Weekly Update: November 8, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: November 08, 2022

Highlighted Stories

NY Times: The False Promise of a Progressive Sheriff
For years, the California press has chronicled scandals, framing Sheriff Villanueva, who is on next week’s ballot, as unfit for office. Even the district attorney for Los Angeles County has called out the sheriff’s public corruption unit for “targeting” his political opponents. But regardless of who wins Tuesday’s vote, the institutional power structure that allows Sheriff Villanueva to operate with almost total impunity will remain in place, as it does in counties across the country. And while his actions against prominent critics have captured media attention, it’s in the jails that this power structure causes the most harm — and where the need for change on a national scale is the most overwhelmingly clear.

Press Telegram: L.A. County still failing on mental health
The party out of power is there to provide a critique and alternative strategies when the party in power has inadequately performed. In Los Angeles, there is no such party — no viable political alternative to those in office — neither in city nor county government. Instead, there is an unwritten rule that intra-party competition will be limited to superficial sniping and major ideological criticism will be kept in check. When Los Angeles County fails to provide adequate constitutionally administered mental healthcare in county jails, politicians responsible for those jails blame the inadequate funding of diversion strategies. More than a billion dollars has been spent and has not reduced street encampments nor prevented their expansion.

Daily Memphian: Tennessee private prison operator ramps up campaign spending
CoreCivic has contributed more to Tennessee’s politicians than most other entities and has spent a significant amount on lobbying. Now, the company has begun its election-season spending on political campaigns. CoreCivic gave $107,490 to Tennessee politicians and PACs from July to September, a campaign finance report filed Oct. 5 shows. In the past year, the company has spent $209,990 on lobbying. Almost all of CoreCivic’s campaign spending went to incumbent Republicans, with the biggest contributions going to Tennessee’s three most powerful men: Gov. Bill Lee, state House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge).

Honolulu Civil Beat: Hawaii’s New Governor Will Have To Make Some Hard Decisions On Crime And Punishment
Max Otani, the outgoing director of the state Department of Public Safety, has a wish list and a warning for the next governor of Hawaii. The warning is that conditions have deteriorated inside Hawaii’s jails to the point that the threat of lawsuits and federal oversight of the facilities now “looms over the state,” according to Otani. Otani’s time as director ends when Gov. David Ige leaves office next month, which means it will be up to either Democrat Josh Green or Republican Duke Aiona to address the problems and neglect that have dogged the state correctional system.

Brown University: Extreme temperatures take deadly toll on people in Texas prisons, study finds
The U.S. has the world’s largest population of prisoners, and Texas holds more incarcerated people than any other state. As climate change continues to increase the severity, frequency and duration of heat waves, the approximately 160,000 individuals in Texas prisons — as well as the people who work in these settings — come under intense physical duress in prisons without climate controls, according to a new study led by researchers at Brown University’s School of Public Health.

Safety In Corrections

WGBH: Former prisoners allege sexual assault at the state's prison for women in Framingham
Two former inmates at the only women’s prison in the state, Massachusetts Correctional Institution Framingham, filed a lawsuit Monday alleging sexual abuse by a former guard. The plaintiffs claim that over a period of six months from September 2019 to March 2020, the guard would routinely isolate them, and lead them to an empty utility closet, where he would abuse them. Defendants include the state Department of Correction, healthcare provider Wellpath and several employees of MCI Framingham.

WESA: Concerns about food, medical care at Allegheny County Jail brought before the oversight board
People shared their continued concerns about food, medical care, and the quality of life at the Allegheny County Jail at a jail oversight board meeting. At the end of October, jail officials requested an inspection after they received a complaint about breakfast trays. According to the food safety assessment report, the food condition was “satisfactory,” but inspectors noted a “medium” pest risk. Rodent droppings were found in the kitchen’s dry storage area and walk-in freezer.

Fox 13: Workers worry Utah’s new billion dollar prison isn’t safe
In August, an officer with the Utah Department of Corrections emailed an alert to state legislators. “People are feeling like the new prison is not safe for [officers] working in the new direct [supervision] units,” the officer continued. “From the stories I have heard of it’s only a matter of time before an officer is seriously injured or killed.” Utah paid $1 billion. Yvonne Jewkes, a criminology professor at the University of Bath, said she has not heard of another penitentiary so expensive. Despite all that money, a FOX 13 investigation has found, Utah failed to invest in a workforce to operate the new prison.

New Jersey Monitor: Incarcerated people endure health care, safety problems in prisons, report says
People incarcerated in New Jersey’s prisons reported that staff assaulted them, ignored requests for medical care, and slapped them with false and retaliatory disciplinary charges for speaking out about prison problems, according to the first annual report from New Jersey’s new corrections watchdog. Ombudsperson Terry Schuster said his office fielded an average of 1,034 requests a month for help in the past year from incarcerated people and their loved ones. Concerns about housing, property/money, health care, and outside communications sparked the most requests for help.

Sheriffs In The News

Marin Independent Journal: Bay Area sheriff resigns amid corruption trial
Six-term Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith abruptly submitted her resignation Monday morning in the midst of a civil corruption trial where jurors are deliberating whether she abused her powers in office. Smith is facing six civil counts of corruption and willful misconduct filed by the county civil grand jury last year. The accusations against her include illicit favoritism in her issuing of concealed-carry weapons permits, evasions of gift-reporting laws, and efforts to thwart a civilian auditor’s probe into a high-profile jail-injury case.


Star Tribune: Former officer: Alabama 'not in control' of state prisons
A former corrections officer on Friday compared Alabama prisons to a "third world country with a concrete floor" and said he believes federal officials should intervene in the system. "The Alabama Department of Corrections is not in control of any prison in Alabama and hasn't been for a while," Stacy George, who recently resigned after 13 1/2 years at Limestone Correctional Facility, said. He described coming into work and seeing blood trails through the prison, inmates threatening suicide with nooses or razor blades, and staffing levels so low that made it difficult to monitor the prison or care for inmates in need.

Insider: Experts describe the Alabama prison where an inmate died last month as an overcrowded 'slaughterhouse'
Data from the Justice Department shows about 12 in 100,000 state prisoners died from homicide in 2019 — a rate of 0.0001%. It's not uncommon for inmates to provide their own medical care, stitching each other up in the common spaces or the dormitories because they don't want to snitch about who injured them or because they believe they won't receive medical attention quickly enough if they go through the proper channels.

AL.com: Alabama paroles bureau to begin mental health, addiction treatment at former Perry County prison
Alabama plans to begin offering mental health and substance abuse treatment programs for parolees at a renovated former private prison in Perry County before the end of the year. The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles is entering a $5.2 million, two-year contract with GEO Reentry Services to staff the Perry County Reentry Education Program, or PREP. The paroles bureau bought the 700-bed prison on U.S. 80 in Uniontown from GEO Group earlier this year for $15 million and is adding classrooms and treatment areas with an additional $4 million the Legislature appropriated for renovations.


Corrections 1: Judge: La.'s prison's lockdown conditions violate inmates' rights
A federal judge has ruled that a Louisiana prison violated the constitutional rights of inmates held in extended lockdown by "exposing them to mental torture" and depriving them of adequate mental health care. Western District of Louisiana Judge Elizabeth Foote wrote in a 165-page opinion that the conditions and practices in one wing of the David Wade Correctional Center in north Louisiana "constitute cruel and unusual punishment," and that the prison system was "deliberately indifferent" to the inmates' plight.

Rikers Island

NY Times: Correction Officer Is Stabbed in Head by Rikers Detainee
A city correction officer at the Rikers Island prison complex was seriously injured on Monday when a detainee stabbed him more than a dozen times in the back of the head, the correction officers’ union said in a statement. Michael Skelly, a spokesman for the union, said the attack had taken place at around 4:45 p.m. in the protective custody unit of the jail, where detainees are held if they are believed to have been targeted by other incarcerated people.

Staffing Shortages

Union Leader: 'Gold standard' mental health training slow to reach prison staff
Short on corrections officers to handle staff absences, and without extra funds to pay for the significant costs of training, the state prison can’t send many staff. Few officers have had more than the most basic of training on mental health issues — in part because a more intensive training session offered in New Hampshire takes a full 40-hour week. The problem is staffing, and finding funding to pay all the costs associated with an intensive week of training.


Guardian: Why unhoused people in the US are choosing to go to jail: ‘I kept reoffending’
It was early February of a particularly cold winter in Spokane, in eastern Washington state, when Chris Carver decided he would rather go to jail than ride out the next couple of months on the streets. But Carver’s choice – purposefully, knowingly torpedoing his chance at freedom – fails to shock those who regularly work with the chronically homeless. In January 2021, an Indiana man refused to leave a hospital until police booked him. In Mississippi, right before Christmas in 2019, a homeless man broke windows so he could spend the night in jail. And in 2018, a Washington man robbed his fourth bank in search of a long prison sentence.


State Scoop: North Carolina expands medical record access to improve prison care
North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety — and its Department of Adult Corrections, to be launched next year — will soon gain access to the state’s health information exchange, the state’s technology office announced Thursday. With access to NC HealthConnex, clinicians working at North Carolina’s 55 correctional facilities will be able to view important health information — including current medications, lab results, diagnostics, allergies and more — for the state’s population of roughly 30,000 incarcerated people.

Healthcare Innovation: N.C., Georgia Connect Corrections Departments to HIEs
Georgia and North Carolina are joining the list of states where health information exchanges are providing access to the medical records of incarcerated persons to provide enhanced continuity of care. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the future N.C. Department of Adult Correction have joined NC HealthConnex, North Carolina’s state-designated HIE. In Georgia, Wellpath, which provides medical and mental healthcare services in prisons, jails, and other institutions, recently announced an alliance with the Morehouse School of Medicine and the HI-BRIDGE Health Information Exchange (HIE) to electronically share real-time correctional patient health information for care delivery throughout 70 facilities in Georgia.

Data Breaches

JD Supra: CorrectCare Integrated Health Announces Data Breach Impacting Individuals Incarcerated in the CDCR System
On October 31, 2022, CorrectCare Integrated Health reported a data breach with the Attorney General of California after the company learned that sensitive information belonging to certain inmates in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) was inadvertently made publicly available. As an inmate in the CDCR system, you are already at an increased risk of identity theft and fraud. And, as a result of the recent CorrectCare data breach, your information may have been handed to bad actors on a silver platter.

4WWL: Louisiana DPS suffered data breach of third-party administrator exposing health info of 80,000 inmates
The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections has learned about a cybersecurity breach at a third-party health administrator that led to the exposure of health information of about 80,000 inmates over a nine-year period, according to a press release. The press release states that state and pre-trial inmates who received off-site medical care from the time frame of Jan. 1, 2013 to July 7, 2022 may have had their personal health information exposed. This resulted from two file directories from third-party administrator CorrectCare being breached, which was initially discovered on July 6, 2022.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Seattle Times: Wait times for mental health services in WA jails worsen as fines spiral
Four years after the settlement, referred to as the Trueblood case, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services — the state agency in charge of getting people into mental health services — is still struggling to meet required time frames. In fact, wait times are getting worse, costing hundreds of people in jails, and their loved ones, weeks or months of their lives. The settlement includes fines, so the failure also has cost Washington taxpayers an estimated $98 million since 2018. People sit in jail, unable to get into a state hospital for these restoration services. Advocates argue this violated defendants’ constitutional due-process rights in the Trueblood settlement.

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

BJA: The Bureau of Justice Assistance Celebrates “Seven Years of Stepping Up”
The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) celebrated “Seven Years of Stepping Up” this September. Funded by BJA, Stepping Up is a partnership between the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, the National Association of Counties, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. The initiative seeks to reduce the over-incarceration of people with mental illnesses in the nation's jails. Stepping Up planning and implementation are designed to meet counties where they are, allowing them to select the best strategies for their local context.


NY Times: Prisoners Like Me Are Being Held Hostage to Price Hikes
JPay, a private company providing communications and financial services to prisoners, announced the end of its “pandemic promotions.” To communicate with loved ones over the JPay platform, a digital stamp is required for each incoming and outgoing email. Today, 60 stamps cost prisoners and their families $18, an 80 percent jump from the promotional rate. These prices may strike the average reader as inconsequential, but they are a lot relative to what prisoners can earn inside.

Correctional Health Care Providers

Yahoo: Jail health care company owes up to $400K to local providers
Medical, mental health and psychiatric services at the Grand Traverse County jail are costing up to $400,000 more than what is covered by a contract signed by County Health Support Services. County Administrator Nate Alger said the company ran out of money and has asked the county for between $100,000 and $400,000, which the county has not given them. The contracted amount for the CHSS proposal that has all services under one umbrella using local providers is $709,199, plus a $10,000 start-up fee. The 10-month contract was signed in February and runs until the end of December.

Reuters: In novel transgender rights case, Idaho fights $2.6 mln attorney fee award
The state of Idaho has appealed a federal judge's order awarding more than $2.58 million in attorneys' fees to the lawyers who successfully represented a transgender prison inmate in a novel legal challenge over gender confirmation surgery. Idaho's appeal, filed jointly by prison health provider Corizon LLC, was docketed on Thursday in the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Idaho's corrections department and Corizon are challenging U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill's order, which spurned the state's argument that the fee demand from lawyers for plaintiff Adree Edmo was excessive.

Colorado Politics: Judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit against Jeffco, jail contractor for alleged constitutional violation
A federal judge has refused to dismiss a man's lawsuit against Jefferson County and its medical contractor, Wellpath, for allegedly ignoring a life-threatening dental condition during his nearly six-month stay in the jail. As part of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, jail and prison staff cannot be deliberately indifferent to a detainee's serious medical needs. Ronald Raymond Rogacki alleged that a roster of Wellpath employees in the Jeffco jail failed to do the obvious thing that would solve his chronic sinus infection — extract his teeth.