Weekly Update: March 14, 2023

COCHS Weekly Update: March 14, 2023

Highlighted Topic: Reentry

Quartz: The US has too many prisoners and not enough community health workers.
The US is the prison capital of the rich world: With 2 million incarcerated people, and 5 million on probation and parole every year, its detention rate is almost seven times the average of comparable nations. Nearly 80 million Americans (or 23% of the population) have criminal records. Eric Reinhart, a physician and anthropologist at Northwestern University in Chicago has a proposed a corps of 2 million community health and justice workers recruited among formerly incarcerated individuals.

America Jesuit Review: A state-funded reentry program stops the revolving door for Colorado’s formerly incarcerated
The Murphy Center, a project of the Homeward Alliance, provides the formerly incarcerated: training for a job in manufacturing, counseling to locate appropriate transitional housing and personal attention from a dedicated case manager. Homeward Alliance’s re-entry program has grown enormously in recent years, thanks to a statewide initiative that also expanded programs at 17 other anti-recidivism efforts around Colorado. The Work and Gain Education & Employment Skills program (Wagees) began as a $500,000 experiment in 2014. Since then, it has become a staple of re-entry services in Colorado.

LA Times: At this California prison, ‘we are no longer prisoners. We are professionals’
Offender Mentor Certification Program The California program is set aside for people with more than five years left to serve on their prison sentences, and after finishing their training, many head on to other prisons to serve as paid mentors to people undergoing addiction treatment. This state program that has existed for more than a decade, beginning with an inaugural class at the state prison in Solano County.

NC Health News: NC podcaster highlights prison-to-community success stories
Craig Waleed early into his sentence knew he didn’t ever want to return to prison. He wasn’t blind to recidivism trends. But Waleed made it. He’s written three books. He is project manager for Unlock the Box, a campaign against solitary confinement, at Disability Rights NC. He’s on a mission to show others that successful reentry to society is possible. That’s the goal of his weekly podcast, Prison to Promise.

Fremont News Messenger: Hilton adds inmate education program at jail
The culture is about to shift in the Sandusky County Jail (MI). Sandusky County Sheriff Chris Hilton hosted a ribbon cutting last week to launch the IGNITE program which will help inmates receive the education and resources they need to step into a promising future. IGNITE, an acronym for Inmate Growth Naturally and Intentionally Through Education, is a National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) program. It utilizes a merit-based curriculum that helps enrollees complete educational goals and connect to post-incarceration employment opportunities.

Opioid Epidemic & Medicaid

KHN: Reentry Programs to Help Former Prisoners Obtain Health Care Are Often Underused
While Medicaid is generally prohibited from paying for the services people receive inside a prison or jail, the Biden administration opened the door for the federal program to cover care not long before a person is released, to help them better manage their health conditions during the transition. And across much of the South, where many states have not expanded Medicaid, reentry services that connect people to health care resources are often minimal or nonexistent.

USA Today: As opioid epidemic rages on, US jails may be getting some help from state Medicaid funding
As the country's opioid epidemic kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, some of those most at risk – the incarcerated – may soon be getting some help. States will be allowed to use Medicaid to pay for drug treatments for people in jails and prisons under new federal guidelines announced last month.

Oregon State University: Opioid overdose risk 10 times greater for those recently released from prison, research shows
People recently released from prison in Oregon face a risk for opioid overdose 10 times greater than the general public, according to a new study led by an Oregon State University College of Pharmacy scientist. The study used Medicaid claims data as the main way of detecting overdose events identified in the emergency department or through a hospitalization. Oregon Department of Corrections submits Medicaid enrollment applications for almost all adults in custody prior to their release.

Incarcerated Women

Vice News (YouTube): This Woman Was Sentenced for Manslaughter for a Stillbirth
Prosecutors in Oklahoma can turn one of the darkest days in a mother’s life into a prison term, discuss drug policy with Dr. Carl Hart and hear how Tarra Simmons went from incarceration, to writing legislation as a lawmaker.

Wisconsin Examiner: Lawmakers announce bill to ban shackling incarcerated pregnant women and create doula program
The “Dignity for Incarcerated Women and Girls” bill would ban the practice of shackling incarcerated women while giving birth, create a doula program and implement other policies aimed at supporting pregnant people before, during and after giving birth. An estimated 58,000 women are admitted into jails and prisons while pregnant every year, and thousands give birth. The proposed bill — co-sponsored by Taylor and Rep. Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) — would ban the practice of restraining women from 6 months gestation until 6 weeks postpartum.

Prison Policy Initiative: Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2023
This report provides a detailed view of the 172,700 women and girls incarcerated in the United States, and how they fit into the even broader picture of correctional control. The report uses data from a number of government agencies and break down the number of women and girls held by each correctional system by specific offense.

Health Risks Of Incarceration

PBS News Hour: Why cancer patients leaving prison struggle to get care
People who have been incarcerated are more likely to die when they have cancer than those who were never in prison. In the study, researchers analyzed a decade of data from more than 216,000 adults in Connecticut who were diagnosed with invasive cancers. Compared to people who were never incarcerated, the researchers identified a “significantly higher” risk of dying from cancer for those who either had been diagnosed while in jail or prison or shortly after their release.

COVID-19 Vaccine

San Francisco Chronicle: Court rejects religious objection to COVID vaccine for boy in custody
Vaccinations against COVID-19 are recommended, but not required, for schoolchildren in California. When a judge orders vaccination for a youngster living in a group home, however, a state appeals court says the youth must comply despite a parent's religious objection. In its decision Monday, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles quoted a 1944 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the limits of religious exemptions from secular laws: “The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease.”

State Roundup

Equal Justice Initiative: Third Alabama Prison Homicide in a Month
Felix Ortega, 39, died Tuesday after suffering an assault in one of the dormitories at Elmore Correctional Facility. Mr. Ortega is at least the third person killed in an Alabama prison since February 4. More than one in five deaths in Alabama’s prisons were due to homicide, suicide, or drug overdose. Despite the crisis, Alabama state officials have not announced any plans to reduce deaths in custody.

ABC: Georgia bill aims to provide additional help for those with mental health problems
A Georgia bill is moving forward in legislature that's aimed at doing more to recruit mental health care workers, and finding ways to help people who bounce between hospitals, jails, and homelessness. The bill would try to add more workers by forgiving student loans for nurses and others already in the health care field. The measure would also try to make it easier for officials to use a form of court-ordered outpatient treatment. Mental health agencies would also have to develop best practices to aid people who frequently cycle between jail, health providers and homelessness.

Idaho Capital Sun: He’s in a prison cell, with no criminal conviction. Idaho put him there for mental health care.
To the south of Boise is a prison compound which is a maximum security prison for up to 549 inmates, surrounded by a double-perimeter fence. In that prison is a man from a rural North Idaho county who isn’t serving a sentence or even facing criminal charges. He is in a prison cell because he has a mental illness, and Idaho has no other safe place for him.

Spotlight PA: A Criminal Solution
A six-month investigation by Spotlight PA and the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism found that Pennsylvania laws and policies meant to aid people who have severe mental health issues and have been accused of a crime often do just the opposite. The investigation also found there is no single state agency tracking what happens to people once their competency is questioned.

Utah Business: Lack of transparency around Utah’s prison food leads to a lack of accountability
Utah Prisoner Advocacy Network (UPAN) reports that when it comes to nutrition and meals jail officials are unlikely to give straight answers. The lack of transparency isn’t necessarily new. Utah’s state prisons have had a dietician employed as far back as 2013, but no one from UPAN has met that person or knows what their work entails. Prison food has for a long time been seen with castigation by the mainstream. There is a 2017 Buzzfeed video where participants are required to try food from a prison, for example. “I’m trying to convince my brain not to kill myself,” one participant said in the video.

King5: Corrections officers pushing back on proposed plan to close downtown Seattle jail
King County Executive, Dow Constantine, wants to redevelop seven blocks of downtown Seattle. The proposal means the downtown Seattle jail could close. Those who work inside the jail have concerns. The King County Corrections Guild President, Dennis Folk sent Executive Constantine a letter against closing the jail without a replacement in the works. Folk said the proposal comes at a time when communities are facing record-level crime rates and jails facing a staffing crisis.

Rikers Island

Gothamist: NYC jail captain thought detainee was ‘making a joke’ when he threatened to take his life
A New York City jail captain took the stand in her own homicide trial on Thursday, saying that she waited to get medical aid for a detainee who had threatened to take his life and then hanged himself in his cell because she didn’t realize that he was serious. “I really thought this guy was making a joke and these inmates were laughing at him,” she said. Hillman, 40, was charged with criminally negligent homicide after Ryan Wilson, 29, died by suicide. Hillman is also charged with lying about what happened on official paperwork.

NY Times: Bowling, Parties, Travel: 3 Former Rikers Guards Admit Sick Leave Abuse
A former New York City correction officer admitted on Tuesday that he stole nearly $120,000 in public money by collecting his salary while falsely asserting that he was too injured to work for more than a year. The former officer, Eduardo Trinidad, was the third jail guard to plead guilty to federal program fraud. The pleas came a few months after the former officers were charged with criminally abusing their sick leave.

NY Times: Rikers Is Already Awful, and It’s Worse if You’re Trans
According to the most recent Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics report on sexual victimization in prisons and jails, from 2007 to 2012, more than a third of transgender prisoners had been sexually assaulted annually, a rate eight times as high as among prisoners generally. After the high-profile death of a trans detainee at Rikers in 2019, the City Council created a task force to improve conditions for incarcerated trans and nonbinary people.

Washington DC Jail

NY Times: Republicans Open Inquiry Into Treatment of Jan. 6 Defendants at D.C. Jail
House Republicans on Thursday began their promised investigation into whether people charged with crimes in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol have been mistreated in jail. The investigation — part of a broader effort by Republicans to rewrite the history of the riot in part by portraying participants as the true victims — has been a top priority of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia.

Fines & Fees

Crime Report: Court Fines Promote Juvenile Recidivism, Not Rehabilitation
According to the report, 19.4 percent of youth who were assigned fees committed a new crime compared to 15.7 percent who were not charged fees. Restitution payments had little impact on rates of recidivism. “These fees charged to children and their families are promoting recidivism instead of rehabilitation,” said Sarah Couture, Florida State Director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Kare: Beltrami County, MEnD to pay $2.6 million for jail death
Beltrami County and its former jail medical provider, MEnD Correctional Care, will pay $2.6 million to the family of a man whose preventable death at the county’s jail in 2018 sparked outrage statewide. Hardel Sherrell was 27 when he died paralyzed and laying in his own filth on a cell room floor after jailers and medical providers ignored his pleas for help.

Times Record: Healthcare provider in Sebastian County jail death lawsuit under scrutiny in other states
The healthcare provider for the Sebastian County jail, where Larry Price Jr., 50, died in a malnourished state of health in 2021 is the same health provider in Oklahoma jails where neglect of inmates has been alleged. Turn Key Health Clinics LLC. is named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed against Sebastian County in the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas.