COCHS Weekly Update: November 03, 2020
Deaths in Jails and Outsourced Medical Care
Reuters: U.S. jails are outsourcing medical care — and the death toll is rising
A Reuters review of deaths in more than 500 jails found that, from 2016 to 2018, those relying on one of the five leading jail healthcare contractors had higher death rates than facilities where medical services are run by government agencies. The story of when Savannah, Georgia hired Corizon Health Inc reveals the hidden cost of privatized inmate healthcare. In the last years of Corizon’s watch from 2014 to 2016, prescription drugs went missing, patients deemed gravely ill by medical staff were denied hospitalization, mentally ill inmates went untreated and records were falsified. Weeks passed with no doctor on site, leaving care to nurses and video calls with doctors. The jail’s 400 mentally ill inmates, nearly a quarter of its population, were treated by a sole psychiatrist. The Savannah jail’s breakdowns speak to a national trend. More than 60% of America’s top jails now hire private companies to deliver inmates’ medical care and that shift has taken a toll: more dead.
Reuters : Georgia lawmakers seek jail reform after Reuters investigation
Georgia lawmakers are pressing for stronger jail oversight after a Reuters investigation identified hundreds of deaths in the state’s county jails and dangerous lapses in inmate medical care. The news organization exposed healthcare lapses at the jail in Savannah. Another report explored the 2017 death of Chinedu Efoagui, who died at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center after spending 512 days behind bars without ever being tried on the charges for which he was held. David Wilkerson, a Georgia state lawmaker who had been planning new jail legislation for the upcoming January session, said he intends to cite Reuters’ findings in his proposed reforms. Wilkerson, a Cobb County Democrat, said his proposal will focus on improving mental health care in jails, as well as the disclosure and investigation of in-custody deaths.
Alive: 'Y'all guaranteed me that you'd watch him': Father warned jail staff his son was suicidal before his death
More questionable inmate care at the Cobb County Detention Center has been revealed. The sheriff's office tried to delay releasing to the public from records about the death of a man at the Cobb County jail. This time, the concerns come from the family of a former inmate who said jail staff knew their son suffered from mental illness, repeatedly threatened to harm himself and had a history of not taking his medicine. That inmate ultimately committed suicide while in custody. WellStar Medical Services provides mental health and physical health monitoring at the jail.
Macomb Daily: Macomb County Jail medical provider agrees to pay $100,000 for inmate suicide
U.S. District Judge David Lawson approved the deal between plaintiff Carol Herriges, the mother of the late Dieter Herriges-Love, and Correct Care Solutions, now known as Wellpath LLC, which is owned by hedge fund HIG Capital. The lawsuit alleged that from 2001 to 2017, there were at least 17 suicides at the jail, and jail operators failed to take adequate measures to prevent Herriges-Love’s suicide. The county and jail medical provider have been sued several times in recent years due to jail deaths or other incidents, including the birth of a child in a jail cell.
The San Diego Tribune: Sheriff met privately with health care contractor months before inviting bids
Months before Sheriff Bill Gore announced he was exploring the idea of outsourcing all healthcare services for jail inmates, he and his top advisors sat down late last year with a top official of a potential bidder, Wellpath LLC. Wellpath, a Tennessee-based firm that until recently was known as Correct Care Solutions, is one of the largest providers of medical and mental health care to prisoners in the United States. It serves some 300,000 people on any given day. Wellpath has seen its share of death and injuries among inmates who rely on the company for basic medical and mental health needs, news coverage shows
Clarion Ledger: MDOC focusing on mental health services after death of inmate at Parchman
The Mississippi Department of Corrections is looking harder at its mental health services after an inmate was discovered dead in his cell at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman over the weekend. The state hired VitalCore Health Strategies, a Kansas-based firm with offices in Ridgeland, on Oct. 5 to oversee services for the network after the previous provider, Centurion, ended their contract. According to a news release, Jaime Eaton, 28, was found unresponsive in his cell shortly before midnight Saturday. Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton ruled Eaton's death a suicide, pending the outcome of an autopsy.
Go Erie: Erie County Prison's medical provider, county sued in federal court over another death
Waterford resident Mathew Orsini was jailed at the Erie County Prison on Feb. 25, 2019. Three weeks later, according to court records, the 19-year-old died due to complications from a heart condition that he had since birth. His mother is blaming his death on Erie County and the prison's contracted medical provider (the Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources), claiming in a federal lawsuit that her son was "a victim of the deliberate indifference." The suit, whose defendants also include Erie County government, states that Orsini had Marfan syndrome, an inherited connective-tissue disorder that left him with an enlarged aorta. The suit claims that the prison and its contracted medical staff disregarded Orsini's medical condition. In one instance, according to the suit, a nurse failed to help Orsini and instead taunted him along with a prison corrections officer.
Fox 10 Phoenix: Hawaii inmate dies at Arizona prison with COVID-19 outbreak
A Hawaii inmate has died at a privately owned prison in Arizona that has experienced an outbreak of the coronavirus, Hawaii officials said. A 61-year-old man was found unresponsive in his bed at the Saguaro Correctional Center on Oct. 29 and was pronounced dead shortly afterward, Hawaii Department of Public Safety officials said. The cause of death for the man has not yet been determined and his name was not immediately released. A request for comment made by KGMB-TV to the Saguaro Correctional Center and the prison’s operator CoreCivic was not immediately returned.
CoreCivic and Geo Group
The New York Review of Books: How ICE’s Bail Bond Scheme Lets Corporations Profit Off Migrants
The penalization of poverty is part of a wider trend: the increasing extraction of profit from immigrant communities by corporate interests in the United States. The ways that private companies profit from detaining immigrants are well known. Less so is the money made from setting them free. Asylum-seekers in immigration detention, who are unlikely to have much, if any, financial capital in the United States, often have no choice but to remain imprisoned—potentially for years—while their claims are considered. All the while, the for-profit detention center contractors gladly accept $134 per person per day from the federal government to keep them there. In fiscal year 2019, ICE detained a daily average of forty-two thousand people. Most were housed in for-profit prisons run by corporations like GEO Group and CoreCivic companies whose stock prices have skyrocketed since Trump signed his first set of executive orders on immigration, in January 2017.
Bloomberg Law: Lawyer’s Suit Against Private Prison for Recorded Calls Revived
A criminal defense attorney who claims CoreCivic recorded privileged calls with her clients at a Nevada detention facility got her suit partly revived, because the statute of limitations may not bar all her claims, the Ninth Circuit said Tuesday. Kathleen Bliss says she received discovery from the government in June 2016 which included recordings CoreCivic made of multiple privileged telephone calls between Bliss and one of her clients. Bliss says she complained to the government and the court, believing it would make CoreCivic stop, and resumed telephone communications with her clients at the Nevada facility. But the company allegedly continued to record calls between attorneys and their clients at the facility through February 2019.
Honolulu Civil Beat: Mass Testing To Begin In Arizona Prison After 7 Hawaii Inmates Are Hospitalized
Seven Hawaii inmates have been hospitalized in Arizona after being infected with COVID-19 at Saguaro Correctional Center, according to an announcement by the state Department of Public Safety on Monday. Mass testing of the Hawaii inmates held at the privately run prison, operated by CoreCivic, will begin this week to control the spread of the disease. Lawyers and other inmate advocates have been urging Hawaii prison officials to step up testing at Saguaro since even before COVID-19 cases were first detected among Nevada inmates being held there in July.
Justice & Race
YouTube: Images, Memory, and Justice with Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has, over the last two decades, tirelessly worked to challenge the racial and economic injustices of mass incarceration in the United States. Stevenson has also been at the forefront of the creation of two cultural sites, The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. For Visualizing Abolition, Stevenson in this YouTuve vides discuss how those institutions relate to his legal social justice initiatives.
Is COVID-19 Reversing the Carceral State?
Reuters Special Report : As jails free thousands amid COVID-19, reform push takes root
The population in America’s big jails and state prisons plunged by 170,000 this spring amid the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters has found in a survey of facilities around the country. All told, localities and states held 11% fewer inmates in their custody. But it is also providing the United States with an opportunity to experiment with a big idea: unwinding the country’s signature practice of mass incarceration. With tens of thousands suddenly freed or diverted from entering jail, some governments see COVID-19 as a chance to change the policies that led many inmates to be locked up in the first place.
The Crime Report: U.S. Prison, Jail Populations Fall By 170,000 In Pandemic
Critics of mass releases fear freeing inmates will lead to a surge in crime. “This is going to set us back. This is going to mean more crimes,” said Sheriff Margaret Mims of Fresno County, Ca. The Dane County, Wi., jail inmate count dropped from 710 to 452 between mid-February and mid-May. Sheriff Dave Mahoney said, “The public is saying look, your population is down, let’s learn from the forced lessons.” Mahoney, who is president of the National Sheriffs’ Association, said his county is considering whether more people could be released without bail and having judges hold court on weekends “to decrease the number of people who arrive on Thursday and are [jailed] until Tuesday or Wednesday.” Los Angeles County supervisors have an initiative on the November 3 ballot to redirect 10 percent of revenue to alternatives to incarceration. The measure faces opposition from Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who said it could leave the county’s streets looking “like a scene from Mad Max.”
COVID-19 Transmission in Corrections
The Journal Times: After previously not sharing numbers, Racine County Jail is now telling attorneys about COVID cases
The Racine County Jail (WI) was not informing attorneys of the numbers of COVID cases that had been confirmed within the jail, nor was the jail sharing which pods had outbreaks, the jail has changed its policies and is now sharing that information with attorneys. The number of cases within the jail has significantly increased in recent weeks. By Tuesday, Oct. 27, there were 67 confirmed cases reported among inmates in the jail. Another two inmates were waiting for test results, there were five staff members/contractors who had tested positive and another five staff members/contractors waiting for test results. That rise in cases has been blamed on how quickly and widely COVID-19 has been spreading throughout Wisconsin.
FOX 17 West Michigan: Health officer: COVID-19 outbreak at Calhoun County jail is representative of virus' increased spread
While Calhoun County (Battle Creek, MI) is seeing unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 cases, the jail is seeing an outbreak as well. According to the county sheriff, 24 inmates at the Calhoun County Jail remain positive for COVID-19, and all but two of them are asymptomatic. Still, officials said it's representative of virus' increased spread. Two dozen positive COVID-19 cases were identified at the jail among inmates, and two employees also tested positive.
ABC News: Almost half of South Dakota's prison population tests positive for COVID-19
Nearly half of South Dakota's 3,347-person prison population has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the most recent data released by the state's department of corrections Tuesday. "Unfortunately, the result was predictable," said Leo Beletsky, a professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University. "In many states, the top hotspots for COVID spread have been prisons and jails."
Press Connects: COVID-19 outbreak at Elmira prison tops 550 cases. How New York is responding.
As the COVID-19 outbreak at the Elmira Correctional Facility hit 556 cases, New York state has been using rapid tests and pursuing contact-tracing to limit the coronavirus' spread both inside and outside the prison walls, state officials said Monday. The comments came after the Southern Tier prison has become the hardest-hit site within the state correctional system, which was reporting about 700 active cases among its more than 36,000 inmates, according to state officials and state data. During the pandemic, there had been 1,455 prison workers infected with COVID-19, including five confirmed deaths as of Friday, the most recent state data show.
COVID-19 California Prison Crisis
East Bay Times: Early releases, safety measures help reduce COVID-19 infections in California prisons
The state had a prison population of 114,318 inmates on March 11. Now, after reduction efforts, it incarcerates 92,600 people, or about 23% fewer. The inmate population does not include county jails, which are operated by sheriff’s departments. Data provided by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation show that the number of inmates infected by coronavirus has fallen considerably in the past month. On Sept. 27, the CDCR reported 40% fewer cases than the previous week; on Oct. 4, 50% fewer cases than the week before; and on Oct. 11, 61% fewer cases than the week before that. By raw numbers, there were 2,205 inmates infected on Sept. 25; on Oct. 24, that number stood at 277.
The San Diego Union Tribune: 79th California prison inmate dies of COVID-19 complications
An inmate at a central California prison died of complications from the coronavirus Saturday, authorities said, becoming the state’s 79th person to have a fatal case of COVID-19 while they were incarcerated. The person was the eighth inmate from the Avenal prison to die from the virus, officials said. Of the 79 state prison inmates known to have died from the coronavirus, 28 were from the San Quentin State Prison. Twenty-six were incarcerated at the California Institution for Men in Chino.
San Francisco Chronicle: Potential transfers out of San Quentin raise dire concerns for inmates
State prison officials are planning to transfer dozens of young men to the Valley State Prison in Chowchilla — a facility that is already overcrowded, at 139% of its design capacity, and where 27 prisoners have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past two weeks, according to interviews with multiple incarcerated people. The preparations come just days after an appeals court ordered that San Quentin’s prison population be cut in half after its disastrous coronavirus outbreak this summer. The looming transfers have alarmed many people in custody at San Quentin and their advocates, given that it was a botched transfer from Chino that ignited San Quentin’s deadly outbreak in the first place.
UCSF: For Prisoners, Pandemic Hits with Greater Force
UC San Francisco experts say the health care system has an important role to play in helping to attenuate these harms, by improving the correctional health care system, as well as the connections to primary care once prisoners are released. The unhealthy conditions inside jails and prisons, especially chronic overcrowding must also be addressed. Amend at UCSF and the Transitions Clinic Network (TCN) are two nationally influential programs that are targeting the health problems inside prisons, and those faced by newly released prisoners. A recent decision by California’s First District Court of Appeal ordering San Quentin State Prison to reduce its population by one-half because of COVID-19 also drew heavily on recommendations from Amend. Since the pandemic began, about 2,000 prisoners at San Quentin have been infected with the coronavirus, and at least 28 have died.
KPBS: UCSD Squashes Attempts To Tell State Prisoners About Privacy Breach
inewsource has uncovered another example of UC San Diego not telling vulnerable research subjects that their private information was exposed and that the university’s mistake may have put them at risk. The privacy breach involves California prison inmates who were part of a UCSD behavioral study. Their taped conversations, including comments criticizing prison guards, were wrongly shared with the officers. The study, which examined the effects of art on incarcerated men, was ultimately terminated in 2018 following that “intentional breach of trust,” according to records obtained by inewsource. A UCSD institutional review board that ensures the safety of research participants wanted to alert the prisoners after learning about the breach and provide them with outside legal counsel, but University of California attorneys said no. At inewsource’s request, Dr. Michael Carome, a former associate director at the U.S. Office for Human Research Protections, reviewed UCSD’s documents detailing the breach involving the prisoners. He said the university’s response suggests “an institution seeking to protect itself by minimizing the significance” of its research violations.
SUD Treatments and Medicaid
The New York Times: This Addiction Treatment Works. Why Is It So Underused?
Early data suggests that overdoses have increased even more during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced most treatment programs to move online. A treatment called contingency management has been found to be highly effective in getting people addicted to stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine to stay in treatment and to stop using the drugs. Contingency management rewards people for staying off drugs. If a person is free of drugs, they get to draw a slip of paper out of a fishbowl. Half contain encouraging messages — typically, “Good job!” — but the other half are vouchers for prizes worth between $1 and $100. Researchers say that one of the biggest obstacles to contingency management is a moral objection to the idea of rewarding someone for staying off drugs. That is one reason publicly funded programs like Medicaid, which provides health coverage for the poor, do not cover the treatment.
Messenger Inquirer: Kentucky’s fight to end addiction must include our criminal justice system
Addiction in the commonwealth has only worsened due to the challenges of the last eight months, with substance use and overdose deaths trending in the wrong direction. Kentucky public officials remain committed to breaking the vicious cycle of addiction. In November, the state will submit a transformative proposal to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that, if approved, will expand access to substance use disorder treatment among some of our society’s most vulnerable and at-risk individuals: those in our criminal justice system.
Criminal Justice Response to Mental Health Challenges
Los Angele Times: Jackie Lacey is a longtime champion for mentally ill defendants. But do her reforms go far enough?
After years of frustration with a criminal justice system that seemed to favor incarceration over treatment of mentally ill defendants, relatives of mentally ill defendants say Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles County District Attorney, say she deserves credit for helping to conceive many of the programs that offer services to mentally ill defendants in L.A. County today. A task force convened by Lacey led the Board of Supervisors to pump $120 million into housing and resources for the mentally ill, part of a broader attempt to divert such defendants from the jail system that includes the creation of a countywide Office of Diversion & Re-Entry. But some critics say Lacey’s programs are not expansive enough and that many line prosecutors working in the nation’s largest local court and jail system have resisted their use. However, Lacey is fending off a November challenge from former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón, who has run to her left as a criminal justice reformer and champion of reducing incarceration for a broad range of offenses.
Flagler Live: Flagler Sheriff Lands $530,000 Federal Grant to Improve Mental Health Among Jail Inmates
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office today announced it secured a $532,360 federal grant to support a collaborative approach to improve responses and outcomes for adults with mental illness, substance abuse and related disorders who enter the criminal justice system. The grant will allow effective training, timely screening for mental illness and substance abuse, evidence-based treatment and case management for individuals involved in the criminal justice system. The Flagler County jail’s Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program, spearheaded locally by the Sheriff’s Office, will provide mental health and substance abuse treatment resources to county jail inmates by embedding a certified mental health and substance abuse clinician within the jail, and partnering with a local service provider to insure continuum of care after the inmate is released.
Homelessness and Incarceration
The Oregonian: Booking homeless Portlanders into jail is endless, expensive cycle that arrests don’t curb, but housing does
In 2018, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that more than half of arrests police made in 2017 were of homeless people, who constituted 3% of the population at most. A new newsroom analysis shows that remained true in ensuing years. And jail bookings of homeless people have skyrocketed, an analysis of booking statistics through February 2020 found. From 2016 through 2019, only about 2% of all people booked into jail per year lived in temporary housing that offered connections to mental health, addiction, employment or other services, according to their address at the time of booking.