Weekly Update: October 25, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: October 25, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Becker's Hospital Review: Yale physician among 2022 McArthur Fellows
Emily Wang, MD, was one of 25 people to receive the 2022 MacArthur Fellowship. Dr. Yang is a professor in the department of internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Wang was recognized for her efforts to improve health outcomes and coordinate care for people released from prison. She co-founded the Transitions Clinic Network, which now includes 48 clinics across 14 states that provide primary care and other support services to the vulnerable patient population.

Government Executive: Senate Bill Aims to Improve Care for Pregnant Women and Babies in Federal Prisons
Legislation introduced by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Sen. Susan Collins aims to improve care in federal prisons for pregnant and postpartum women and their babies. If passed, the Protecting the Health and Wellness of Babies and Pregnant Women in Custody Act would establish care standards for federal facilities across the country, requiring access to medical and mental health services, as well as education around parental rights and lactation.

Time: To Dismantle the Prison System, We Need Viral Justice
The concept of “viral justice” offers a fresh orientation, a way of looking at (or looking again) at all the ways people are working, little by little, day by day, to combat unjust systems and build alternatives to the oppressive status quo. It invites us to witness how an idea or action that sprouts in one place may be adopted, adapted, and diffused elsewhere. Rather than a strict focus on macro processes and “structural change,” viral justice reminds us how individual volition maintains or transforms the status quo.

Communicable Diseases

WALB: Glass half empty: DPH confirms positive Legionella tests at Autry State Prison for more than a year
New information from the Georgia Department of Corrections and Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) confirms a dangerous and hard-to-control bacteria is within the water system at Autry State Prison in Mitchell County. Back in June of 2021, an inmate at the medium-security prison tested positive for Legionnaires Disease.

Rikers Island

New York Post: Inmate commits suicide at Rikers Island, 17th death in NYC’s jail system this year
A detainee committed suicide at Rikers Island Saturday, the 17th inmate death in the city’s troubled jail system this year, The Post has learned. The death toll now surpasses last year’s count of 16 inmates to die in custody. The most recent death happened in a mental health evaluation unit at the George R. Vierno Center, according to a source.


Alabama Political Reporter: Alabama clergy calls on Ivey to address inmate’s health
A coalition of Alabama pastors is calling on Gov. Kay Ivey to do something about the health of Kastellio Vaughan, whose condition while incarcerated within an Alabama prison went viral and sparked outrage last month. The Alabama Department of Corrections said Vaughan opted twice to be discharged, against medical advice.

Hurricane Ian

Crime Report: Hurricane Ian Revealed Prisoner Struggles During Natural Disasters
Without a national mandate, preparation and evacuation decisions of incarcerated people during a storm fall on the correctional departments, as most jails and prisons are ill-equipped to fend off storms. Before Hurricane Ian, about 2,500 inmates were evacuated from more than 20 facilities in Florida to safer locations. Still, some stuck around, losing power and access to other necessities.

USA Today: Hurricane Ian brings renewed focus to 'life and death' struggle for prisoners during a disaster
The day before Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida, attorney Rene Suarez was preparing to help his client get out of jail in downtown Fort Myers. He had secured an offer for probation so that his client would be released after a hearing. But when Ian struck, the courts closed, leaving her and many others who haven't been convicted of a crime stuck in a facility in a mandatory evacuation zone. The sheriff's office decided not to evacuate its two jails.

Opioid Epidemic

PEW: States Should Measure Opioid Use Disorder Treatment to Improve Outcomes
The most effective treatments for opioid use disorder (OUD) are medications: methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.1 However, there are substantial gaps between the number of people who need these medications and those who receive them. To close these gaps, improve treatment overall, and save lives, states need a set of core metrics to track relevant data and provide a comprehensive picture of care for OUD—from diagnosis through recovery.

Crime & Punishment

National Criminal Justice Association: Crime Victims Want Help, Not Just Punishment
The justice system is too punitive toward offenders and too neglectful of crime victims’ needs, according to a new national survey of victims. The survey of 1,537 victims of crime, culled from a representative sample of Americans and commissioned by the pro-reform Alliance for Safety and Justice, showed victims of crime by a wide margin favor rehabilitation over punishment while complaining that their own needs were rarely met with compensation or counseling.

Washington Post: Md. attorney general orders detailed review of 100 in-custody deaths
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has ordered a detailed review of 100 autopsies of people who died in law enforcement custody after a team of experts determined that further scrutiny is warranted. The announcement comes more than a year after Frosh launched a one-of-a-kind probe of 1,300 autopsies handled by former Maryland medical examiner David Fowler, who testified for the defense in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

The Guardian: Criminal charges dropped against man left with paralysis in US police custody
A man who was left partially paralyzed while in police custody has had all criminal charges against him dropped. On 19 June, 36-year-old Randy Cox of New Haven, Connecticut, was arrested on charges of illegal handgun possession. Cox was put into a police transport van without any seatbelts and was en route to a detention center when the officer behind the wheel, Oscar Diaz, suddenly braked. Video footage shows a handcuffed Cox sliding across the bench and hitting the van’s wall with his head.

Early Release

The Crime Report: Compassionate Release Program Underused as Prison Populations Age
Despite an aging incarcerated population, many states are failing to take advantage of compassionate release programs, according to a study by Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Even as state prison populations have declined, the number of prisoners 55 and older increased 400 percent over those two decades. That has left an increasing number of incarcerated suffering from chronic illness and adding to the cost to taxpayers of correctional health care.

Correctional Officers

Crime Report: ‘Wellness Crisis’ Threatens U.S. Corrections Officers: Report
Investing in the wellness, training and safety of correctional officers is key to transforming the “broken” U.S. corrections system, according to a Blue Ribbon Commission of senior corrections staff, advocates, and representatives of incarcerated individuals. In its report, the commission called attention to what it said was a “wellness crisis” among corrections professionals, which had contributed to a life expectancy of 59 years, and disturbingly high 34 percent incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Honolulu Civil Beat: Another Death At The Maui Jail Is Apparently A Suicide
A 44-year-old Molokai woman who died at the Maui Community Correctional Center Monday night apparently committed suicide, making her the sixth prisoner to commit suicide at the facility in slightly more than five years.

The Morning Call: Jail officials across Pa. sound alarm as mental health crisis puts people at risk, survey finds
County jails across Pennsylvania lack the resources to address a growing mental health crisis, putting some of the most vulnerable incarcerated people at heightened risk, according to a statewide survey by Spotlight PA and the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Responses from more than 20 Pennsylvania jails serving the majority of the state population described similar situations: a growing number of incarcerated people with serious mental health needs, a lack of medical staff, and a complex system for accessing the few resources available from the state.

Fox13: Utah prison bosses say healthcare improving, advocacy group says inmates still missing medication
Utah legislators heard an update on Wednesday regarding efforts to improve healthcare at Utah’s two prisons and relayed a few things they’re hearing from constituents. “I have a constituent who contacted me,” said Salt Lake City Representative Sandra Hollins, “and said her daughter was not receiving her mental health meds in the new prison and she had some concerns about it.”


Los Angeles Times: San Diego jails’ most medically vulnerable inmates to get health-monitoring devices under sheriff’s program
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is launching a pilot program that will outfit 10 of the downtown Central Jail’s most medically at-risk people with a health-monitoring device. The goal is to reduce in-custody deaths, which have plagued the department for years. A state audit released in February found that San Diego jails had the highest mortality rate among California’s largest counties, and already this year they have logged a record number of deaths.

Inquest: Jail by Another Name
Since 2018, court-ordered, pretrial electronic monitoring (EM) in San Francisco County has increased dramatically. The growing reliance on pretrial EM has been met with opposition in San Francisco and beyond. EM is e-carceration, with many of jail’s attendant harms.

Prison Contractors

New York Focus: New York May Drop JPay, The Scandal-Plagued Prison Banking Company
The New York prison agency has quietly restructured its contract with telecom vendor JPay and is considering dropping the company altogether. The department said it’s in the process of evaluating new vendors for next year’s contract and hasn’t ruled out JPay as a contender, and a company spokesperson said JPay “look[s] forward to continuing our longstanding relationship with the state.” But a source at the New York City jail agency, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told New York Focus that “this is likely it” for JPay’s presence in both city jails and the state’s prisons once the current deal expires.


WPLN: 28 people have died of overdoses in Tennessee’s prisons this year. Lawsuits blame understaffing and easily available drugs.
More than two dozen people have died of overdoses behind bars in Tennessee this year. Twelve of those deaths happened in privately operated prisons, run by Brentwood-based CoreCivic. CoreCivic houses less than half of the state’s prison population and has had a proportionate share of the overdose deaths this year. But the company, which manages prisons across the country, has been hit with several lawsuits over the years alleging insufficient care.

NM Political Reporter: Asylum seekers go on hunger strike at Torrance County Detention Facility
A group of 13 detainees announced a hunger strike at Torrance County Detention Facility to protest “inhumane” conditions. CoreCivic, the for-profit company that has a contract to operate the facility, and ICE each denied that a hunger strike was taking place. The 13 detainees announced their hunger strike through an open letter.

Correctional Health Care Providers

NJ.com: N.J. man died after inmate stabbed him because he didn’t get proper medical care, suit alleges
Dan Gelin received little medical attention after an inmate stabbed him repeatedly at the Essex County Correctional Facility. The circumstances surrounding his death are now the subject of a civil rights lawsuit filed last week in state Superior Court, charging that the jail and its officers failed to protect the 27-year-old from a violent inmate who allegedly attacked him multiple times before his death. The lawsuit names Union County, Essex County, jail leadership, the officer assigned to monitor Gelin’s cell block and CFG Health Systems.

Voice of Monterey: Another Monterey County Jail death claim settled
Monterey County officials have agreed to a $2.5 million settlement in the latest in a series of jail death lawsuits, this one involving a schizophrenic inmate who died from consuming a huge amount of water after having received almost no psychiatric care for months on end. According to the federal civil rights lawsuit filed in Oakland, the jail staff and Wellpath, the private company that provides mental health services to the jail, ignored an assortment of dangerous and erratic behavior by Lara and shrugged off repeated requests by his family to provide psychiatric treatment.

edhat: Three Overdoses and One Fatality at Northern Branch Jail
The quick actions and lifesaving efforts of Custody Deputies at the Northern Branch Jail have resulted in the reversal of two inmate overdoses, but sadly, one inmate was beyond resuscitation. When Wellpath medical arrived, they gave the inmate two more rounds of Naloxone and continued lifesaving measures while County Fire and American Medical Response (AMR) was enroute. When AMR arrived, the inmate had become conscious and was transported to an area hospital for follow-up care.

ClassAction.org: Wexford Health Failed to Properly Pay Workers Following Kronos Data Breach, Lawsuit Alleges
A proposed collective action claims Wexford Health Sources, Inc. failed to pay workers proper wages in the wake of a data breach that crippled its timekeeping and payroll system in late 2021. According to the 15-page suit, a ransomware attack on the Kronos timekeeping system on December 11, 2021 left Wexford, a healthcare company who contracts with government entities such as, unable to use the platform to track its workers’ hours and pay them accordingly.

Carson City Daily Record: El Paso County jail’s medical provider failed to give inmate critical care before second suicide attempt, lawsuit alleges
An inmate at the El Paso County jail nearly died in a suicide attempt early last year after medical personnel failed to give the man any mental health care despite numerous red flags about his state of mind — including a very similar prior suicide attempt inside the jail. Correct Care Solutions provided medical services in the El Paso County jail for nearly two decades, until 2017, when El Paso County officials switched to a new provider amid a slew of lawsuits against Correct Care Solutions. Armor Correctional Health Services provided medical services from 2017 to 2020, then the jail hired Wellpath.

AP: Transgender inmate who sued Idaho to get $2.5M in legal fees
A federal judge has ordered Idaho and its prison medical care provider to pay more than $2.5 million in legal fees to a transgender inmate who sued after she was denied gender confirmation surgery. The cost, however, will not come out of taxpayer dollars. Instead, it will be covered by Corizon Correctional Healthcare under a separate agreement with the state.