COCHS Weekly Update: April 07, 2020

COVID-19 Judiciary
San Francisco Chronicle: Bail suspended, remote hearings approved by California’s judicial leaders
California judicial leaders, in their latest round of emergency orders to help courts cope with the coronavirus, voted Monday, April 6, to eliminate bail for defendants charged with misdemeanors and most nonviolent felonies and to allow pretrial proceedings to be conducted remotely, with a defendant’s consent. The temporary measures, which also included limits on evictions and home foreclosures, are intended “to preserve rights and ultimately preserve lives,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said at the teleconference of the state Judicial Council, the governing body which she chairs.

COVID-19 Impact on Corrections
ABC News: 'We need help': Alabama prisoner pleas for assistance in fighting COVID-19
Homer Venters the President of COCHS appeared Sunday on ABC News This Week with George Stephanopoulos to discuss how crowded conditions in correctional institutions facilitate the spread of COVID-19. This report highlighted the conditions of institutions in Alabama (see story below). Topeka Sam and Sheriff Thomas Hodgson of Bristol, Massachusetts also appeared on the show.

Montgomery Advertiser: Coronavirus: Families of Alabama state prison inmates fear for their health amid outbreak
Many families are worried about relatives incarcerated in Alabama's state prison. A half-dozen people with loved ones in prison said this week that their family members saw few if any steps taken to protect inmates from the virus. Adding to the concerns: Many also have underlying health issues and live in close quarters with other inmates in decrepit facilities.

The New York Times: Why Jails Are So Important in the Fight Against Coronavirus
Picture thousands of cruise ships jammed with guests but short on hand sanitizer, protective gear and medical care. Every week, a quarter of the passengers get off, replaced by new people with the potential to either infect or be infected with the coronavirus. There is a place like that in your community: the county jail, captained by your local elected sheriff, who is charged with preventing Covid-19 outbreaks but most likely has limited supplies and often no say in who enters and leaves the jail.

Fox 10 News Phoenix: Arizona Dept. of Corrections whistleblower discusses health risks of working in prison during pandemic
Arizona corrections officers are upset that they are not allowed to wear masks on the job - and one of them came forward to talk about the dangers during the coronavirus crisis, urging state leaders to step in. Prisons have already suspended visitation, but a whistleblower is saying that it's not enough. He says correctional officers are not allowed to wear personal protective equipment, or PPE.

King County: Outbreak prevention in congregate settings; Public Health—Seattle & King County announces 111 new cases for April 4, 2020
Public Health – Seattle & King County continues to focus on preventing COVID-19 outbreaks in congregate settings, including jails. The Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention has taken steps to create greater social distancing in their facilities. Public Health reported 111 new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the official case count in King County to 2,898. In addition, 14 new deaths are reported, bringing the total of COVID-19 deaths in King County to 200.

NJ Advance Media: Coronavirus spreads in N.J. prisons as inmates and officers say state is risking their health
A recent inmate at New Jersey’s only women’s prison has tested positive for the coronavirus and everyone who was in contact with her is being quarantined, state Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks told staff Friday in a letter. But the corrections department isn’t counting her in its public statistics because she was released to Morris County before she was tested. The letter renews questions about the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s prisons, where inmates and officers have been raising the alarm about a lack of personal protective equipment, lax social distancing and the shuttling of inmates between facilities on opposite ends of New Jersey.

KPIX: Coronavirus Pandemic: Santa Rita Jail Inmate Tests Positive; 77 New Cases In Alameda County
Alameda County, CA, health officials reported 77 new coronavirus cases Saturday, including an inmate being housed at Santa Rita Jail. In a news release, Alameda County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said the inmate — the first case among those being held at the facility — was currently in stable condition inside the jail’s medical facility.

FOX-NE: Meek Mill's prison reform group donating 100,000 masks
Philadelphia-based rapper Meek Mill's criminal justice reform group says it's donating 100,000 face masks to some of the nation's most notorious jails and prisons. The celebrity-backed REFORM Alliance announced the donation Friday. It said 50,000 masks will go to the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City, 40,000 will be sent to the Tennessee Department of Correction, and 5,000 are headed to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

COVID-19 Early Release of Incarcerated Individuals
The New England Journal of Medicine: Flattening the Curve for Incarcerated Populations — Covid-19 in Jails and Prisons
Because of policies of mass incarceration over the past four decades, the United States has incarcerated more people than any other country on Earth. As of the end of 2016, there were nearly 2.2 million people in U.S. prisons and jails. We believe that we need to prepare now, by “decarcerating,” or releasing, as many people as possible, focusing on those who are least likely to commit additional crimes, but also on the elderly and infirm; urging police and courts to immediately suspend arresting and sentencing people, as much as possible, for low-level crimes and misdemeanors; isolating and separating incarcerated persons who are infected and those who are under investigation for possible infection from the general prison population; hospitalizing those who are seriously ill; and identifying correctional staff and health care providers who became infected early and have recovered, who can help with custodial and care efforts once they have been cleared, since they may have some degree of immunity and severe staff shortages are likely.

The New York Times: Barr Expands Early Release of Inmates at Prisons Seeing More Coronavirus Cases
Attorney General William P. Barr ordered the Bureau of Prisons on Friday, April 3, to expand the group of federal inmates eligible for early release and to prioritize those at three facilities where known coronavirus cases have grown precipitously, as the virus threatens to overwhelm prison medical facilities and nearby hospitals.

The Daily News: Coronavirus prompts 150 correctional health experts, medical professionals to request clemencies from Gov. Cuomo
Correctional health experts from across New York State are calling on Gov. Cuomo to start granting emergency clemencies to people who are at high risk of dying from coronavirus. The 150 experts — including city Board of Correction member Robert Cohen and former Correctional Health Services Chief Medical Officer Homer Venters — said the governor must act quickly to prevent more people from getting sick.

The Los Angeles Times: No mass prison release for now; federal panel says it can’t rule on coronavirus case
A federal court panel has denied an emergency motion to force California prison officials to move thousands of inmates out of harm’s way even as the number of prison workers and inmates testing positive for COVID-19 rises. The number of prison infections grew in the two days since the judges held a hearing on the emergency motion. By Saturday, 60 people in the prisons, including 47 workers and 13 inmates, were diagnosed with COVID-19.

WGN: Suit seeks Illinois inmates’ release due to COVID-19
A federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Chicago seeks an order directing state officials “to drastically reduce Illinois’s prison population” on grounds that hundreds of inmates are particularly vulnerable to catching and dying from the coronavirus. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court names 10 inmates but seeks class-action status to represent older prisoners and those with underlying health conditions, saying that poor medical care and a lack of protective measures behind bars in Illinois make the COVID-19 virus especially deadly.

COVID-19 Continued Incarceration for Minor Offenses
San Francisco Chronicle: As counties released inmates amid coronavirus, Solano County picked them up and brought them to its jails
As jails across California release inmates amid the coronavirus pandemic, one Bay Area county was going out of its way to fill its jails with nonviolent suspects — a move one critic called reckless. As of late last week, Solano County sheriff’s deputies were driving to other county jails and picking up recently freed people on minor traffic offenses, then transporting them to their own jail.

The Washington Post: New Orleans police are jailing people for minor offenses even as the city becomes a covid-19 hotspot
One man was accused of stealing whiskey from a drugstore. A homeless man had allegedly refused to leave a hotel lobby. A woman had walked out of a grocery store without paying for a cart full of food worth $375, according to the police. These are among the people the New Orleans Police Department arrested and booked into the city jail during the past 10 days, as it became clear that the city was at the center of one of the nation’s fastest-growing covid-19 hotspots.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle: First Rikers virus-positive fatality was jailed on technicality
The first COVID-19 positive city jail inmate died in Bellevue Hospital Sunday as he awaited a hearing on a parole violation, according to multiple sources. Michael Tyson, 53, had been in city custody since Feb. 28 and initially appeared to be recovering from the virus, a source familiar with his case said. He’d been moved from the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island to Bellevue on March 26, according to The New York Times, which first reported the death.

COVID-19 Impact on Mental Health
Stat: The Covid-19 crisis too few are talking about: health care workers’ mental health
Health care workers are using words like betrayal and coercion and moral injury to describe this experience. They feel betrayed by their employers, the health care system, and the government, all of which were woefully unprepared for a pandemic and then chose to ignore their warnings. Some are concerned they will be called upon to do work they have not done in years due to staffing needs. Even still, others are grieving the traumas they will see and the decisions they will be forced to make.

New Advocate: Partnerships emphasize importance of mental health in Manistee County Jail
Manistee and Benzie county jails in Michigan rely on a collaboration of community partners in order to bring mental health resources to inmates at both locations. And now, in the age of coronavirus, COVID-19, staff are having to make changes to the ways those resources are provided in light of recent executive orders from the state's governor, behavioral health workers are considered essential.Just like law enforcement, just like health care providers, first responders — behavioral health specialists are all mandated service.