Weekly Update: January 10, 2023

COCHS Weekly Update: January 10, 2023

Highlighted Stories

CommonWealth: Medicaid should cover the incarcerated
In an opinion piece, Peter J. Koutoujian, sheriff of Middlesex County, MA, writes: For millions of Americans with serious health care needs, their treatment is not being provided at a hospital or clinic, but at the county jail. Jails, like the one I oversee in Middlesex County, have become de facto treatment centers for individuals who are otherwise forgotten in our health care system. 40 percent of state prisoners and 33 percent of individuals in federal correctional facilities have a chronic health condition. At my county facility, 65 percent of individuals are being treated for a chronic disease. This is why I’ve been working with both state and national leaders to eliminate the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy that bars any eligible incarcerated person from accessing Medicaid services.

Cal Matters: New rules to let inmates enroll in Medi-Cal before they leave prison
California is preparing to expand Medi-Cal to inmates up to 90 days before release as part of the latest transformation to the state’s low-income health insurance program. Under the expansion, incarcerated people with a variety of health issues, including chronic conditions, mental illness, substance use disorders, disabilities, or who are pregnant will be eligible to receive assessment and treatment shortly before release.

Source NM: New Mexico’s HSD proposes medication-assisted treatment for incarcerated people
Beginning in 2024, New Mexico’s Medicaid program could start providing medication-assisted treatment to incarcerated people 30 days before they are released, along with a 30-day supply of medication when they leave. In a 275-page application to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services by the New Mexico Human Services Department published Friday, HSD says it hopes to ensure formerly incarcerated people stay on their medication after release, don’t commit more crime, end up in an emergency room or become unhoused.

Opioid Epidemic

CBS News: Omnibus bill includes changes to federal drug treatment programs
A portion of the $1.7 trillion in the federal government's proposed omnibus bill will go to opioid treatment programs, as the U.S. continues to see high rates of substance use and overdose deaths. Some of the provisions in the omnibus bill — including increased federal funding for state opioid response grants that support OTPs in rural communities, and increased telehealth flexibility — aim to make the medications more accessible. 

Politico: Maine’s Prisons Taught Washington a Crucial Lesson in Fighting Opioids
Something new is happening in Maine’s prisons, and officials in Washington are watching closely. While medications such as buprenorphine and methadone have existed for decades as a treatment for opioid use disorder, they have largely been ignored — or shunned — in jails and prisons across the country --that is beginning to change. In Maine about 40 percent of inmates across the prison system are now administered drugs to treat opioid use disorder. Maine has one of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the nation.

Blomberg Law: Addiction Treatment for Inmates Draws Biden Drug Focus for 2023
The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is working with the administration’s Drug Enforcement Administration and the Health and Human Services Department on a plan to provide addiction treatment services to incarcerated individuals across federal correctional systems, Rahul Gupta, the office’s director, stated. Addressing substance use among the incarcerated is an “important piece” of expanding treatment, Gupta added.

NIDA: NIH launches harm reduction research network to prevent overdose fatalities
To address the overdose crisis in the United States, the National Institutes of Health has established a research network that will test harm reduction strategies in different community settings to inform efforts to help save lives. The harm reduction research network’s efforts build on existing harm reduction research, and represent the largest pool of funding from NIH to date to study harm reduction strategies to address overdose deaths.

Honolulu Civil Beat: Doctors Want To Maximize The Potential Of Anti-Addiction Medication For Kauai Inmates
The use of medication to help inmates recover from drug addiction while doing time in correctional facilities has a controversial history, primarily because some of the FDA-approved medications are opioids themselves, prompting concerns over the efficacy of swapping out one drug for another.More than 30 states have enacted some form of medication-assisted treatment for inmates. All told, 1,057 Kauai inmates have been screened for opioid addiction since January 2021 and 101 inmates have received medication

Times Of San Diego: County Jail Inmate Administers Anti-Overdose Drug to Fellow Inmate
An inmate at the George Bailey Detention Facility in Otay Mesa used the anti-overdose medication Naloxone to help a fellow inmate, the sheriff’s department reported Wednesday. Deputies and medical staff administered eight more doses of Naloxone to the inmate, who then became responsive. Paramedics took him to a hospital for treatment. He was later released and returned to the jail, according to the department.

Excessive Phone Charges

NPR: A bill to fight expensive prison phone call costs heads to Biden's desk
Legislation that aims to curb the costs of phone calls behind bars is heading to President Biden's desk for his signature. The Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act of 2022, which was approved by Congress last month, is a major victory for the Federal Communications Commission in its yearslong fight to cap how much private companies charge incarcerated people for phone calls. Though rates differ by state, calls from prison cost on average $5 for a 30-minute phone call. Those fees can place a serious financial burden on incarcerated people.

Now This News: Phone Calls to and From California State Prisons Will Be Free Starting January 1
Starting on January 1, 2023, incarcerated people in California’s state prison system will be able to make and receive phone calls for free. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Keep Families Connected Act into law earlier this year after the legislation was introduced by state Sen. Josh Becker

Letitia James New York Attorney General: Attorney General James Delivers $500,000 in Credits to Incarcerated Individuals Who Were Denied Services
New York Attorney General Letitia James reached an agreement with JPay LLC (JPay), a technology and financial services provider for corrections facilities, for failing to provide adequate media and communication services to incarcerated individuals at facilities owned and operated by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) received numerous complaints from incarcerated New Yorkers that JPay’s tablets were defective, arrived late, or never arrived. The OAG also found that JPay failed to refund consumers or provide technical support when a service they paid for was not delivered.

Data & Statistics

BJS: Jail Inmates in 2021 – Statistical Tables and Prisoners in 2021 – Statistical Tables
The Bureau of Justice Statistics is announcing the release of statistical tables on Jail Inmates in 2021 and Prisoners in 2021. Of note, the two incarcerated populations diverged in 2021, with the number of persons held in local jails increasing by 16% from 2020, while the number of persons in prison decreased 1%. Both populations decreased from 2019 to 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SAMHSA: 2021 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Releases
Conducted annually, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) provides nationally representative data on the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs; substance use disorders; receipt of substance use treatment; mental health issues; and the use of mental health services among the civilian, noninstitutionalized population aged 12 or older in the United States.

Marshall Project: The Books Banned in Your State’s Prisons
Over the past year, reporters for The Marshall Project asked every state prison system for book policies and lists of banned publications. About half of the states said they kept such lists, which contained more than 50,000 titles. We’ve created a searchable database so you can see for yourself which books prisons don’t want incarcerated people to read.


AP: Bill forcing feds to fix prison cameras is signed into law
President Joe Biden signed into law Tuesday a bill requiring the federal Bureau of Prisons to overhaul outdated security systems and fix broken surveillance cameras after rampant staff sexual abuse, inmate escapes and high-profile deaths. The bipartisan Prison Camera Reform Act, which passed the Senate last year and the House on Dec. 14, requires the Bureau of Prisons to evaluate and enhance security camera, radio and public address systems at its 122 facilities.

Questionable Healthcare Practices

Daily Beast: Arizona Inducing Labor in Pregnant Inmates Without Consent: Report
Prison medical officials in Arizona are inducing labor in pregnant prisoners against their will, according to three incarcerated women. The women were told by prison medical providers, Naphcare that induction was an Arizona Department of Corrections policy. NaphCare said that induction was “solely the patient’s choice.”

Fox News: California university apologizes for 'unethical' experiments on prison inmates
University of California San Francisco is apologizing for conducting dozens of experiments on prison inmates in the 1960s and 1970s that it now says were unethical. Two dermatologists at the university — one of whom remains at the university — conducted the experiments of at least 2,600 incarcerated men in the 1960s and 1970s, including putting pesticides and herbicides on the men’s skin and injecting it into their veins. The experiments were conducted at the California Medical Facility, a prison hospital in Vacaville that’s about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco. The practice was halted in 1977.


California Healthline: ‘Caged … For No Fault of Your Own’: Detainees Dread Covid While Awaiting Immigration Hearings
Across the country, the chance of developing severe illness or dying from covid has fallen, a result of updated booster shots, at-home tests, and therapeutics. Most people can weigh the risks of attending gatherings or traveling. But for the roughly 30,000 people living in close quarters in the country’s network of immigration facilities, covid remains an ever-present threat. Under ICE’s pandemic protocols, covid isolation, used to keep other detainees from falling ill, must be separate from disciplinary segregation. The agency didn’t address claims that facilities have used solitary confinement areas to isolate detainees who have tested positive for covid.

Vera: COVID-19 Restrictions May Be Easing, but in Prison We’re Still Here Alone
Serving time comes with a host of stress factors on its own. Now, with COVID protocols and a drastic shift in facility policies, those stress factors have increased significantly. The feeling of being held hostage has taken a toll on the prison population here, and the profound psychological effect has surfaced. Many incarcerated people are now doing time alone. Even with mounting pressure from advocates, attempts to create meaningful changes within correctional facilities are time consuming and often met with resistance.


Healio: Incarcerated adults at higher risk for cancer mortality
Individuals diagnosed with cancer during incarceration or within a year after release from prison have a higher risk for cancer mortality than those never incarcerated, according to a study from Yale Cancer Center. This study was funded by an NIH grant, using a statewide tumor registry linked with correctional system data. 216,540 adults in Connecticut were diagnosed with invasive cancer between 2005 and 2016, including 239 diagnosed in prison and 479 diagnosed within 12 months after release. After adjusting for demographics and cancer characteristics, they found a significantly higher 5-year risk for cancer-related death among those diagnosed while incarcerated.

Rikers Island

The City: City Hall Still Planning for Shutdown of Rikers Island Jails, But Is Mayor All-In?
At the close of Mayor Eric Adams’ first year in office, it’s not completely clear whether he wants the cells at Rikers Island to stay or go. The ambitious City Hall plan to shut the sprawling and isolated jail facilities there — a legacy of the previous administration — is still officially moving ahead despite Adams calling the massive shift into question because of a steady rise in the number of detainees. Yet he also spent much of his freshman year pushing state lawmakers to make it even easier for prosecutors to lock people up.

The City: Lawsuit Asserts If Rikers Can’t Provide Medical Care, It Should Cap Population
The city Department of Correction should pay a $3 million fine and explain to a judge how many people it can realistically provide medical care to and take no more than that, New York’s largest public defender group argued. The legal complaint by The Legal Aid Society and others in Bronx Supreme Court comes as the jail population has steadily increased over the past year and is expected to hit 7,000 next year. Incarcerated people in city jails missed more than 12,000 medical visits from February through October because of a lack of correction officer escorts or space in the medical clinics, according to the department. 

Gothamist: Seventh Rikers officer charged with smuggling drugs into jails
A correction officer at Rikers Island has been indicted on charges that she smuggled marijuana and other contraband into a jail, federal authorities reported. The indictment from Brooklyn federal prosecutor Breon Peace alleges that Karin Robinson accepted a series of $1,000 payments via Cash App, a money-transfer platform, from the wife of a detainee, James Albert. Albert was convicted last year of running a large drug operation while incarcerated. Six correction officers were previously arrested in connection with the case, along with 15 others.


VT Digger: State auditor: Vermont prison system mishandled incarcerated people’s grievances
The Vermont Department of Corrections is not following its own policies to document and respond to prisoners’ grievances, according to a new report by State Auditor Doug Hoffer.  Hoffer’s office found that the Department of Corrections kept records in tracking software called the Offender Management System that were “inaccurate or otherwise unusable, while some records are missing entirely.” Over the 36-page report the auditor laid out a list of shortcomings, both in the department’s technology and its management structure.

Bail Reform

HuffPost: Illinois' Plan To Eliminate Cash Bail Remains Uncertain Following Judge's Ruling
Illinois’ plan to eliminate cash bail at the start of the year now faces uncertainty following a judge’s ruling that certain provisions in the legislation are unconstitutional. The no cash bail statute, also known as the Pretrial Fairness Act, was set to make Illinois the first state to officially eliminate cash bail and would require judges to determine if a detained individual should be released.


Out In New Jersey: LGBTQ youth in juvenile correctional facilities at high risk for suicide and self-harm
A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that LGBTQ youth are disproportionally represented in juvenile correctional facilities. The majority of LGBTQ youth held in custody are girls (64%) and youth of color (72%), and they face a significantly greater risk of suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and self-harm. The study showed that compared to straight, cisgender youth in public schools, incarcerated LGBTQ youth were twice as likely to think about suicide, six times more likely to attempt suicide, and nearly four times more likely to engage in self-harm.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

NPR: In county jails, guards use pepper spray, stun guns to subdue people in mental crisis
An investigation by WITF and NPR looked at 456 use of force incidents from 25 county jails in Pennsylvania, during the last quarter of 2021. Nearly 1 in 3 "use of force" incidents involved a person who was having a mental health crisis or who had a known mental illness. In many cases, guards used aggressive — and distressing — weapons like stun guns and pepper spray to control and subdue such prisoners, despite the fact that their severe psychiatric conditions meant they may have been unable to follow orders — or even understand what was going on.

Reuters: Massachusetts agrees to reform prison conditions for mentally ill inmates
The Massachusetts state prison system will reform how it cares for inmates with serious mental health issues and supervise prisoners at risk of harming themselves to resolve a years-long civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Justice Department on Tuesday said the Massachusetts Department of Correction entered into a settlement agreement after investigators concluded conditions at its prisons resulted in inmates on mental health watch dying or injuring themselves.

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

LA Times: Why California’s much-touted CARE Court is ‘no one-and-done program’
When Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the CARE Act into law in September, he set the clock on seven counties to have the program with its signature courts up and running by Oct. 1, 2023. As mental health agencies struggle to contain a crisis where homelessness is often the common fate for those with severe mental illness, the CARE Act was written as an attempt to increase pressure on those who might resist treatment, described by Newsom in his announcement as “people with the hardest-to-treat behavioral conditions.”

ABC 8: Travis County Judge will prioritize Mental Health Diversion Facility in 2023
Travis County Judge Andy Brown was just re-elected to his second term and he and the county have a lot of work ahead in 2023. Judge Brown says the biggest problem facing Travis County as we turn the calendar and start the new year is the fact that not only is the jail population continuing to surge, but also that the percentage of people in jail with unmet mental health needs has more than doubled since pre-COVID.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

MPR News: Company’s bankruptcy leaves Minn. counties searching for jail medical care
A controversial jail doctor’s company filed for bankruptcy last month, leaving more than a dozen Minnesota counties scrambling to find a different health provider for people in their jails. Last month, MEnD Correctional Care informed counties by letter that it is terminating correctional health care services within 90 days. The Sartell, Minn.-based company has faced allegations of failing to provide adequate care to inmates, including 27-year-old Hardel Sherrell, who died in 2018 of medical complications after his pleas for help were ignored by Beltrami County jail and medical staff.

West Central Tribune: Renville County Jail anticipates doubled costs for medical services
Costs for providing medical services at the Renville County Jail will likely double due to the expected loss of the current provider. Current provider MEnD Correctional Care has filed for bankruptcy protection. The jail is currently paying just north of $130,000 annually to MEnD Correctional Care. The cost for the identical services from Advanced Correctional Healthcare are projected to cost $260,000, the sheriff said.

Missouri Independent: Cole County judge confirms $2M jury award in sexual harassment case against Missouri Department of Corrections
The Missouri Department of Corrections must pay $2 million in punitive damages in a sexual harassment case brought by a prison nurse who felt trapped between two corrections officers as one described plans to kidnap, drug and rape her. Just efore the trial started Nov. 7, Newman “resolved” the portion of her lawsuit alleging wrongdoing by Corizon (now YesCare) and its employees, her attorney, Andy Hirth of Columbia, wrote in an email to The Independent.

AL.com: Arrested over $40, dead of pneumonia in an Alabama jail. Family claims woman denied basic care.
The father of an Alabama woman who died from pneumonia in jail will get his day in court next year on allegations jail nurses never treated the ailing inmate, even as she became so weak she couldn’t stand or walk. Michael Harris, Autumn Harris’ father, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in 2020 against Preemptive Forensic Health Solutions (PFHS), the company that provided health care services in the Walker County Jail.

Alabama Today: State puts prison healthcare problems under a new health care service provider
On Tuesday, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) announced that YesCare (formerly Corizon Health. has been selected to enter negotiations for the department’s comprehensive healthcare services contract. Inmate healthcare has been a problem in Alabama prisons for years. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has sued the state in federal court on behalf of several current and former Alabama inmates, alleging that the state does not provide adequate mental health treatment, drug treatment, and healthcare to inmates.