Weekly Update: July 19, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: July 19, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Congressional Briefing: Medicaid Reentry Act
Health care advocates are pushing for the Medicaid Reentry Act, a bill that would provide Medicaid coverage to people exiting jail and prison starting 30 days before their release. Tracie Gardner, senior vice president at the Legal Action Center, said the Medicaid Reentry Act would help address the “double impact” of disparities in the criminal justice system and the health system for many people of color. The legislation, she said, represents “an opportunity to improve community health by beginning the work and engagement with individuals prior to their release from incarceration.”

Council On Criminal Justice: Health and Reentry Project (Issue Brief 2)
This issue brief is the second in a series of publications from the Health and Reentry Project (HARP). It outlines key principles for changing Medicaid’s role in reentry, proposes a new reentry care model, and identifies essential elements for successful implementation of potential Medicaid reentry policies.

AP: Medicaid expansion groups join for constitutional amendment
A pair of South Dakota campaigns trying to expand access to Medicaid through the November ballot announced Monday they will join efforts to focus on passing an amendment to the state constitution. The announcement from the two organizations — South Dakotans Decide Healthcare and Dakotans for Health — puts to rest a potential rivalry between the two campaigns. Both brought separate ballot proposals to require the state to make Medicaid government health insurance available to people who live below 133% of the federal poverty level.

Prison Policy Initiative: What the end of Roe v. Wade will mean for people on probation and parole
With several states preparing to criminalize abortion now that Roe v. Wade is over, and some states talking about criminalizing traveling out of state to get an abortion, it’s worth remembering that for many people on probation and parole, traveling out of state for abortion care is already next to impossible. On any given day in the U.S., 666,413 women are on probation (a community-based alternative to incarceration) or parole (the part of a prison sentence that someone serves in the community).

Government Executive: The Federal Prisons Agency is Reviewing its Reproductive Care Options for Inmates
Women account for about 7% of the federal inmate population who are housed between 29 facilities, according to BOP’s website. The manual, which was updated in May 2021, says inmates have the responsibility to decide whether they want to have the child or seek an abortion. The manual notes BOP staff who do not want to be involved in facilitating the abortion process must alert their supervisors of this and then supervisors must not order them to take part.

The Crime Report: The Deadly Link Between Climate Change and Incarceration
People in prison may be disproportionately susceptible to climate-driven extreme temperatures, disasters, diseases, and displacement. Incarcerated older adults and those with mental health and neurological conditions are particularly vulnerable; people with more than one medical condition or disease, and those with limited mobility, are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures.

BOP News

New York Times: Justice Department Taps Oregon Official to Run Troubled Bureau of Prisons
Colette S. Peters, the longtime director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, has been tapped to lead the chronically mismanaged and understaffed federal Bureau of Prisons, according to two people familiar with the decision. Ms. Peters, who began her career as an administrator in Oregon’s juvenile justice system, rose to national prominence after instituting changes in the state’s 14-facility system to improve the health and treatment of its 15,000 inmates.


VT Digger: Southern State Correctional Facility contends with surge in Covid cases
More than three dozen people incarcerated at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield were positive for Covid-19 on Friday, according to Department of Corrections data. Southern State’s positive cases were propelled higher by 24 new positive tests on Thursday, the department reported. The 39 total cases on Friday — down from 40 on Thursday — is the highest number across the prison system, the data showed.

Racial Disparities

Health Day: Prison Time Shortens Life Spans for Black Americans, But Not Whites
A stint behind bars can significantly shorten the life expectancy of Black Americans, but not their white counterparts, new research has found. Black Americans who have spent time in jail or prison are 65% more likely to die prematurely, even if it's been years since their incarceration, according to an analysis of data from a decades-long federal study.

Rikers Island

gothamist: Rikers Island inmate dies, second this week
Another incarcerated man died on Rikers Island, making him the second death in a week at the troubled jail complex and the 11th death in city custody so far this year, jail officials said Friday. Michael Lopez, 34, was locked in a mental observation unit, according to the Legal Aid Society, which represented him. It’s unclear how he died. The attorneys released a statement accusing Mayor Eric Adams, Correction Commissioner Louis Molina, district attorneys, and judges of being “responsible for these deaths," which come as the jail complex faces intense scrutiny.

New York Times: In a Rikers Jail Cell, a Man Lay Dead for Hours Before He Was Discovered
A man who died in a Rikers Island jail on Sunday appeared to have been lying dead in his cell for hours before correction staff members discovered his body, according to two people familiar with the incident. The man, Elijah Muhammad, was already showing signs of rigor mortis, the people said — a condition that begins to set in at least two hours after death.

New York Times: Rikers Officer Fired After Latest New York City Jail Death
A 31-year-old man died on Sunday in a Rikers Island jail, prompting the immediate firing of a correction officer involved in the incident, city officials said on Monday. A person familiar with the incident said that the officer had not done his job properly, adding that the department was looking into whether the officer failed to intervene when Mr. Muhammad was in the throes of a suspected drug overdose, among other things.

Sexual Abuse in Corrections

CNN: Four women are accusing a nurse at an ICE detention center of sexual assault
A new complaint alleges that a nurse sexually assaulted four women who sought medical attention at an ICE detention center in south Georgia. A nurse at the privately run Stewart Detention Center (CoreCivic) in Lumpkin, Georgia, according to the complaint, took advantage of his position to coerce the women "into giving him access to private parts of their body without medical justification or need."

New York Times: U.S. Pays $4.2 Million to Victims of Jail Guard’s Long-Running Sex Abuse
Colin Akparanta, a former correctional officer in a Manhattan federal jail, admitted in 2020 to sexually abusing seven female prisoners. In recent weeks, the government quietly paid $3 million to settle a lawsuit filed by three women who said they were sexually abused by Mr. Akparanta while being held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center. That deal followed a $1.18 million settlement by the government last year in a suit brought by three other women with similar sexual abuse claims against Mr. Akparanta.

Health Conditions In Corrections

KOSU: Oklahoma County Jail faces potential fines for repeat health and safety violations
The Oklahoma County Jail could face up to $350,000 in fines for repeat health and safety violations. The Oklahoma State Department of Health has filed an administrative compliance proceeding against the Oklahoma County Jail in hopes of pressuring the jail's trust and administration to address the 23 repeat violations found during an inspection in April. Two weeks ago, Oklahoma County voters approved a $260 million bond package to fund a new jail. Proponents of the bond say building a new jail will alleviate these issues, but opponents say the money should have been used on programs to keep people out of jail in the first place.

Opioid Epidemic

Stat: My son died of an Oxy overdose. Drug company execs who are responsible should be sent to jail
A quarter-century after OxyContin was launched, we now have a clearer picture of what happened. Hard-won document releases and the creation of the Opioid Industry Documents Archive have further detailed how this epidemic became a human-made, greed-fueled and wholly preventable catastrophe. In 2020 Purdue Pharma pled guilty again in court, this time to three felonies. In 2022, drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson finalized a $26 billion opioid settlement. McKinsey & Company, coached many of these players — including the Food and Drug Administration — as the opioid epidemic mushroomed. The government failed to protect its citizens. The Department of Justice needs to bring criminal charges against the executives who perpetuated the overdose crisis.

KHN: Overdose Deaths Behind Bars Rise as Drug Crisis Swells
The alcohol and drug overdose death rate increased fivefold in prisons from 2009 through 2019, according to a recent study from the Pew Charitable Trusts — a surge that outpaced the national drug overdose rate, which tripled in the same period. As the opioid crisis ravages America, overdose deaths are sweeping through every corner of the nation, including jails and prisons. Criminal justice experts suggest that decades of using the legal system instead of community-based addiction treatment to address drug use have not led to a drop in drug use or overdoses.

Labor in Corrections

The Guardian: ‘It’s inhumane’: how US prison work breaks bodies and minds for pennies
Among the more than 1.2 million Americans imprisoned in federal and state prisons, two out of three are forced to work while imprisoned. The 13th amendment of the US constitution abolished slavery or involuntary servitude, but included an exception for prisoners; critics have called prison work modern-day slavery. Prison workers are also excluded from basic worker protections under federal and state laws, from workers’ rights in regards to safety protection, union rights, or basic wage laws.


US News & World Report: Dire US Labor Shortage Provides Opportunity for Ex-Prisoners
In rosier economic times, many former prisoners faced steep obstacles to finding work. The labor shortage sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic now presents them with opportunities, said Eric Beamon, a recruiter for MagCor, a company that provides job training to people in Mississippi correctional facilities. Some studies have shown that stable jobs are a major factor in reducing recidivism. Still, not everyone is willing to hire an ex-convict, and a lack of job opportunities for those with a criminal record is still stymieing workforce participation in the economy.

Fines & Fees

New York Times: For Young Offenders, Restitution Debts Can Present Crippling Obstacles
The Juvenile Law Center report, which examined youth restitution laws in all 56 states and U.S. territories, does not quantify how many young people owe restitution from year to year. But it found a patchwork of policies that the report’s authors described as delivering “justice by geography,” burdening indigent youth with little to no income with debts that many will never pay or finish paying.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: End co-pays for prison health care
The Editorial Board for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes: Over the last 40 years, the nation’s courts have consistently ruled that health care is a constitutional right for the country’s 2 million prisoners. Pennsylvania, however, hasn’t treated prisoner health care as a constitutional or human right. By imposing $5 co-pays on prisoner health care, it has erected unreasonable barriers to essential care for inmates. They earn an average of 42 cents an hour, and some much less, for institutional jobs — a rate requiring 12 hours of labor to meet a medical co-pay.

Prison Construction

Montgomery Advertiser: Two more lawsuits filed to stop Alabama prison construction
Opponents of Alabama’s prison construction project filed two more lawsuits Monday aiming to block construction, arguing the project misuses federal funds and has moved forward without proper environmental studies. The lawsuits, both filed in the U.S. Middle District Court of Alabama, are the latest broadsides against the $1.3 billion project, which would erect two 4,000-bed men’s prisons in Elmore and Escambia counties. Both suits target the state’s use of $400 million in American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds to finance the construction of the prisons, and name state agencies and the U.S. Department of the Treasury as defendants.

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

Cal Matters: CARE Court: Can California counties make it work?
In early March, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a controversial proposal to compel people with serious mental health issues into care and housing. Mental health advocates, mayors and family members who stood alongside him at the press conference at a San Jose behavioral health treatment program heralded the plan, known as CARE Court, as a visionary move. But county representatives continue to ring alarm bells about their ability to implement the proposal, especially as an aggressive timeline comes into focus. A handful of counties have registered support for the proposal, including Marin, Contra Costa and San Diego.

ksn.com: Mental health services expanding into jails across Kansas
Keeping people out of jail for good. That’s one of the goals in Kansas to get inmates the mental health help they need. An expansion into the Ellis County Jail is already in the works, but in the next five years, the plan is to be in many more counties in Kansas. “Some of our western Kansas jails don’t even have mental health services inside of them,” said Dr. Brittany Brest with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI helps to provide an eight-week program for inmates in prisons and a peer-to-peer program in the jails to offer, in some cases, the first mental health support system inmates have had.

Justice Today: National Drug Court Month
During this episode, a nationally recognized expert discusses America’s 3,800 drug and treatment courts, which are transforming the way the justice system addresses people with substance use and addiction issues.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Women's Health: Women In Prison Are Struggling To Access Mental Health And Social Support When They Need It Most
Women represent less than 10 percent of the country’s incarcerated population, but they’re more likely than men to suffer from co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. These compounding factors put women at the highest risk for relapse and recidivism (returning to prison); it also, however, makes them ideal candidates for receiving in-prison mental health care and social support. Isolation has negatively impacted many facets of mental health for women in prison. Those who are experiencing the trauma of incarceration need access to people they can relate to and who understand what they’ve been through.

East Bay Times: Oakland man died at Santa Rita jail after being denied medications
The family of a man who died last year at the Santa Rita jail filed a lawsuit against Alameda County Monday, blaming his death on jail staff who they said failed to give him prescriptions he needed for a diagnosed mental illness. The relatives of Maurice Monk, 45, said they warned Alameda County sheriff’s deputies that their brother needed several medications while in jail and that he had been under a doctor’s care, according to the federal civil rights’ lawsuit filed. Yet they said their pleas for help went unanswered, resulting in Monk’s death on Nov. 15, 2021, just 35 days after being booked into the jail, the lawsuit said.

Private Prisons

Newswire: Lawsuit Claims Geo Group’s Indifference to Health and Safety Led to Prison Suicide
Attorneys from the law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman have filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Jennifer Guadarrama, a mother who alleges numerous failures by private prison giant Geo Group, Inc. led to her son’s preventable suicide at the Val Verde Correctional Facility in Del Rio, Texas. Geo Group is one of the world’s leading private prison management companies with annual revenue in excess of $2 billion.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Law Street: BCBS Sues Prison Contractor Corizon Over Missed Reimbursements
On June 14, 2022, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan filed an action against Corizon Healthcare Incorporated (now YesCare) in Macomb County Circuit Court in Michigan seeking recovery of $3,410,136.51 allegedly due the plaintiff under an “administrative services contract … in which Plaintiff processed medical claims for incarcerated individuals at Michigan correctional facilities serviced by Defendant.”

The Lens: Jail staff ignored medical and mental health needs of detainee who died in custody last summer, lawsuit claims
Anthony Hunt, a man who died in the New Orleans jail last year of a drug overdose, was left in a flooded jail cell overnight prior to his death according to a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of his family. A mental health professional from Wellpath, Terrie Ducote, came to talk to him after he told a deputy he was feeling suicidal, they observed Hunt sitting in his underwear on a flooded floor and was “essentially non-verbal, refusing to answer questions out loud. The lawsuit says that Ducote’s “supposed assessment of his risk of suicide consisted of looking at him through a window in a solid metal door and then yelling at him through that door,” and that Ducote “either knew or should have known that he posed a serious risk of self-harm.”