Weekly Update: February 15, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: February 15, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Texas GOP Vote: Turner, Colleagues Act to Allow Medicaid to Cover Pretrial Detainees
I recently joined Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), Rep. David Trone (D-MD) and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) to introduce The Due Process Continuity of Care Act. This bipartisan legislation would amend the current Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP) to make certain that pretrial detainees are not kicked off Medicaid prior to ever being found guilty of a crime.

The Rippon Advance: Emmer, Turner offer bipartisan bill to provide pre-trial detainees with mental health coverage
U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Mike Turner (R-OH) on Feb. 7 introduced a bipartisan bill that would nix a Medicaid coverage exclusion for pre-trial detainees, who currently make up roughly two-thirds of people held in local jails. Rep. Emmer and Rep. Turner signed on as original cosponsors of the Due Process Continuity of Care Act, H.R. 6636, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-MD). U.S. Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) is also one of the bill’s 12 original cosponsors.

The Guardian: Arkansas jail’s ivermectin experiments recall historical medical abuse of imprisoned minorities
In late August last year, four inmates at the Washington county detention center in north-west Arkansas contracted Covid-19. The inmates were given a cocktail of drugs. They soon began to suffer a series of side effects including vision problems, diarrhea, bloody stools and stomach cramps. It was only later that they discovered they had been prescribed, without their consent, significantly high doses of ivermectin. This repeats America’s dreadful history of racism, as the alleged experimentation forced on the Arkansas inmates recalls a grisly history of medical exploitation by American authorities towards communities and inmates of color.

NIH: Treatment for opioid use disorder in jail reduces risk of return
Almost two-thirds of people currently incarcerated in the U.S. have a substance use disorder. Many struggle with opioid addiction. Researchers led by Drs. Peter Friedmann at Baystate Health Medical Center in Massachusetts and Elizabeth Evans from the University of Massachusetts performed a comparison between two rural jails. The team compared rates of recidivism between the two facilities for men with opioid use disorder who were released into the community. During follow-up, fewer than half (48.2%) of men who had been in the jail that offered drug treatment were rearrested or reincarcerated, compared with 62.5% of men released from the jail that didn’t offer MOUD.

Rand: Opioid Prescribing Declines, but Cuts Are Not Uniform Across Locations, Age Groups, or Type of Prescriber
The volume of prescription opioids dispensed from retail pharmacies declined by 21% from 2008 to 2018, but the decline was not uniform across geographic areas, among types of patients, or by type of prescriber. The study is the first to examine the decline in opioid prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies based on both volume and potency of the drugs dispensed.

New York Times: C.D.C. Proposes New Guidelines for Treating Pain, Including Opioid Use
The federal government on Thursday proposed new guidelines for prescribing opioid painkillers that remove its previous recommended ceilings on doses for chronic pain patients and instead encourage doctors to use their best judgment.

COCHS Policy Analyst Opening

COCHS Is Hiring: A Policy Analyst
Would you like to improve health care for those involved with the justice system? COCHS is looking for a policy analyst who is ready to develop policy in the interface of our health and justice systems. Candidates will have a graduate degree in public health, public administration, public policy or any other appropriate terminal degree. Work will remain remote but travel to conferences and work sites will resume at some point COVID-permitting. If interested, send a cover letter and CV/resume to info@cochs.org.

COVID-19 in Corrections

ABC: Detainees offer window into Cook County Jail COVID surge: 'This is like being in hell', report says
Detainees say jail did not adhere to CDC COVID quarantine rules. Spokespeople for the Cook County sheriff's office and Cook County Health, the jail's health care provider, said they could not confirm or deny the detainees' account but maintained that authorities follow guidance from local and federal health departments for testing and quarantines.

Centre Daily Times: Closed Miami-Dade jail was used as sick ward amid omicron
In January, as the omicron variant ripped through Miami, the county turned the Miami-Dade Training and Treatment Center, a jail shuttered since 2016, into a COVID ward, sending at least 70 people into the facility to try and isolate contagious detainees. Inmates sent into the facility described filthy conditions. And the decision to reopen the jail — and the possibility that it might once again be used to house detainees — has caused alarm among some criminal justice activists.

KCRA: As critics call out poor inmate conditions, Sacramento County jails blame COVID-19 for overcrowding
Organizations are demanding answers and action from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office after reports of crowding at the Sacramento County jail. The Sacramento Public Defender's Office has been addressing issues regarding defendants spending several days in the booking area and sleeping on the floor and benches before a judge this week. The sheriff's office acknowledges the overcrowding and in a statement explained that this is caused by a number of challenges directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sacramento Bee: Unvaccinated inmate with COVID-19 dies while in custody at Sacramento County jail
An unvaccinated inmate who tested positive for COVID-19 died Monday while in custody at Sacramento County Main Jail. The 51-year-old man who died had been in custody for nearly five years, suffering from mental illness and awaiting trial on an assault charge as COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb amid a jail outbreak that began last month.

VT Digger: More than 30 people test positive in Covid outbreak at Newport prison
In another Covid-19 outbreak in Vermont’s prison system, 28 incarcerated people and three staff members tested positive for the virus at the prison in Newport, the Vermont Department of Corrections announced in a press release. In addition, 24 staff members are positive for the virus across six correctional facilities, three field offices and the central office.

COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Los Angeles Times: Supervisors move to take vaccine mandate enforcement away from Sheriff Villanueva
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday moved to take COVID-19 vaccine mandate enforcement responsibilities away from Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has repeatedly said he would not fire deputies who refuse to get vaccinated. On social media the night before, Villanueva made dramatic claims framing Tuesday’s vote as a motion to fire 18,000 county employees — including 4,000 from the Sheriff’s Department — for not being vaccinated.

New Jersey Monitor: Police unions urge judges to block vaccine mandate for jail guards
A New Jersey appellate panel heard arguments Wednesday on a challenge to Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent executive order mandating vaccines for state and county correctional officers. Officers’ unions called the mandate “government overreach” that will cause unvaccinated officers irreparable harm by requiring them to get jabbed or lose their jobs, while the state insisted the requirement is a life-saving necessity to stop the virus’ out-of-control spread behind bars.

COVID-19 & Early Release

NC Health News: Breaking point: What is the future of COVID and incarceration?
From the Alpha variant to Delta to Omicron, the COVID-19 virus is changing, but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Incarcerated people and their families wonder what the future of COVID means for them. For incarcerated people, frequent lockdowns have meant more time in a cell, sometimes with other people, some of whom are sick, sometimes all alone, often for 23 hours a day. To prevent widespread illness and additional trauma, advocates for incarcerated people have called for decarceration.

gothamist: NJ’s COVID-19 prison release program restarts Thursday with 260 freed early
New Jersey’s pandemic-related early release program will officially resume Thursday with the freeing of another 260 individuals, the Department of Corrections confirmed to Gothamist. Gov. Phil Murphy signed landmark legislation that created the program in 2020 — allowing prisoners to shave up to eight months off their sentences — when the state’s prisons had one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the country.

Marin Independent Journal: Marin prison advocates concerned about early release rollback
Bay Area prison reform advocates are expressing concern after a Sacramento judge reinstated a temporary restraining order prohibiting early release opportunities for repeat offenders, including those imprisoned under the state’s “three strikes” law. Critics say reinstating the order, granted in December, holds back progress for inmates in all state prisons.

Health Care in Corrections

OPB: Inmates at Oregon’s only federal prison report dire medical care
Dire conditions inside the federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, have not improved over the course of the pandemic and numerous medical requests from inmates inside the facility continue to go unaddressed. Cancer patients have not received treatment for months. Inmates who say they’ve attempted suicide have not received the medication or mental health treatment they’ve requested. A man died in his cell. It’s the fourth person in the last year who died while serving their sentence at Sheridan.

The Regulatory Review: Reforming Health Care for Patients in Prison
A lack of mandatory standards or oversight has led to pervasive inadequate care in corections. One study found that among incarcerated individuals with a persistent medical problem, 20 percent of those in state facilities and 68 percent of those in local jails went without care. Prison medical staff also commonly fail to perform routine gynecological exams, to screen for prevalent infectious diseases, or to administer prescribed medications.

Rikers Island

The City: When Visitors Were Banned From Rikers Island, Even More Drugs Showed Up
Between April of 2020 and May of 2021, correction department authorities seized banned drugs inside city jails more than 2,600 times. In fact, internal jails numbers suggest that in that period — when only corrections officers, staff, and eventually certain contractors and service providers could enter — detainees may have had even greater access to drugs.


NBC: ‘Paying ransom for freedom’: How cash bail is keeping Black mothers stuck in prisons
Cara McClure founded Faith and Works in 2017 and its bail fund three years later, which is specifically dedicated to bailing out Black mothers. She said the cash bail system criminalizes poverty while rewarding wealth. According to the Vera report, poverty is a key reason many people commit crimes. Sixty percent of women in jail didn’t have full-time jobs before being arrested, and the majority of women in jail are there for low-level, nonviolent crimes such as property, drug or public order offenses.


Prison Policy Initiative: New data on formerly incarcerated people’s employment reveal labor market injustices
How many formerly incarcerated people are jobless at the moment? A good guess would be 60%, to generalize from a new report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The report shows that of more than 50,000 people released from federal prisons in 2010, a staggering 33% found no employment at all over four years post-release, and at any given time, no more than 40% of the cohort was employed.

Public Safety

Washington Post: Fatal police shootings in 2021 set record since The Post began tracking, despite public outcry
Police have fatally shot roughly 1,000 people in each of the past seven years, ranging from 958 in 2016 to last year’s high. Police departments increasingly partnered with mental health experts to respond to people in crisis. Cities established civilian review boards for use-of-force incidents. None of it decreased the number of people shot and killed by officers last year. The total has increased slightly most years since 2015.

New York Times: Mayor Adams Clashes With Albany Democrats Over His Crime Plan
For the mayor of New York City, it is customary to face the occasional hostile question from a lawmaker during his annual pilgrimage to the State Capitol in Albany. With crime-fighting at the core of his agenda, Mr. Adams used his virtual appearance before the State Legislature on Wednesday to argue that changes to bail laws and other measures designed to make the criminal justice system more fair have overreached, allowing more dangerous criminals onto the streets.

Mental Health

California Assembly Bill: AB-1921
Assembly Member Jones-Sawyer has introduced a bill that would allow a correctional officer employed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to receive a confidential mental health evaluation every calendar year to determine whether the individual has an emotional or mental condition that might adversely affect their exercise of the duties and powers of a correctional officer.

Berkeleyside : Judge places Santa Rita Jail under external oversight, ending mental health abuse lawsuit
A federal judge approved an agreement that places Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail under court supervision for at least six years. U.S. Magistrate Nathanael Cousins’ decision gives oversight power to a San Francisco law firm and a team of experts to monitor a massive reform program that will remake how mental health care is provided at the Dublin Jail. The agreement, called a consent decree, is the result of a lawsuit filed in 2018 on behalf of jail detainees.

Record Eagle: Stepping up: Jail programs tackle mental illness and substance abuse disorder
The Stepping Up program that assesses people booked into the jail early on for mental illness and substance use disorder will have them getting the help they need and getting it quicker than they are now. Stepping Up has the goal of diverting those people away from jails and getting them the help they need. The national initiative started in 2015 and in Michigan is run by the Wayne State University School of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health and Justice.

Correctional Health Care Lawsuits

The Olympian: Hearing set over who controls troubled Hinds County jail
Judge Carlton Reeves is expected to decide later this month on whether the federal government should take over the running of the jail. In December, the county's attorneys argued that court monitors hadn't visited in 18 months so the court doesn't have a current understanding of the conditions at the jail. But federal attorneys are expected to push for the jail to fall under federal control so as to bring it into compliance with a consent decree established in 2016. Six inmates died in the jail in 2021.

nwi.com: Sheriff seeking judicial order to implement jail health care contract
Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to compel the Lake County Board of Commissioners to accept, and Lake County Auditor John Petalas to pay, all invoices for jail health care costs pursuant to a contract with Correctional Health Indiana Inc. (CHI) was not approved by the commissioners. The commissioners believe the company's costs have increased exponentially over the past 10 years

Correctional Health Care Vendors

WBNS: Lawsuit alleges negligence in Ohio inmate's diabetes death
Corrections and medical officials at an Ohio jail mishandled an inmate with diabetes which led to his death last year. Jail employees and staff with Tennessee-based Southern Health Partners failed to provide Martinez with needed insulin even though he reported he was a Type 1 diabetic after his arrival, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Toledo last week, and records show he had dangerously elevated blood sugar levels on admittance.

Duluth News Tribune: St. Louis County Jail's medical care comes under scrutiny
The local branch of the NAACP will rally outside the St. Louis County Board meeting Tuesday, challenging the health care being provided at the county jail. In January, the state medical board suspended indefinitely the license of Dr. Todd Leonard, of Sartell, Minnesota, whose MEnD Correctional Care. Scrutiny of MEnD includes the 2018 death of 27-year-old Hardel Sherrell, who died in the Beltrami County Jail in Bemidji. That jail and its MEnD-affiliated medical staff were found to have ignored Sherrell's pleas for help in the days preceding his death.