Weekly Update: March 21, 2023

COCHS Weekly Update: March 21, 2023

Highlighted Stories

Centers For Health Care Strategies: CMS Opens Door for Pre-Release Services for Justice-Involved Populations: Health Care and Justice System Implications
A virtual panel, cohosted by the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) and the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG Justice Center), will explore this new opportunity to improve access to care and services for people returning to the community from jails and prisons, including impacts to both Medicaid and criminal-legal systems. National and California stakeholders will discuss implications of the new waiver authority.

HMA: Medicaid Authority and Opportunity to Build New Programs for Justice-Involved Individuals
This webinar is designed to help states and other stakeholders understand the section 1115 parameters and that will provide insight to states, local government, carceral care settings and providers on how to best plan for implementing such services.

FORE: Expanding Access to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment During and After Incarceration
At the end of January 2023, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved California’s 1115 waiver amendment application to use federal Medicaid to pay for certain health care services inside jails, prisons, and youth correctional facilities during the last 90 days of a person’s incarceration. This webinar will discuss policy implications and next steps after approval of California’s 1115 waiver and provide some recommendations for the field.

Contraband In Corrections
WCSC: Medical worker accused of bringing contraband into Charleston Co. jail
A contracted medical assistant working at the Al Cannon Detention Center is accused of bringing contraband into the jail. Dayna Yvette Smalls, 45, was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and four counts of furnishing contraband. Sheriff’s office spokesman Andrew Knapp said Smalls was an employee of the jail’s contracted medical provider Wellpath.

Gothamist: Drugs, cash and razor blades flow into NYC juvenile centers through staff smuggling network
Drugs, cash and razor blades are flowing into the city’s juvenile detention centers through a network of employees supplying teenagers with contraband, according to current and former employees. “You name it, they’ll bring it,” a current employee said, referring to staffers. “Some will bring in phones, some will bring in weed, some will bring in blades … just so they can survive. This job is not for everybody.”

Florida Department Of Corrections: Florida Correctional Officer Arrested
The Florida Department of Corrections' (FDC) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announced the arrest of former correctional officer Thomas Kern. Kern is charged with the introduction of contraband into a correctional institution.

Mercury News: Fentanyl overdoses reported at Santa Clara County jails
As the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office contends with a spike in fentanyl overdoses at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas, the medical examiner-coroner’s office has identified a 44-year-old inmate who died after apparently coming into contact with the opioid last week at the Main Jail in San Jose. The in-custody death follows a “substantial amount” of fentanyl overdoses last week at the Elmwood Correctional Facility, Low said.

Gothamist: Jail Board Punts Plan to Digitize Rikers Mail
A plan to digitize and screen mail and packages for people behind bars in city jails has remained in limbo for months. The pitch to hand over the mail screening system to a for-profit company was first introduced by city Correction Commissioner Louis Molina in October 2022. He cited a spike in fatal drug overdoses by detainees and predicted the mail-screening conversion would save lives by curbing the flow of fentanyl into the jails.

Gothamist: NYC jails oversight body rejects plan to ban mail and packages at Rikers
A city jails oversight board rebuffed the Adams administration’s push to ban physical mail and some packages from being delivered to detainees on Rikers Island, refusing to bring the issue up for a vote. Officers are not scanned for contraband like other visitors, but Molina said this week that for the first time randomly selected officers will walk through body scanners as they enter one jail facility on Rikers Island.

The Young Turks (YouTube): Several Gangs Run The Sheriff's Department In Los Angeles
A new report shows that the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department have gang members at the highest levels. This report identifies at “least a half dozen” active gangs and cliques — and names them: the Executioners, the Banditos, the Regulators, the Spartans, the Gladiators, the Cowboys, and the Reapers."

Dan Mistak's NAMI Article
NAMI: All People Deserve Quality Care, Including Those Who Are Incarcerated
COCHS' Dan Mistak writes: It has become cliché to call county jails the “de facto mental health hospitals” in this country, but the truth is that 44% of people in county jails have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. And this number still does not account for the number of those with undiagnosed mental illness. Jails are, much to the chagrin of health and justice stakeholders, a part of our behavioral health response in this country.

Opioid Epidemic

AJMC: Addressing the Opioid Crisis
This study describes an example of a data-sharing initiative in Fairfax County, Virginia. It is an example of a multistage approach to implementing cross-agency, electronic data sharing that targeted clients with opioid use disorder. The Opioid Policy & Data Framework (OPDF) was a 3-year county project supported by the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance to design a legal, secure means of sharing electronic data among agencies. The goals of the OPDF project were to engage public providers who serve clients with opioid use disorder.

NPR: Are harsher fentanyl sentences the solution to the opiate crisis? Experts say no
Over 110,000 people died of drug overdoses last year in America, according to the CDC. Behind the deadly wave is fentanyl, a cheap and powerful synthetic opiate. In response, cities and states have been pushing for much harsher sentencing. Here in New Jersey, one new bill would make manufacturing and distributing 5 grams a first degree crime. But advocates say, that's a small enough amount to land people who are using in jail, rather than get them the help they need.

Rand: America's Opioid Ecosystem
Efforts to address problems related to opioids are insufficient and sometimes contradictory. In this 600-page report, researchers provide a nuanced assessment of America's opioid ecosystem, highlighting how leveraging system interactions can reduce addiction, overdose, suffering, and other harms.

Data & Statistics

BJS: HIV in Prisons, 2021 – Statistical Tables
This report provides data on persons in the custody of state and federal correctional authorities who were known to be living with HIV in 2021. The report presents national- and jurisdiction-level estimates of the number and rate of prisoners living with HIV while in the custody of state and federal correctional authorities.

NACJD: February 2023 Data Releases
This February the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD) at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) released 10 new studies, including new data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) series. Other newly released data cover topics such as juveniles, crime laboratories, domestic violence, and more. Please click on the study titles linked below for more information about a particular study.

State Roundup

Alabama Political Reporter: Staton Correctional Facility lifts quarantine after tuberculosis scare
Staton Correctional Facility returned to normal operations last week after being placed on quarantine since the end of November when tuberculosis was discovered at the prison, according to a spokesperson with the Alabama Department of Corrections. There was one active case discovered with over 20 individuals testing positive with latent tuberculosis, which presents no symptoms or possibility of spreading the virus, over the quarantine. For cases of active tuberculosis, treatment includes regimented doses of four medications for six months.

Alaska News Source: ACLU suit claims Alaska inmate was unlawfully given psychotropic medication against his will
The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU Alaska filed a lawsuit against the Alaska Department of Corrections, citing “an unlawful involuntary medication policy” on behalf of Mark Andrews. Andrews took the psychotropic medication of his own free will until 2018, when he felt he no longer needed it. The DOC policy at the time stated that a “due process hearing” was required before involuntary medication administration began, but Andrews never got a hearing.

YouTube: Governor Newsom Announces Historic Transformation of San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin State Prison is headed for a major transformation as Gov. Gavin Newsom expands his push to remake the state’s penal system by implementing progressive models from Northern Europe. Newsom plans to shift it from a maximum security facility to a center for education and training within the prison system, according to his press office. A group made up public safety experts, crime victims and formerly incarcerated people will advise the state on the transformation. Newsom is allocating $20 million to launch the plan.

9News: Denver oversight board said more transparency needed around inmate medical care
Denver's Citizen Oversight Board (COB) wants more transparency about the medical care Denver Health provides to inmates at the downtown jail. The board's concern stems from the death of an inmate last year. Leroy Taylor, 71, died in February 2022 after his family said he was repeatedly denied medical care in the days leading up to his death.

CT Mirror: Could CT end routine strip searches in prisons? Debate heats up
In a public hearing this week for a bill that would end routine strip searching in Connecticut, many condemned the practice as sexual violence and argued that it’s a tool deployed by correctional officers wanting to exert power over incarcerated people. But the proposal was opposed by some correctional facility employees who spoke about strip searching as a resource for deterring potential violence.

WSB-TV: Georgia prison warden arrested for accepting bribes from gangs, investigation finds
Brian Adams was the warden at Smith State Prison in Tatnall County until he was fired Wednesday and then arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Adams is accused of taking bribe money from the “Yves Saint Laurent Squad,” the same gang under indictment for using a cellphone to put out a hit on an incorruptible corrections officer from inside the jail. The killer ended up going to the wrong house and killing an innocent man in his late 80s.

Newswire: Freedom Libraries to Open in Maine Prisons
The national nonprofit Freedom Reads opened six Freedom Libraries at Maine Correctional Center (MCC), one library at Southern Maine Women's Reentry Center (SMWRC) and one library at Maine Correctional Women's Center (MCWC) in Windham, ME. The Freedom Libraries will be placed in the facilities' housing units for unfettered access to the 500-book collection. One of MCC's six Freedom Libraries will be dedicated to staff use.

New Jersey
NY Times: Police Pleaded for Hours With a Man in Crisis. Then They Shot Him.
For hours, the Paterson police pleaded with Najee Seabrooks to come out of a locked bathroom where he was threatening to kill himself. New Jersey’s attorney general said that Najee Seabrooks then lunged toward Paterson officers with a knife. They fatally shot him, renewing criticism of using armed officers to deal with people in distress. The case has roiled the city, where Mr. Seabrooks’s colleagues and family have demanded to know why mental health specialists were not allowed into the apartment so they could help.

NPR: 7 deputies and 3 others face murder charges in a Black man's death at mental hospital
A Virginia prosecutor has charged seven law enforcement officers and three hospital employees with second-degree murder over the death of a Black man at a state psychiatric hospital last week. Irvo Noel Otieno, 28, was taken into emergency custody on March 3 after experiencing mental health distress. He spent three days in a local jail in Henrico County, south of Richmond, Va., where his family's lawyer says he was "brutalized" by officers.

West Virginia
The Guardian: Families of 14 inmates who died in West Virginia jail allege negligence
Families of 14 inmates who have died in a West Virginia jail in the past year amid reports of deplorable conditions, rampant violence and inadequate medical services are demanding a federal investigation into what they say is negligence on the part of state authorities. Recently the 14th death was recorded at the Southern regional jail in Beaver, West Virginia.

Wisconsin Public Radio: Wisconsin prison opens assisted living unit for incarcerated people who need advanced care
A Wisconsin prison is opening an assisted living unit for incarcerated people with advanced medial needs. The new unit at the minimum security men's prison opened late last month with seven patients. Eventually, officials hope to recruit enough staff to reach full capacity, which will include 15 beds for incarcerated men who need rehabilitative care to recover from surgeries or illness.

Rikers Island

NY Times: Jail Captain Convicted of Negligent Homicide in Hanging Death of Inmate
A jail supervisor who walked away from an inmate after he had hanged himself was convicted of criminally negligent homicide, capping a trial that pointed to the brutal conditions inside New York City’s jails and the persistence of inmate suicides. The jury, which deliberated for six hours in Manhattan Criminal Court, rejected Capt. Rebecca Hillman’s defense. The jury spent hours watching video footage that showed Captain Hillman looking inside Mr. Wilson’s cell before she walked away and left him alone for 15 minutes.

Bail Reform

Gothamist: Study shows those released under NY's bail reform laws are less likely to get rearrested
Controversial new state bail laws that some politicians say lead to offenders getting released and then rearrested actually had the opposite overall effect, according to a new study of criminal justice data. The study, from John Jay College’s Data Collaborative for Justice, showed that the 2020 bail reform laws eliminating judges’ ability to impose bail for low-level crimes actually reduced the likelihood that someone would get arrested again.

WBEZ: Five things to know as the Safe-T Act goes to the Illinois Supreme Court
The future of cash bail in Illinois is in the hands of the state’s Supreme Court. Illinois passed a law that eliminated the use of cash bail starting on January 1, 2023 as part of the SAFE-T Act. But prosecutors across the state filed lawsuits challenging the law’s constitutionality. After a lower court judge ruled in their favor, it was placed on hold until the Illinois Supreme Court could make a final decision.


The Hill: Former defense chiefs say number of incarcerated veterans is concerning
A commission including two former secretaries of defense called for action to steer veterans away from incarceration in the civilian justice system. The Veterans Justice Commission, which is led by former defense secretary Chuck Hagel and also includes former defense secretary Leon Panetta, said in a release that the system “fails to adequately identify veterans, steer them away from prosecution and incarceration."

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

Seattle Times: Treat people who need help, rather than dropping them in ER, jail
Many communities across Washington face a daunting reality: Incarceration rates are outpacing population growth. In Whatcom County, between 1970 and 2014, the overall population grew 2½ times, but the number of incarcerated people increased almost ninefold. Whatcom has now implemented several law enforcement and service provider alternatives that are cutting back the number of people it detains in its jail.

Austin American Statesman: Plan to provide treatment instead of jail for mentally ill has merit
Low-level criminal offenders with mental illness shouldn't be locked up in the Travis County jail. Instead, they should get the help they need. That's the vision of County Judge Andy Brown, who later this month will ask fellow county commissioners to approve plans for a 60-bed diversion center in downtown Austin for men and women with mental health disorders.

Florida Times Union: Chief judge: Plans for riverfront should include support for Mental Health Offender Program
Approximately two years ago, a diverse group came together to create a local Mental Health Offender Program here in Jacksonville. Known as MHOP, this is the area’s first concerted effort to get individuals with significant mental illness who are chronically arrested out of the jails and into treatment.

Correctional Health Care Providers

Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Federal judge says plausible Karas experimented on jail detainees, refuses to dismiss lawsuit
A federal lawsuit claiming detainees at the Washington County Jail were given the drug Ivermectin for covid without their knowledge or consent will go forward after a judge refused to throw the case out. Dr. Robert Karas used detainees for an experiment of his own using a drug that was not approved for the purpose, U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks said Thursday. The lawsuit contends detainees were given Ivermectin as early as November 2020 and didn't become aware of what the treatment was until July 2021.

The Guardian: Family of Florida man who died while being violently restrained to sue jail staff
The family of a Florida man who died after being violently restrained by jailers is filing a civil rights suit against the officers who were involved in the incident and the jail’s healthcare provider. The suit alleges that jail staff in the North Broward Bureau detention facility showed deliberate indifference to Desir’s medical and mental health care needs. The lawsuit also includes Wellpath, a for-profit healthcare provider in several jails and prisons nationwide.

Eugene Weekly: Wellpath Isn't Well
The Lane County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to place a Public Safety Levy Renewal on the May ballot. Although Commissioner David Loveall requested an increase to the levy, the final vote reflected no increase. The levy renewal helps to fund the county jail, its medical services, its mental health services and youth services for juvenile offenders. These services are currently provided by Wellpath (formerly known as Correct Care Solutions).