her a few days after KTVU published a report about her health grievances at the all-women's facility. Communicating via email through an English-speaking inmate, Maura Martinez said that when she went to the prison's health services on Thursday, to seek help with aches, pains and coughing, the medical staff "immediately" took her walker away from her.


Government Executive: ICE, Prison Targeted Immigrants Seeking Medical Care, Complaint Says
Staff at two federal immigration detention facilities in Nevada have engaged in retaliatory transfers and medical abuse, including refusing to treat “a severe case of trench foot” for one migrant detainee, a new federal civil rights complaint alleges. The complaint filed last week claims five migrants detained at the Nye County Jail and Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump faced a pattern of retaliatory transfers for asking for treatment of unaddressed medical needs — a violation of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Data & Statistics

BJS: Employment of State and Federal Prisoners Prior to Incarceration, 2016
This brief Just the Stats report presents data on employment of state and federal prisoners in the 30 days prior to arrest for the offense for which they were incarcerated. The web-based report compares the differences in characteristics of those state and federal prisoners who were employed.

Prison Policy Initiative: Introducing our profile of Native incarceration in the U.S.
This 50 state profiles, plus one for D.C. and another for the nation as a whole, draw on graphs made from reports issued as part of the National Incarceration Briefing Series. Adding to this body of work, is a profile of Native incarceration in the United States to illuminate what data exists about the mass incarceration of Native people.


Washington State Department of Health: Masking requirements in healthcare, long-term care, and correctional facilities to end April 3
Effective April 3, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) will end the Secretary of Health Mask Order, which currently requires universal masking in healthcare, long-term care, and adult correctional facilities for people age 5 and older. In Washington, COVID-19, RSV, and influenza disease rates and hospitalizations have continued to decline since the end of last year. The end of Washington’s universal masking requirements aligns with similar announcement made today by the state of Oregon.

State Roundup

Alabama Political Reporter: Incarcerated man dies at St. Clair Correctional Facility
An incarcerated man, O.C. Borden, has been reported dead at St. Clair Correctional Facility, according to a spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections. Borden’s death is believed to be an overdose, according to a source with knowledge of the incident who spoke to APR. The ADOC has not confirmed this. Aat least five other incarcerated individuals have been confirmed dead in state custody this February.

California Healthline: Judge to Fine California Each Day It Fails to Complete Prisoner Suicide Prevention Measures
A federal judge said this week that she will begin fining California potentially tens of thousands of dollars daily after more than 200 prison inmates killed themselves during eight years in which state corrections officials failed to complete court-ordered suicide prevention measures. Addressing a chronic tragedy that has plagued the state for decades, Chief U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller said she will start the fines April 1 — $1,000 a day for each of 15 unmet safeguards until all the state’s 34 adult prisons are in full compliance.

Sacramento Bee: Sacramento sheriff reverses stance, agrees to provide warm clothing to jail inmates
Sacramento Sheriff Jim Cooper has reversed his position on providing cold-weather gear to jail inmates, with the county informing advocates late that the sheriff will use inmate welfare funds to buy warm clothing for all inmates. The reversal comes one day after The Sacramento Bee reported that the county had rejected a plea from Prison Law Office advocates to provide warmer clothing at the Sacramento County Main Jail and Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, where inmates were provided only short-sleeve T-shirts during recent winter storms in the region.

Marin IJ: Former San Quentin guard sentenced for cellphone smuggling
A former guard at San Quentin State Prison has been sentenced to 20 months in prison for his role in a cellphone smuggling scheme. Keith Christopher, 38, of Pittsburg pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to commit fraud and bribery along with his half-brother Isaiah Wells. In November 2020, prison guards found a cellphone in the jacket of a prisoner named only as “Inmate 1” in court records. When agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation analyzed the phone, they connected the first inmate to a second, as well as to Christopher and the other defendants, according to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Candace Bond.

AP: California bill could mean more mentally ill people detained
A state law allows courts to order people into treatment, but only if they are “a danger to themselves or others.” This new proposal would expand that definition to include people who, because of a mental illness or an addiction to illegal drugs, are not capable of caring for themselves or protecting their own safety. Local leaders say their hands are tied in many cases because the people who need the most help refuse to take it.

Guardian: Florida court denies habeas corpus petition for fetus of jailed woman
A Florida appeals court denied an attorney’s attempt to have a woman released from jail ahead of trial by arguing that her fetus was being illegally detained without charge – but the attorney says he plans to continue the legal battle. The petition argued that the fetus is “a person under the Florida constitution and the United States constitution” and that it therefore should not effectively be detained without charge.

Crime Report: Court Fines Promote Juvenile Recidivism, Not Rehabilitation
A recent study set out to determine how monetary sanctions can affect the likelihood young people will reoffend. Do fees and fines act as a deterrent, steering juvenile offenders away from future crimes? Researchers found that fees and restitution assessed against young people actually increased juvenile recidivism in Florida. This was especially true for Black and Hispanic youth who received more costly fines, even though both groups had financial penalties assessed at similar proportions to white juvenile offenders.

West Hawaii Today: ‘Still more to be done’ HCCC facility has seen improvements following commission’s report, but it’s not enough
Last September, the Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission published a report outlining a laundry list of poor conditions in HCCC, ranging from hygiene deficiencies, safety and security concerns, and, most notably, chronic overcrowding. A series of monthly follow-up reports have noted that many of these problems have been addressed, but not the overcrowding issue.

NBC: 'Stop praying now': Bonne Terre prison guards beat, pepper-spray Muslim inmates, lawsuit alleges
At a Missouri Department of Corrections facility in Bonne Terre, nine inmates stood shoulder to shoulder, preparing to kneel, prostrate, and praise God — an act of worship they’ve done hundreds of times before. According to a lawsuit filed last week, a prison guard ordered the men to stop praying. Seven men who continued to pray were pepper sprayed and one was viciously beaten for nothing more than praying, according to the lawsuit.

Missoula Current: House kills partisan justice elections bill, ‘constitutional sheriff’ bill
Legislators in the House said “no” on Thursday to "constitutional sheriffs". A “constitutional sheriff” bill that aimed to give county sheriffs in Montana authority over federal law enforcement officers failed on a 32-68 vote.

New York
The City: Racial Gap in City Jails Has Only Gotten Worse, John Jay Study Finds
Despite criminal justice reforms enacted over the past few years, Black people were jailed at a rate 11.6 times higher than white people in 2021 — more than double what it was five years earlier, according to a new report. That’s up from the 10.2 rate in 2020 and 4.8 in 2016, the report by John Jay College’s Data Collaborative for Justice. The report comes as Mayor Eric Adams has urged state lawmakers to further pare back bail reform laws that have made it easier for people to stay out of jail until their trials.

Oklahoma Watch: Oklahomans Languish in Jail Awaiting Mental Health Care, Federal Lawsuit Claims
More than 100 Oklahomans are languishing in county jails while awaiting court-ordered mental health treatment, according to a federal class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday against two state mental health officials. The lawsuit alleges the state mental health department and forensic center are denying plaintiffs timely and appropriate treatment, violating their 14th Amendment rights to due process and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Trib Live: Experts in lawsuit say mental health care at Allegheny County Jail is 'grossly inadequate'
Experts retained as part of a federal lawsuit over the treatment of mentally ill people being held at Allegheny County Jail said the facility’s mental health care is “shockingly substandard.” Two expert reports are part of the 2020 lawsuit filed against the jail and its leadership by the Abolitionist Law Center and the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project on behalf of several people being held there. The complaint, the result of a year-and-a-half investigation, alleges a gross failure on the part of the jail to care for those with mental illness.

Now This (You Tube): Life Inside A Toxic Prison
State Correctionl Institution at Fayette in Pennsylvania is built next to a coal ash heap. The coal waste is reported to be high in arsenic. Ash from the heap has been linked to respritory ilnesses in the correctional facility. Also impacted is the water supply whcih has turned brown.

Guardian: Texas inmates say ‘decade after decade’ of solitary confinement is torture
Texas prisoners who joined a hunger strike in protest against the state’s widespread use of prolonged solitary confinement have described the damage to inmates’ mental and physical health inflicted by a system they equate with torture. As part of their demands, the hunger strikers called for an end to the system in which inmates found to have any association with gangs are kept in isolation indefinitely, irrespective of whether they have committed any rules violations.

Rikers Island

Gothamist: NYC jail captain stands trial on charges she told staff not to help a dying detainee
A New York City jail supervisor filled out paperwork, chatted with multiple people and walked slowly around a housing unit even as she knew a man was taking steps to end his own life in his cell, prosecutors argued in state court. Capt. Rebecca Hillman, 40, is now facing a charge of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Ryan Wilson, who was 29 when he died. Prosecutors say Hillman waited 15 minutes to open the cell door after Wilson attempted to hang himself in his cell. They also said that she told subordinates not to intervene, because Wilson was “playing”. Last year, three Rikers officers and a captain were arrested for waiting to intervene when an 18-year-old attempted suicide — unsuccessfully — in 2019.

Los Angeles County Jail

Los Angeles Times: ACLU asks judge to hold sheriff and supervisors in contempt over jail conditions
The American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge Monday to find Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Robert Luna in contempt of court for failing to fix “appalling” conditions in local jails. In a 27-page motion detailing the jails’ “systemic failures,” lawyers with the civil rights organization accused the county of flouting court orders by chaining 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.

KTLA: Commission blasts former Los Angeles County Sheriff Villanueva on alleged deputy gangs
A special counsel appointed by the Civilian Oversight Commission released its scathing findings with recommendations for system-wide changes in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in regard to alleged deputy gangs. The report calls on Sheriff Robert Luna to adopt a policy that blocks deputies from participating in deputy gangs. It also found that these alleged gangs have existed in the department for at least 50 years.

AP: 3 hospitalized after possible ODs at Los Angeles area jail
Three inmates were hospitalized, one in critical condition, after possibly overdosing Tuesday in the yard of a county jail near Los Angeles, authorities said. “Preliminary information suggests they may have ingested a controlled substance,” a sheriff’s department statement said. The sheriff’s department operates the sprawling jail complex that holds than 8,500 male inmates in Castaic, about 40 mile (64 kilometers) north of downtown Los Angeles.

San Diego County Jail

San Diego Union-Tribune: Inmate died of pneumonia, malnutrition and dehydration; death ruled a homicide
A 46-year-old man found in a downtown San Diego jail cell last year died of pneumonia, malnutrition, dehydration, accompanied by “neglected schizophrenia,” according to county authorities. The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death a homicide, citing “ineffective” care from jail staff. For years, San Diego County has been plagued by a significantly higher mortality rate in its jail system, which is run by the Sheriff’s Department, compared to other large counties in the state.

Reentry Barriers

truthout: Formerly Incarcerated People Seek Discrimination Protection as “Protected Class”
Sixty-five percent of formerly incarcerated people do not have jobs at the four-year mark post-release and formerly incarcerated people are about 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general population, largely because of the institutionalized barriers people face upon conviction. In October 2022, making Atlanta the first city in the U.S. to categorize formerly incarcerated people as a protected class. This means employers, businesses, banks, schools and landlords can no longer legally discriminate against people with a criminal record, just as the law prohibits discrimination based on race, age, gender, and other characteristics.

Prison Policy Initiative: How your local public housing authority can reduce barriers for people with criminal records
Research has found that people who have been to prison just once experience homelessness at a rate nearly 7 times higher than the general public. Inevitably, part of the problem is that public housing policies — which should be a part of a crucial safety net against housing insecurity — actually discriminate against people with criminal legal involvement and criminal records.

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

KMUW: Sedgwick County adds new services for those in jail with mental illness
Last March, the Sedgwick County commission joined a national effort – the Stepping Up initiative – to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jail. Sheriff Jeff Easter has estimated that about one-third of people in the approximately-1,500 person jail have mental illness. COMCARE, which provides public mental health services, is another part of reducing recidivism among people with mental illness. The agency recently started sending a liaison to work inside the jail.


United States Attorney's Office: Ex-prison guard sentenced after admitting she took bribes to allow inmate to receive smuggled items
A former guard at a private federal corrections facility was sentenced to prison after she admitted to accepting bribes to allow smuggled material into a prison. The former corrections officer and counselor at the privately operated McRae Correctional Facility. McRae Correctional Facility, in Telfair County, is operated by the private corrections company CoreCivic. and houses male inmates under contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons.

New Jersey Monitor: Private prison firm sues Governor Murphy in bid to continue housing ICE detainees
CoreCivic which runs the last immigration detention center in New Jersey is suing Gov. Phil Murphy and Attorney General Matt Platkin over a 2021 law banning anyone from contracting with ICE to house immigrant detainees. CoreCivic,says the 2021 law — which bars all state, country, and local agencies, along with private detention facilities, from renewing, extending, or entering into new immigration detention agreements — is unconstitutional.

Chattagnooga Free Press: Families claim medical neglect at Silverdale Detention Center
Two Chattanooga families have filed lawsuits against Hamilton County and the Hamilton County Sheriff's office, alleging medical negligence and poor living conditions caused the deaths of their loved ones detained at the Silverdale Detention Center. The two lawsuits claim that poor living conditions, improper medical care and violence have persisted even after the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office took over the facility from CoreCivic.

Correctional Healthcare Vendors

Credit Slips: The Texas Two-Step's New Key
On April 28, 2022, Corizon converted to being a Texas corporation. Five days later it merged with another Texas entity called Valitas Health Service, Inc. and two other Corizon entities. Corizon Health, Inc., the surviving entity, then, on the same day, May 3, 2022, undertook a Texas divisional merger. The divisional merger resulted in two surviving entities: Tehum and CHS. Tehum was allocated all of the expired and inactive contracts plus the tort liability arising from those contracts. CHS received the other assets. Tehum filed for bankruptcy 286 days after its creation in the divisional merger.

OPB: Clark County signs up correctional health care provider facing litigation for wrongful deaths
Clark County signed off on a three-year contract, worth at least $17 million, with a for-profit health care provider at its county jail and juvenile facility in Vancouver. An investigation by OPB, the Northwest News Network and KUOW found 18 deaths in the Clark County Jail from 2008-2018. Of those, 15 were suicides. County councilors agreed Tuesday to pay Tennessee-based WellPath $5.87 million during the first year, with increases between 4% and 8% for each of the next two years. WellPath is facing at least four active wrongful death cases in Oregon, according to federal court records.