Weekly Update: March 8, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: March 08, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Mississippi Today: Republican legislators oppose Medicaid expansion, but want federal dollars to pay for prisoner healthcare
State Republicans in Mississippi have balked at expanding Medicaid, but are embracing legislation that would take advantage of the federal program to pay for healthcare for very sick incarcerated people — and likely create a money-making opportunity for nursing homes. Senate Bill 2448, which passed the Senate with little opposition and is now with the House Medicaid Committee, would allow “medically frail” inmates to be paroled to “special care facilities.” These would be specially licensed nursing homes where Medicaid could help pay for their care.

Partnership to End Addiction: Biden Calls on Congress to Increase Funding for Addiction Prevention and Treatment
In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, President Biden called on Congress to increase funding for prevention and treatment of opioid addiction. Biden mentioned harm reduction, which it called “a divisive concept.” Harm reduction includes increasing access to naloxone, fentanyl test strips and syringe service programs.

New York Times: New Law Overhauling N.Y.’s Parole System Is Being Ignored, Lawyers Say
At least four people who died in custody in New York City since the beginning of the pandemic were detained for minor, or “technical,” parole violations. Sixteen people died in custody in New York City in 2021. The Less is More Act, ended the practice of automatic jailing for some minor violations, like breaking curfew or missing an appointment with a parole officer. But lawyers and advocates said that by late last month, corrections officials had not shared details of how they planned to usher in many of the new rules.

Tri-City Herald: ‘Abhorrent’: Prison boss vexes DOJ with alleged intimidation
The Justice Department says it is gravely concerned about allegations that a high-ranking federal prison official entrusted to end sexual abuse and cover-ups at a women’s prison known as the “rape club” may have taken steps to suppress a recent complaint about staff misconduct. Deputy Regional Director T. Ray Hinkle is accused of attempting to silence a female employee who said she had been harassed by a manager at the prison — the federal correctional institution in Dublin, California

COVID-19 in Corrections

New York Focus: Two Years Into Pandemic, Basic Critiques of Prison Covid Policies Remain Unaddressed
Several times a week, when the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) releases the current numbers on COVID-19 cases in state prisons. The reality hiding behind the data is grim, and shows how vulnerable the system remains to new waves of the virus. Between December 1, 2021 and January 20, 2022, as the omicron variant spread like wildfire, active COVID-19 cases in New York prisons tripled.

Seattle Times: COVID outbreak eases at WA prison
The number of active COVID-19 cases has dropped to 20 among incarcerated individuals at Larch Corrections Center, according to a Friday bulletin from the Washington Department of Corrections. The DOC reported three active cases among staff at the minimum-security prison near Yacolt, which was placed on facility wide outbreak status Feb. 7 after four inmates in the living unit tested positive.

COVID-19 Vaccines & Mandates

New York Times: A suit filed by the A.C.L.U. accuses ICE jailers of denying detainees vaccines.
People with health conditions that place them at high risk from Covid-19 have been denied access to coronavirus vaccine booster shots while in federal immigration detention, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a lawsuit. The suit was filed on behalf of four people held in immigration detention who have kidney disease, H.I.V. or other conditions, and names ICE and the agency’s acting director, Tae Johnson.

New Jersey Monitor: Vaccination rate for prison workers jumps to 51% as Murphy postpones mandate deadline
Vaccination rates among state corrections workers jumped nearly eight percentage points since a vaccine mandate for prisons and other congregate settings went into effect last month, but nearly half have yet to complete their vaccine regimen. This comes as Gov. Phil Murphy has delayed the deadline for corrections officials and workers in other non-health care settings to complete their vaccinations.

Rikers Island

The City: New Psych Units at Rikers Delayed Despite Renewed Focus on Mental Health and Justice
A de Blasio-era plan to expand specialized units for people with mental illness at Rikers Island has stalled with no timeline from the Adams administration, even as the mayor’s new public safety plan purports to have a heavy focus on psychiatric help. The slow rollout of the so-called Program to Accelerate Clinical Effectiveness (PACE) comes as 52% of the entire population at the island lock up has been diagnosed with some type of mental illness.

New York Times: How Brutal Beatings on Rikers Island Were Hidden From Public View
For all of the alarms that have been sounded over rising violence and disorder on Rikers Island, the levels of brutality experienced by detainees over the past year might have been even worse than was previously known. The episodes also raise questions about the thoroughness of an incident-reporting process that is supposed to give the public an accurate picture of violence inside the jails and equip policymakers with data on which to base decisions.

Pregnancy & Incarceration

Malman School of Public Health (Columbia University): Forced to Give Birth Alone: How Prisons and Jails Neglect Pregnant Inmates
Studies show that pregnant inmates have higher rates of poor perinatal outcomes, such as miscarriage, preterm infants, and infants who are small for their gestational age, compared to women in the general population. This is likely due to the fact that several jails and state prisons do not have any implemented prenatal care policies.

Criminal Justice Reform Update

WBUR: Fewer than 10% of applicants have been granted medical parole, frustrating some Mass. lawmakers
A group of state lawmakers (MA) on Monday visited a health care unit inside a state-run prison after receiving multiple complaints of understaffing, unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical treatment. Several of the lawmakers, along with some prisoner advocates, said issues at the health care unit inside MCI-Norfolk raised questions about the state's medical parole law. The critics say the Department of Correction is too reluctant to approve the release of seriously ill prisoners as the law intended.

New York Focus: Hochul Proposes Bringing Back Private Prison Labor
As part of her executive budget, Governor Kathy Hochul included a proposal to overturn New York’s century-old ban on private employment of incarcerated people. Many advocates for incarcerated people are skeptical. They acknowledge that private employers could pay higher wages, but they say lax oversight of parallel programs in other states has enabled illegal exploitation. They also object to Hochul’s proposal to allow the state to garnish up to 50 percent of incarcerated people’s wages under the program.

Times Union: Inspector general creates new post for prison investigations
New York Inspector General Lucy Lang, who has pledged to transform that office into a more transparent and independent entity, is appointing a lead counsel to a new position dedicated to coordinating investigations with the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. In January, the inspector general office released a searing report that found drug tests in state prisons had been administered improperly, leading to the potential improper discipline or extended sentences for roughly 1,600 inmates, including some who were placed in solitary confinement.


Colorado Sun: Women leaving prison in Colorado are released without much-needed resources
Women are most often convicted of nonviolent property (such as burglary or larceny) and drug offenses—criminal activity that’s strongly connected to poverty and substance use. Research shows that nearly three-quarters of women in state prisons report mental health problems. Programs designed specifically for this growing population have launched across the country in recent years. Despite this progress, Colorado, like much of the country, continues to deal with a dearth of evidence-based, gender-responsive transition resources.

New York Times: Their Time Served, Sex Offenders Are Kept in Prison in ‘Cruel Catch-22’
Some 250 people in New York are kept incarcerated each year after they have earned their release, according to court papers in Mr. Ortiz’s case. This creates “a cruel Catch-22” for people classified as sex offenders, Allison Frankel wrote in 2019 in The Yale Law Journal Forum, because corrections officials will “not release them from prison until they obtained approved housing, but their poverty, disabilities and sex-offender registration status made finding housing impossible.

Opioid Epidemic

NPR: Black Americans are now dying from drug overdoses at a higher rate than whites
When the first phase of the opioid epidemic was cresting in 2010, driven largely by prescription pain medications, white Americans were dying of fatal drug overdoses at rates twice that of Black Americans. In the decade that followed, drug deaths surged again. But this time Black communities faced the brunt of the carnage.

San Francisco Chronicle: We’re in a fentanyl crisis. California needs to stop dragging on supervised injections sites
San Francisco is allowing people to use drugs inside the new Tenderloin Treatment Linkage Center, the mayor’s spokesperson sent out an email calling the decision an “emergency initiative ... about doing everything we can to help people struggling with addiction.” Critics accused the city of running a “supervised drug consumption area,” which is currently illegal under state and federal law.

AP: Upstate NY jail sued over access to addiction treatment
A northern New York county is being accused in federal court of needlessly forcing people at its jail into harmful withdrawals by banning a medical treatment for opioid addiction. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday against Jefferson County. The advocacy group said operators of the county jail largely ban methadone and buprenorphine, despite clear evidence that the medicines can effectively treat what specialists call opioid use disorder.


Voice of OC: A New Approach to the Homeless Crisis Could be Coming to Orange County
Big changes could be coming to Orange County’s approach to the worsening homeless crisis as state officials are gearing up to create court-ordered mental health and drug addiction treatment programs. State public health leaders and officials from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced Thursday that the new proposed court-ordered programs aim to not only help treat the disorders, but also get people into housing. Newsom committed a $15 billion homeless spending plan in the proposed budget.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

UW Medicine: High risk of suicide seen in formerly incarcerated people
People who had spent time in prison in Washington state were 62% more likely to die by suicide than people who had not been in prison, a study led by University of Washington researchers. In the study, Erin Morgan, a fellow at the UW’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and colleagues analyzed Washington State Department of Corrections records and the state’s vital statistics data. Of the 140,281 individuals were from prison, 484 subsequently died by suicide. This translates into a suicide rate of 36.3 per 100,000 person-years compared with 17.2 among Washington state residents never been imprisoned.

Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice

NCDHHS (YouTube): NCDHHS working on jail health toolkit for inmates struggling with physical, mental health
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services leaders said the toolkit is much needed as people are coming into jail with more physical and mental health problems than ever before and they're also spending more time behind bars than in previous years.

Johnson County Kansas: New dashboard highlights mental health and criminal justice system collaborative
A new dashboard highlights data gathered from Johnson County Mental Health Center and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office to track the effectiveness of providing mental health services to incarcerated individuals. The goal is to reduce the prevalence of mental illness within the jail system and provide needed services to help individuals with mental illness. The dashboard is only the fourth in the nation of this kind, and second in Kansas. It’s the first in the country to feature a unique data set regarding connection to care services.

Data & Statistics

Measures for Justice: A Look Inside the Black Box of New York State’s Criminal Justice Data
This new report reveals that, with few exceptions, the mechanisms for criminal justice data collection and release in New York State are broken. This report covers the ways New York State’s criminal justice data infrastructure fails to meet basic levels of transparency that are requisite for evidence-based decision making and general accountability.

Private Prisons

Axios: Lawsuit targets staffing at private prison company CoreCivic
A former employee at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center tied violence at the privately run state prison to chronic understaffing. A lawsuit was filed by the mother of Terry Childress, a Trousdale Turner inmate killed in custody last year. Another inmate has been indicted in his death. The $10 million suit claims Childress would be alive if his unit had been "properly supervised and staffed" and accused CoreCivic, the private prison company that runs Trousdale Turner, with intentionally understaffing to save money.

Kansas City Star: Former corrections officer accused of smuggling cell phones into Leavenworth prison
A former corrections officer for the federal prison in Leavenworth run by CoreCivic is accused of participating in a criminal conspiracy that allegedly involved smuggling cell phones into the prison that were later sold to prisoners. The corrections officer is among several ex-Leavenworth prison guards who have been accused of smuggling contraband into the privately-run federal prison.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

The Telegraph: Mom sues county over daughter's jail death
Elissa A. Lindhorst, 28, of Glen Carbon, died Feb. 24, 2020 while in custody at the Madison County Jail. Defendants include the county, Madison County Sheriff John D. Lakin, 17 named sheriff’s department personnel and Advanced Correctional Healthcare Inc.. The suit claims that, from Feb. 20, 2020 until Lindhorst's death, numerous sheriff's department employees observed her health decline yet failed to take any steps to get her medical attention.