Weekly Update: February 13, 2024
US Senate: Bipartisan Support For Tackling Prison Substance Abuse; New ASAM Criteria: Addiction Treatment In Corrections

COCHS WEEKLY UPDATE: February 13, 2024


Highlighted Stories

Office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: Whitehouse, Cornyn, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Address Substance Abuse in Prisons, Reduce Recidivism
U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) today introduced the Supporting Treatment and Recovery Over Narcotics for Growth, Empowerment, and Rehabilitation (STRONGER) Act, which would help reduce recidivism and break the cycle of addiction by updating and reauthorizing the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for State Prisoners (RSAT) program that provides treatment and recovery resources to incarcerated individuals with substance use disorders.

Office of Senator Bill Cassidy: Cassidy Accepts Legislative Initiative Champion Award from Sheriffs of America
U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) today was honored as the Major County Sheriffs of America’s (MCSA) Legislative Initiative Champion Award for his leadership on improving health care access for those awaiting trial. MCSA highlighted Cassidy’s Due Process Continuity of Care Act, which would ensure that pre-trial detainees do not lose access to Medicaid prior to ever being found guilty of a crime, as the reason for the award.

ASAM: Addiction Treatment in Correctional Settings
ASAM is seeking input from diverse stakeholders on the framework for the Correctional Settings and Reentry Volume of the 4th Edition of The ASAM Criteria®. Feedback received during the public comment period will be instrumental in refining the framework which will be used to guide development of the comprehensive standards and decision rules of the Correctional Settings and Reentry Volume.




Mental Health Spotlight

Miami Herald: When new Miami center opens, arrestees with mental illness can be treated, not jailed
This could be the year Miami-Dade County makes history, opening a center for treating and helping — instead of incarcerating — people with mental illness. It is thought to be the first of its kind in the nation. An alternative to jail, the center will be a place judges can send non-violent defendants accused of misdemeanors or low-level felonies instead of locking them up. Police could take potential arrestees there instead of booking them in to the jail. the center will be the crowning achievement of Judge Steven Leifman’s career. The 65-year-old Miami-Dade associate administrative judge has worked since his earliest days as a judge to reverse what he saw as an illogical, inhumane approach to handling arrestees with mental illness.

ALEC: States Look to Mental Health Reforms to Alleviate Stress on Justice System
Mental health and behavioral disorders have emerged as one of the leading concerns in the world of criminal justice reform. Problems that had been rarely addressed have drawn high interest from researchers, corrections personnel, and lawmakers as it has become more apparent just how prevalent mental health issues are within our justice systems. Several states are proactively addressing these issues in ways to enable effective rehabilitation for individuals in need, while simultaneously allowing the judiciary to administer justice more efficiently. These states include: Kentucky, New York, Michigan, and Connecticut.

Island News: Health Department, DOC collaborate to revamp jail diversion programs for mentally ill offenders
The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are proposing solutions on how to keep mentally ill criminal defendants out of prison. Both departments are working together to create a better jail diversion system by incorporating more mental health services. The goal is to help with jail overcrowding and decrease recidivism. The DOH notes that the current jail diversion programs are not effective because only 1% of inmates who are eligible participate in the program.

Columbia Missourian: New Boone County council to address mental health in prison system
Boone County will soon have additional resources for people struggling with mental health that are at-risk of entering or reentering the prison system. The Health and Justice Coordinating Council will aim to provide resources for people struggling with mental health and substance abuse challenges. The goal of the program is to lower recidivism, as well as keep people out of the criminal justice system in the first place. As of December 2023, only five counties around Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis have enacted in-jail treatment options.

New York Times: Audit Finds Fatal Lapses in Mental Health Program Meant to Curb Violence
Poor oversight and bureaucratic delays in New York State’s gold-standard program for treating mentally ill people at risk of becoming violent has led in recent years to preventable injuries and even deaths, according to a state audit. The audit, performed by the state comptroller, found that the program, known as Kendra’s Law, sometimes dragged its feet in linking people to psychiatric care. At least five people who were or had been under Kendra’s Law orders pushed strangers onto the subway tracks.

Vicksburg News: Incarcerated Mississippians with mental illness face nation’s second-longest wait for care
Mississippians who need mental health treatment before they can stand trial have to wait in jail longer than people in any other state but Texas, according to a new national study by the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center. The report found that people in Mississippi who require competency restoration services wait an average of 9.6 months after a court has ordered them into treatment before being admitted to a state hospital.




Nutrition

Center For Science In The Public Interest: DC Council bill falls short of needed improvements to jail food
Everyone deserves access to healthy and appetizing food, but this is far from reality for incarcerated people in the District of Columbia’s correctional facilities. In recent years, local advocates have shed light on longstanding problems in the Department of Corrections, including rampant hunger, inedible food that often goes to waste, and rare access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The Secure DC Omnibus Amendment Act, passed by the DC Council, would help to address these issues. However, the bill does not go far enough. The DC Department of Health, not the DOC, should take the lead on developing nutrition standards for meals at the jail.




Education

Inside Higher Ed: Advocates Promote Equitable Prison Education Programs Post–Pell Restoration
Congress voted in 2020 to lift the 26-year ban on Pell Grants for people in prison. This marked a new era for educating the incarcerated. As that process gets underway, education advocates also want to ensure those new programs are racially equitable and reflective of the prison population’s overall demographics. Suggestions on how states and institutions running prison education programs can work toward accomplishing that goal—such as prioritizing student input and using data to evaluate and compare the equity of student outcomes—are the focus of a new report the Vera Institute released last week.




State Roundup

Colorado
KUNC: Colorado legal settlement would up care and housing standards for trans women inmates
A historic legal settlement called a consent decree, expected to be finalized by early March, would establish two new voluntary housing units for incarcerated trans women, making Colorado the first state to offer a separate unit, according to attorneys in the case. The plan outlined in the agreement, which received preliminary approval last fall, would mandate the Colorado Department of Corrections pay a $2.15 million settlement to affected trans women.

Connecticut
CT News Junkie: Lawsuit Alleges Negligence and Lack of Urgent Response to Inmate’s Calls for Help
It’s been three years since Jamari Taylor’s death at Walker Correctional Institution and his mother, Melisia, is finally getting her day in court. Taylor was 19 when he died. His death certificate says he died from natural causes, but his mother never accepted that. “How does a healthy 19 year old die from natural causes?” Mrs. Taylor would ask. The lawsuit served against the Connecticut Department of Correction and three correction officers who were on duty at the time of his death blames the state for not responding to urgent calls for help from his cellmate.

CT News Junkie: Lawsuit Alleges ‘Deliberate Indifference’ To Inmate’s Medical Needs At Connecticut Correctional Facility
Mark Jansen had been incarcerated at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution where Jansen told a medical professional that he was experiencing hearing loss. He did not receive a CT scan until months later, where an acoustic neuroma – a large, benign tumor – was located in his brain. On September 5, 2018, Mark Jansen died of complications from the surgery. “He knew the [Department of Correction’s] delay in caring for his tumor would cost him his life,” reported Kenneth Krayeske, the lawayer for Mark's daughter.

Florida
Florida Politics: House, Senate budgets clash on prisons, health care
Florida’s creaking prison system, which features many facilities without air conditioning and older buildings, needs between $6.3 billion and $11.9 billion over the next 20 years to update facilities. The Senate’s budget sets aside $3 billion over the next 10 years, using bonds to accomplish the goal. But the House doesn’t have a similar plan, so the issue will be addressed during the formal budget talks.

Pennsylvania
TribLive: Lawsuit claims that Allegheny County Jail guards broke inmate's arm
An Allegheny County Jail inmate has filed a lawsuit alleging that guards broke his arm and put him in solitary confinement after he complained that the facility withheld pain medication. Aaron Tipton, 31, of Penn Hills is alleging civil rights violations in the complaint. The lawsuit alleges that on Sept. 16, 2022, Tipton was forced to the ground, repeatedly punched and kicked in his head, neck and chest, and then shocked four times with a Taser.

Tennessee
Herald & Tribune: Opioid settlement funds to address recidivism at county jail
Washington County officials are looking to use its share of state settlement funds from a number of opioid lawsuits to deal with repeat offenders at the county’s Detention Center. Specifically, Sheriff Keith Sexton wants to allocate some of those settlement dollars to address the mental health and substance abuse issues that often result in the same inmates returning to his jail. The sheriff said repeat offenders with substance and mental health issues are also taking up beds in the jail that should be occupied by career criminals and violent offenders.

Washington
WCSC: Woman with brain bleed mistakenly arrested by state trooper for drunken driving, lawsuit says
Washington State Patrol trooper arrested a woman on suspicion of drunken driving when she was actually experiencing a life-threatening brain bleed and booked her into jail where officials mocked her instead of getting her medical attention, according to a civil rights lawsuit. The federal lawsuit filed Feb. 1 in Tacoma says Nicole McClure was booked into Thurston County Jail on March 21, 2022, where she lay on a cell floor for a day before receiving medical attention. Doctors later removed part of her skull to relieve pressure building inside her brain from a frontal-lobe subdural hematoma, according to the lawsuit.

West Virginia
Corrections 1: W.Va. jail fully staffed after adding 53 new corrections officers
Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday that besides graduating more than 50 new corrections officers, the Southern Regional Jail — which serves Mercer County — is now fully staffed. This development came from successful recruitment efforts and increased pay scales that have significantly reduced staff vacancies across the state, according to the governor’s office. In addition to last week’s graduating class, 483 officers and staff graduated from Classes 63 through 77 during calendar year 2023.

Wisconsin
Wisconsin Public Radio: Following inmate deaths, Milwaukee County approves outside audit of jail
Milwaukee County is hiring an independent auditor to study operations at the downtown jail after the deaths of six incarcerated people over 14 months led to protests about conditions in the facility. Community groups have for years been calling for a review of the conditions at Milwaukee County Jail. From June 2022 to August 2023, six people died while in custody at the jail, either of natural causes or by suicide. Twenty-seven inmates were also charged with disorderly conduct last year after they allegedly barricaded themselves inside a library in August in protest of conditions at the jail.

Spectrum News: Daughter of Wisconsin inmate who died in solitary files federal lawsuit against prison officials
The daughter of a Wisconsin inmate who killed himself in solitary confinement has filed a federal lawsuit against state prison officials, alleging they failed to provide adequate mental health care and medications. A shortage of guards has forced several Wisconsin prisons, including institutions in Waupun, Green Bay and Stanley, to institute lockdowns last year. Some movement restrictions have since eased but the lockdowns are still ongoing. A group of Waupun inmates filed a class-action federal lawsuit in Milwaukee in October alleging lockdown conditions amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

Wisconsin Public Radio: Wisconsin increases shower access at max security prison as lockdown stretches into 10th month
Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections says it’s increasing access to showers for men incarcerated at a maximum security prison. The announcement comes as pressure mounts over a prison lockdown that’s stretching into its 10th month. And last week, the department announced it was lifting a lockdown restriction related to “personal hygiene” and is now allowing inmates to shower twice a week. Prior to last week’s announcement, men incarcerated at Waupun were only allowed to shower once per week, according to the DOC.




Correctional Health Care Providers

PrimeCare Medical
Daily Item: Medical clearance rules at Northumberland County Jail concern police
Police chiefs from across Northumberland County are concerned with the health care provider inside the Northumberland County Jail declining to take inmates until they have been medically cleared. During Wednesday’s prison board meeting, Shamokin Police Chief Ray Siko said his department, along with other departments, are experiencing issues with PrimeCare Medical Inc., Harrisburg, staff declining to accept inmates who have not been cleared by a doctor for entry into the facility.

Wexford
WBEZ: The winner of a $4 billion Illinois contract has a history of preventable deaths in state prisons
Illinois prison officials are standing by their recent decision to award a new $4 billion contract to the state’s troubled prison health care provider, Wexford, despite a new report filed in federal court that describes preventable deaths, poor care and neglect inside state prisons. The report found that half the medical positions the company is responsible for providing in the prisons are unfilled. A review of 107 inmate deaths found nearly 900 issues with how patients and cases were handled, including a fall risk who was not monitored and died after hitting his head.



In Observation Of Presidents' Day
COCHS Weekly Update Will Not Be Published Next Week