Weekly Update: October 06, 2020

COCHS Weekly Update: October 06, 2020

COVID-19 Stimulus Package

Update: Medicaid Reentry Act Legislation
On Thursday, October 1, the House passed a revised version of the COVID-19 stimulus package it originally passed in May. Contained within the legislation is language from the bipartisan Medicaid Reentry Act. This provision would allow for Medicaid beneficiaries to receive their Medicaid benefits thirty days before release from a jail or prison. Ensuring quality care and reliable funding will advance efforts to combat the coronavirus’ spread in our communities. COCHS has on its website a page dedicated to the opportunities created by this provision. The COVID stimulus package awaits a Senate response, and we will continue to keep you informed of any new developments as they happen.


Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation: Medicaid Reentry Stakeholder Group
On October 1, HHS published a notice in the Federal Register soliciting nominations of individuals to serve on a stakeholder advisory committee on Medicaid reentry transitions, as required by Congress in the SUPPORT Act, enacted in October 2018. The purpose of the group is to provide advice and consultation to the Secretary on innovative strategies to help individuals who are inmates of public institutions, and otherwise eligible for Medicaid, ensure continuity of coverage and seamless transitions back to the community. The group, which will meet once, will consist of two federal members and 22 non-federal members “who are representatives of managed care organizations, Medicaid beneficiaries, health care providers, the National Association of Medicaid Directors, state Medicaid agencies, and representatives from local and state prison systems,” according to the notice. Nominations are due October 23, 2020.

COVID-19 Guidance for Criminal Justice

The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice: Recommendations for Response and Future Readiness INTERIM COMMISSION REPORT
This interim report is intended to assist criminal justice leaders on the front lines by offering actionable guidance on how to respond immediately and directly to the coronavirus pandemic, and to prepare for a possible second wave of infections this fall. A subsequent report, to be released by the end of 2020, will offer consensus recommendations that address the broader implications of the pandemic and systemic reforms to policy and practice. The commission is co-chaired by former U.S. Attorney Generals, Alberto Gonzalez and Loretta Lynch.

COVID-19 Federal Legislation

KFSV 12: New bill to improve disaster response and recovery plans in prisons introduced
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced legislation that would ensure prison disaster response and recovery plans protect the health, safety and civil rights of incarcerated individuals during a presidential disaster declaration. This legislation follows reports of health and safety violations within the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and state prisons during recent major disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Correctional facilities must be fully prepared to provide safe conditions during all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Jail to Prison Bottleneck

California Healthline: Efforts to Keep COVID-19 out of Prisons Fuel Outbreaks in County Jails
One reason for the high COVID count in jails and the low count in prisons is that prisons for months halted “county intakes,” or the transfer of people from county jails to the state prison system after conviction. Sheriffs in charge of the county jails blame their outbreaks on overcrowding partly caused by that state policy. But it’s also shifted the problem. Space was already a rare commodity in these local jails, and some sheriffs see the halting of transfers as giving the prisons room to improve the health and safety of their inmates at the expense of those in jail, who often haven’t been convicted.

COVID-19 and Geriatric Inmates

The Texas Tribune: Federal court orders Texas prison system to provide hand sanitizer for some geriatric inmates during pandemic
A federal judge ordered the Texas prison system on Tuesday to provide more protective measures against the coronavirus, like hand sanitizer for prisoners who use wheelchairs, at a prison for geriatric inmates. After a weekslong trial that started in July, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison ruled that Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials acted with deliberate indifference toward the inmates’ medical needs and recklessly disregarded obvious health risks during the pandemic.

Mental Health and Criminal Justice

Witness LA: Is LA County About to Critically Underfund Diversion Just When It’s Needed Most?
In January of this year, the nonprofit RAND Corporation released an important study which concluded that approximately 61 percent of the mental health population locked inside Los Angeles County’s jail system were appropriate candidates for diversion, meaning they could safely be released into community-based care. The ACLU of Southern California sent a letter to the members of LA County Board of Supervisors that Los Angeles County is about to underfund its most important diversion programs, particularly when it comes to mental health diversion unless changes are made in the county’s supplemental budget, which is about to come up for a vote.

KOAA News: Special unit diverts around 99% of mental health related calls from jail in August
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office first deployed a Co-Responder system called the Behavioral Health Connect Unit (BHCON) in 2018. Essentially, the grant funded program sends a Licensed Behavioral Health Clinician with a deputy on mental-health related emergency calls. In the month of August this year, the sheriff's office reported that out of 396 mental health calls total, 99% were diverted from the jail. Plus, those with the BHCON Unit said they typically see an arrest rate between one and two percent.

Danville San Ramon: County approves agreement for enhanced jail inmate health services
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors a settlement with the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office, a nonprofit public interest law firm, for providing health and mental health services for inmates of the county's Martinez and Richmond jail facilities. Don Specter, executive director of the Prison Law Office, said that when this investigation began, there was excessive use of force at the two jails, and health care and mental health services were inadequate.

Courier Times: Bucks County to develop mental health facility at jail for inmates
Bucks County (PA) will develop a center near its jail in Doylestown to care for the needs of inmates with serious mental health issues. Families have advocated for quicker placement to the state hospital, saying the jail is not equipped to deal with the inmates' needs and that incarceration can exacerbate a person's deteriorating mental health when they are in crisis. The county plans to use county reinvestment funds to develop and employ medical staff for the new specialized facility and to establish a mental health court so that county judges can develop sentencing plans that would include treatment.

PLN: Regional jail receives grant for mental health work
The Prince William Board of County Supervisors recently accepted a $352,000 grant to fund aid for mentally ill female inmates. This grant was from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and will be dedicated to aiding mentally ill women in the Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center. According to the Prince William County government, these services reduce recidivism of mentally ill offenders by five percent, and the overall recidivism by 20 percent.

Public Safety and Substance Use Disorder

Gothamist: Cuomo Calls For Arrests Of Public Drug Users, Alarming Harm Reduction Advocates
Minutes after Governor Andrew Cuomo implored local governments to rethink the role of police in public safety after mass protests against racist police brutality, Cuomo said police officers should arrest people injecting drugs on city streets during a Tuesday press conference in Manhattan. The governor's remarks were markedly different from his rhetoric earlier in the briefing, when he questioned why an armed police officer would be the responding authority during 911 calls regarding substance abuse or mental health issues. Overdose prevention advocates were dismayed Cuomo's directive to crack down on people using drugs in public.

The Daily Beast: ‘I Am Going to Die’: Videos Show NC Police Left Suspect to Die Alone in Custody
Moments before Harold Easer collapsed on a North Carolina police interrogation table in January and started convulsing, the 41-year-old uttered to the empty room: “I am going to die.” Amid outrage about Easter’s death, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on Thursday released a slew of videos documenting Easter’s death after his Jan. 23 arrest on drug charges. The videos provide new details of the arrest and interrogation room detention, and the police’s response after he collapsed alone and after the ambulance left for the hospital.

Questionable Hysterectomies - Continuing Story

The New York Times: Immigrants Say They Were Pressured Into Unneeded Surgeries
The Times interviewed 16 women who were concerned about the gynecological care they received while at the center, and conducted a detailed review of the medical files of seven women who were able to obtain their records. All 16 were treated by Dr. Mahendra Amin, who practices gynecology in the nearby town of Douglas and has been described by ICE officials as the detention center’s primary gynecologist. The cases were reviewed by five gynecologists — four of them board-certified and all with medical school affiliations — who found that Dr. Amin consistently overstated the size or risks associated with cysts or masses attached to his patients’ reproductive organs. Small or benign cysts do not typically call for surgical intervention, where large or otherwise troubling ones sometimes do, the experts said.


Flathead Beacon: Montana Private Prison Reports COVID Outbreak, 29 Cases
Just over two dozen inmates and detainees at a private prison in north-central Montana have tested positive for COVID-19, prison operator CoreCivic said Monday. Nearly 200 people at Crossroads Correctional Facility in Shelby were tested last Thursday and Friday and 26 of them tested positive, CoreCivic spokesperson Ryan Gustin said in an email to The Associated Press. All inmates and federal detainees were asymptomatic at the time of testing. Those who have tested positive will be held separately from other inmates.

WMOT: Roughly half of all Tenn. inmate COVID-19 deaths have occurred in CoreCivic prisons
The Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Prison reports the single largest number of fatalities. Seven inmates have died in the Nashville facility, which specializes in housing medically fragile inmates. Ten of the 21 deaths have occurred in just three prisons. Five have died at South Central, three at Trousdale, and two at Whiteville. All three facilities are owned and operated by the Brentwood based for-profit prison company CoreCivic.

Valley News: COVID-19 update for Thursday: Vt. renews prison contract
Vermont has extended its contract for a year to house more than 200 inmates at a private Mississippi prison with new stipulations after an outbreak of the coronavirus infected a majority of the Vermont inmates. The inmates were housed at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility operated by CoreCivic. The contract and addendum with CoreCivic went into effect Wednesday, September 30. It clarifies that Vermont inmates must be kept separate from the rest of the inmate population and adds Vermont’s COVID-19 protocol. The Vermont Corrections Department also now has access to camera systems in the Mississippi prison so that it can view remotely what is happening there

The Moguldom Nation : 2 Prison Stocks That Could Collapse If Democrats Hit A Trifecta With Biden And The Senate
Black people have been historically overrepresented in federal and state prison and county jails, but the racial disparities in private prisons are even worse, according to UC Berkeley African-American studies Ph.D. student Christopher Petrella. A month after Donald Trump became president, he rescinded a Barack Obama directive from August 2016 to phase out federal use of private prisons. After taking a 40-percent nosedive, stocks of two private prison company giants — CoreCivic Inc and GEO Group Inc. The morning after Trump was elected, stocks in CoreCivic increased by 34 percent and GEO Group stocks rose by 18 percent.