Weekly Update: August 24, 2021

COCHS Weekly Update: August 24, 2021

Highlighted Stories

The Daily News: Bail reform isn’t to blame for gun violence
In an op-ed, Jullian Harris-Calvin, director of the Greater Justice New York program at the Vera Institute of Justice, writes: Publicly available data analyzed by the Vera Institute of Justice reveals that, after bail reform took effect, judges continued to set bail in nearly 75% of gun possession cases. And when released, people charged with gun possession were rearrested at lower rates than people charged with other offenses. In New York City, less than 2% of all people allowed to return home before trial were rearrested for violent crimes. Similarly, people released from New York City jails in response to COVID-19 health concerns were re-arrested at lower rates than people discharged under normal circumstances. Despite the rhetoric, there is no evidence that reform resulted in a violent crime spike.

New York Times: Racial Inequities Persist in Health Care Despite Expanded Insurance
A JAMA study reports access to care has improved in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, which reduced the number of uninsured Americans across all racial and ethnic groups. But the racial health gap has remained. A dismal picture of persistent health disparities in America was described in an issue devoted entirely to inequities in medicine. The journal’s editors committed to a sharper focus on racism in medicine after a controversy in June, in which a staff member seemed to suggest that racism was not a problem in health care.

The Crime Report: Race, Disability and Criminal Justice
Research shows that people of color, specifically Black people, are more likely to have interactions with the police than white people. This is heightened if the individual has a disability. According to the paper, 55 percent of Black people with a disability are arrested before the age of 28. Additionally, the chance that someone with an autistic spectrum disorder will have an interaction with the police is seven times that of someone without that disorder, said the paper.

The Conversation: Correctional officers are driving the pandemic in prisons
Using data from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, we discovered the infection rate among correctional officers drove the infection rate among incarcerated individuals. We also found a three-way relationship between the infection rate of officers, incarcerated individuals and the communities around prisons.

Orange County Register: OC Sheriff’s Department, Fire Authority unions oppose coronavirus vaccine mandate
The unions representing Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Fire Authority personnel are opposed to a coronavirus vaccine mandate for their workers, their leaders announced last week amid a statewide order for health care workers and those who work in high-risk settings to be vaccinated.

The Denver Channel: Department of Corrections defends decision to require COVID-19 vaccines for employees
The executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections defended the decision to require his employees to get vaccinated during a press conference on Wednesday with the governor. Executive Director Dean Williams told reporters the decision was driven by the spread of the delta variant and a responsibility to protect the health of people under the DOC’s supervision.

The Hill: Don't ignore the infrastructure of criminal justice
In an op-ed, Amy Bach, Chief Executive Officer of Measures for Justice, and Jeremy Travis, Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures, write: The country’s criminal justice data infrastructure is antiquated and crumbling. State by state, we cannot track information about the people who are processed through our courts and jails. Advocates for criminal justice reform from different fields and backgrounds are all reaching the same conclusion: Any attempt at real, lasting change will require a significant investment in our ability to collect, store, and share data.

COVID-19 Delta Surge in Corrections

San Francisco Public Press: San Quentin Suffers New COVID-19 Outbreak
San Quentin State Prison is experiencing a new COVID-19 outbreak after four incarcerated men in a cell block tested positive, chief medical executive Alison Pachynski said on Saturday. Earlier in the week, the prison put the Alpine unit of the South block on quarantine after one incarcerated man tested positive for COVID-19. Corrections officers said shortly after that this person and two others had been moved into solitary quarantine. On Friday night, three more followed, for a total of six.

AP: 191 inmates test positive for COVID at Alabama prison
Nearly 200 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 at a state prison after officials implemented mass testing in the wake of an outbreak at the facility. The Alabama Department of Corrections said in a news release that all Elmore Correctional Facility inmates not currently exhibiting symptoms were tested last week. Out of the 960 asymptomatic inmates, 191 tested positive for COVID-19.

AL.com: Mobile jail under ‘hurricane protocol’ and releasing inmates as COVID cases climb
Mobile Metro Jail is under a rare “hurricane protocol” due to a rising number of COVID-19 cases inside the downtown facility leading to two dozen inmates being released on their own recognizance. The released inmates are facing non-violent misdemeanor charges, according to Sheriff Sam Cochran. He said exceptions include people facing misdemeanor charges of domestic violence, a DUI, and failure to appear in court.

Compassionate Release

WBUR: The Education Judges Don't Get Is Potentially Deadly
As of June 2021, there have been over 417,441 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in correctional facilities across the country. At least 2,730 people have died due to COVID-19 while incarcerated. But judges have refused to grant enough release requests to make a difference. One of the challenges is that judges often fail to recognize the social roots of public health threats. Most judges have had little exposure to the science related to social determinants of health. The role of law in creating and reinforcing health disparities is rarely taught. As a result, legal professionals are left without the tools for making informed decisions while applying laws that relate to public health and safety.

Healthcare in Corrections

Observer Dispatch: NY inmate death reports show lapses in medical care, raise questions about preventability
1,854 inmates deaths at all county jails and prisons in New York between 2010 and 2020 were documented in reports issued by the state's Commission of Correction Medical Review Board, and analyzed by the The USA Today Network following a Freedom of Information request. The hundreds of report pages, many of them containing significant redactions, paint a broad picture of how the Medical Review Board determines causes including medical reasons, accidental overdoses and death by suicide. Frequently mentioned in findings on deaths deemed preventable are serious and often intensifying lapses in the inmate's health care.

Legal Actions

AP: Arizona to appeal ruling that tossed prison health care deal
Arizona is appealing a withering federal court ruling that threw out a 6-year-old legal settlement that required the state to improve health care for thousands of prisoners. Arizona corrections officials said in court records Monday that they planned to appeal the July 16 decision by Judge Roslyn Silver, who concluded officials showed little interest in complying with their obligations under the deal and scheduled a Nov. 1 trial to decide the case.

Juveniles in Corrections

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange: Racial disparities in juvenile detention narrowed overall, but widened in some states
Black youth were more than four times as likely as white ones to be detained or committed to a juvenile facility, according to a report released this month by The Sentencing Project, which also noted that the Black-white disparity in detention and incarceration declined since it last analyzed the data. The newest report is based on the 36,479 youth in a total of 1,510 detention centers, youth prisons, residential treatment centers and youth homes as of October 2019; the prior analysis was conducted in 2015.

The Conversation: Formerly incarcerated teens share their research and ideas on how to improve the juvenile justice system
Over the course of two hourlong sessions, detained youths shared their stories of how they ran afoul of the law and discussed key strategies for how they would improve the juvenile justice system. These sessions were conducted by members of Leaders Organizing 2 Unite and Decriminalize, a youth group comprising young people ages 15 to 19.

Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice

KFDA: Potter County’s mental health court helps those with mental illness stay out of jail
Potter County’s (TX) new mental health court helps incarcerated people with mental illness to get out of the criminal justice system and instead get help and treatment from resources in the community. The Sheriff said between 30 and 40 percent of inmates at the Potter County Detention Center have some type of mental illness. With the lack of resources, beds and programs in the jail, staff hopes this new court will help get people who have no business being in there out of the jail.

Private Prisons

Reuters: GEO Group can't shake claims over $1-a-day detainee pay
A Washington federal judge has refused to toss out a class action lawsuit accusing GEO Group Inc of unlawfully paying hundreds of immigrant detainees $1 per day to clean, prepare food and maintain the facility where they are housed. U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan on Monday rejected claims by GEO Group's lawyers at III Branches Law that a U.S. appeals court's recent dismissal of a similar lawsuit against private prison operator CoreCivic Inc required that GEO Group be granted judgment as a matter of law.

Insider New Jersey: Immigrants, Advocates Condemn Governor Murphy’s Delay on Banning New ICE Detention — ICE Extends its Contract With Private Jailer in Elizabeth
In a shareholder meeting, private prison corporation CoreCivic announced an extension of their ICE detention contract currently located at Elizabeth Detention Center. The deal was struck after the end of the second quarter, just days following S3361/A5207’s passage in the legislature. For the last 7 weeks, the bill has been waiting for Governor Murphy’s signature since its passage in the legislature on June 24th. Advocates worry the delay signals an unwillingness of the Governor to stand up to ICE, which has retaliated against internal hunger strikes and local efforts to end immigration detention. In addition to this contract extension with CoreCivic, ICE has also reopened a private detention facility at a previously closed site in neighboring Pennsylvania.