Weekly Update: February 28, 2023

COCHS Weekly Update: February 28, 2023

Highlighted Stories

Health Day: US to Allow Medicaid to Pay for Drug Treatment in Prisons
Soon, the federal government will allow states to use Medicaid funds to treat prisoners for drug addiction and mental health services. In an announcement made during a visit to the Camden County Jail in New Jersey on Tuesday, Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said states are being encouraged to submit proposals for how they would like to use that money, the Associated Press reported. But the government will require that mental health and drug treatment be offered as part of allowing Medicaid funds in jails and prisons.

Stat: Medicaid during incarceration: a step toward health equity
In an opinion piece, Shira Shavit, a physician and clinical professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, writes: The Medicaid waiver in California expands access to health care for people leaving incarceration. But for it to be effective, those most in need of care must be engaged. This means connecting them to community-based care provided by health workers who understand the experience of incarceration. The Medicaid waiver opens the door to care.

NPR: Red and blue states look to Medicaid to improve the health of people leaving prison
In 2018, Congress directed federal health officials to help states figure out a better transition plan for people leaving incarceration. Since then, 15 states from across the political spectrum have asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to let them test what would happen if they turned Medicaid on before people leave jail, prison and juvenile facilities. In January, California became the first state to get the green light.

NC Health News: Uninsured former inmates suffer financial, health, societal consequences from lack of accessible care. Medicaid expansion could help.
The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, which backed Medicaid expansion for the first time last year — arguing in a letter to state legislative leaders that expanding insurance coverage would likely reduce crime and enhance public safety. Because Medicaid has not been expanded in North Carolina, most people reentering society after incarceration are either uninsured or uninsurable.

War On Drugs

New York Times: America Has Lost the War on Drugs. Here’s What Needs to Happen Next.
Drug use and addiction are as old as humanity itself, and historians and policymakers are likely to debate whether the war on drugs was ever winnable. The Biden administration has taken some welcome steps in the right direction. The Department of Health and Human Services is granting waivers to states that want to activate Medicaid for inmates before they are released from prison. The Labor Department is finally enforcing laws that require health insurance providers to cover addiction treatment at the same level that they cover other types of care.

New York Times: One Year Inside a Radical New Approach to America’s Overdose Crisis
The nation’s half-century war on drugs has failed. The economy is losing a trillion or so dollars — equal to about 5 percent of its G.D.P. — every year in productivity, health care costs and criminal justice expenditures. There is a path out of this quagmire. As studies and reports going back decades have plainly stated, it’s time for politicians and health officials to treat substance abuse like the public health crisis that it is.


BMC: Equivalence of care, confidentiality, and professional independence must underpin the hospital care of individuals experiencing incarceration
Three clinical practitioners discuss ethical considerations when caring for individuals experiencing incarceration needing in-patient hospital services. Examined are the challenges and critical importance of adhering to core principles of medical ethics in such settings: access to a physician, equivalence of care, patient’s consent and confidentiality, preventive healthcare, humanitarian assistance, professional independence, and professional competence.

Intercept: No, Trading Flesh for Prison Time Is Not “Bodily Autonomy”
This is the proposition that a bill in the Massachusetts House of Representatives puts to people locked up in the commonwealth: Donate bone marrow or an organ or two, says HD 3822, and the Department of Correction will cut 60 to 365 days off your sentence. The bill is sponsored by four Democrats. Call it utilitarianism, neoliberalism, or enlightened self-interest, HD 3822 reveals that the commodification of everything seems reasonable to pretty much everyone.

KHN: A Law Was Meant to Free Sick or Aging Inmates. Instead, Some Are Left to Die in Prison.
More than four years ago, former President Donald Trump signed the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill meant to help free people in federal prisons who are terminally ill or aging and who pose little or no threat to public safety. But data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission shows judges rejected more than 80% of compassionate release requests filed from October 2019 through September 2022.

CorrectionalNurse.net: Manifesto Proposition Four: Maintaining Professional Boundaries-Part I
Correctional nurses can find themselves, or their peers, under-involved in patient relationships when cynicism or a jaded attitude to the incarcerated population takes hold. Boundary blurring in correctional nursing practice can also lead to over-involvement in a patient relationship; moving toward a personal relationship that goes beyond the therapeutic role. Establishing a personal relationship with a patient is inappropriate, at best. It can be dangerous and illegal as well in the correctional setting.

Data & Statistics

Pew: Jail Data Collection Should Be Modernized
In a recent opinion piece in The Hill, director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Alexis Piquero joined with NIJ director Nancy La Vigne in calling for more reliable data. While their article focused on using research evidence and crime statistics to guide violence reduction efforts, there is also a critical need to improve the quality and timeliness of data in other areas of the justice system, including for the nation’s roughly 3,000 local jails.

Health Affairs: Podcast: Health in US Prisons and Jails
Health Affairs' Marianne Amoss and Chris Fleming discuss recent data on mortality in prisons and health care in carceral settings, especially in connection with COVID-19.

SAMHSA: National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services
SAMHSA recently published the first National Substance Use and Mental Health Services Survey: Data on Substance Use and Mental Health Treatment Facilities. This report outlines information from treatment facilities across the country on their use of MAT and antipsychotics, facility characteristics, language and suicide prevention services, and more.

BJS: Correctional Populations in the United States, 2021 – Statistical Tables
The total correctional population in the United States fell 1% from yearend 2020 to 2021, according to statistics in Correctional Populations in the United States, 2021 – Statistical Tables and Probation and Parole in the United States, 2021, two reports released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.


New York Times: As the Pandemic Swept America, Deaths in Prisons Rose Nearly 50 Percent
Deaths in state and federal prisons across America rose nearly 50 percent during the first year of the pandemic, and in six states they more than doubled, according to the first comprehensive data on prison fatalities in the era of Covid-19. The jump in deaths in 2020 was more than twice the increase in the United States overall, and even exceeded estimates of the percentage increase at nursing homes.

Incarcerated Women

Russell Webster: Health needs of long-term women prisoners neglected
Many women serving long sentences who were consulted for this research suggested that prison health care is insufficient and lacking. Concerns about diet, access to exercise, proper health care services, and the potential for long-term health problems to go untreated mean many spend a lot of time worrying about their health. The women recognize that the fact they are exposed to insufficient health care facilities for such extensive lengths of time means their concerns are felt more acutely.


New York Times: Justice Dept. Struggles to Carry Out Early Release Program for Abused Inmates
The Bureau of Prisons has rejected the early release of a female inmate who said she had been sexually abused by male employees at a notorious California penitentiary, reflecting a broader struggle by the Justice Department to free inmates abused in federal custody, when appropriate.

New York Times: Bureau of Prisons Is Closing Troubled, Violent Detention Unit in Illinois
The Bureau of Prisons is shuttering a troubled special detention unit in Illinois that has been plagued by inmate deaths, suicides and the reported sexual harassment of guards. Bureau officials “recently identified significant concerns with respect to institutional culture and compliance with B.O.P. policies” at the high-security facility, which houses about 800 inmates.

State Roundup

Washington Post: Alabama man froze to death in police custody, says lawsuit
An Alabama man probably froze to death after being restrained in a jail’s walk-in freezer or similarly frigid environment, says a lawsuit filed by the man’s family, which cites footage shared by a corrections officer who spoke out against the incident.

WBHM: Alabama prison staff shortage worsens despite court order
A federal judge said Alabama prisons remain critically understaffed, with court filings showing the number of officers in state lockups has continued to drop despite a court order to increase numbers.The prison system has lost more than 500 security staff employees over the last 18 months, according to court filings. The state has used pay raises and recruitment efforts to boost officer numbers, but has been hindered by a tight labor market.

Equal Justice Initiative: Alabama Prison Supervisor Charged in Assault of Two Incarcerated Men
Last week, a federal grand jury charged former Alabama Department of Corrections lieutenant Mohammad Jenkins with obstructing justice and using excessive force against two men incarcerated at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama. One of those men, Victor Russo, died after then-Lt. Jenkins repeatedly struck him in the head and sprayed him in the mouth with chemical agents while he was handcuffed to a bench before taking him to a restricted housing unit at the prison.

Anchorage Daily News: The unseen driver of Alaska’s record jail deaths: Suicide
Suicides in Alaska's correctional facilities have unfolded at a startling pace: In June alone, four people took their own lives in four different prisons, from Nome to Seward to Eagle River to Anchorage. One death per week. All of the suicides involved people who were on pretrial status in jail, accused of crimes for which they had not yet been convicted.

Times of San Diego: Bill Would Open California’s Secretive State Prison System to Public Scrutiny
California’s prison system is neither efficient nor effective. That’s the conclusion of multiple media reports and critics, who have documented poor conditions throughout the 34-adult prison system that houses more than 90,000 prisoners. Senate Bill 254, which would also apply to local jails, would widen access to news media and state legislators. It could potentially allow a wide range of questions to be answered about the prison system.

Press Democrat: California’s graying prison population
California’s prisons are packed with advanced-age prisoners. People 55 and older make up about 16% of California’s incarcerated population. During the 2000s, California added more than 11,000 people 55 and older to its prisons. Many of these old men are dying or will die in prison, despite extremely low recidivism rates for their age group.

WTOL: Inmate tests positive for Legionnaires' disease, Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio confirms
An inmate at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio (CCNO) has tested positive for Legionnaires' disease. To determine from where the inmate contracted the disease, officials said they would work with Water Management Advisors. Results from water testing will be used to inform further action the facility takes regarding the issue.

New York
New York Times: At Sing Sing, Prisoners’ Charges of Brutal Beatings Prompt U.S. Inquiry
Federal prosecutors are investigating allegations that corrections officers at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, N.Y., orchestrated beatings during a prisonwide search in November, sending at least seven prisoners to the hospital and more than 20 others to a medical unit.

Pennsylvania Prison Society: ACJ Prison Experience Quarterly Survey
People incarcerated at Allegheny County Jail continue to report issues with food and medical care, and others worry about physical abuse and their own safety. The Pennsylvania Prison Society distributed a facility-wide survey of the Allegheny County Jail. About 95% of respondents said they regularly went hungry.

Pennsylvania Capital Star: Bill to end medical co-pays for incarcerated Pennsylvanians to be reintroduced
A Democratic state lawmaker from Philadelphia says he plans to reintroduce legislation to end $5 medical co-pays for incarcerated Pennsylvanians. While inmates still receive medical care if they cannot pay the co-pay, their account balance goes into the negative, often requiring additional payments from family members to pay off that balance.

ABC 13: Harris Co. Jail's reported continued non-compliance comes after 4 inmates died in January alone
Improved cleanliness inside the Harris County Jail, which dealt with four inmate deaths last month, was not enough to drop them from state inspectors' non-compliance list, the sheriff's office reported. An announcement was made after the Texas Commission on Jail Standards completed a weeklong inspection of the detention center.

ABC: FBI announces investigation into Harris County jail system after 32 inmates die
The FBI has opened an investigation into allegations of federal rights violations following the deaths of two inmates at the Harris County Jail in Texas after a request by the sheriff's office. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez had reached out to the FBI to investigate the deaths of Jaquaree Simmons who died in February 2021 and Jacoby Pillow who died in January 2023, while they were in the custody of the Harris County Jail.

Center Square: Bills to prohibit solitary confinement gets support in General Assembly
While several headline issues are likely a stalemate for Virginia lawmakers this session, the politically-divided General Assembly could come together on an issue that has received bipartisan support thus far – codifying prohibitions on the use of solitary confinement in Virginia prisons.

Rikers Island

Gothamist: 1 in 4 people jailed in NYC are not being brought to court on time
More than a quarter of people locked up in city jails are not getting to court on time for their hearings and trials. It’s the highest rate of failure since records became publicly available in 1999. According to the most recent Mayor’s Management Report, just 72.2% of those detained from September through December last year were brought to court on time.

Gothamist: 7 staff members suspended after elderly man dies at Rikers
Seven city staffers at Rikers Island were suspended in connection with the death of a 65-year-old incarcerated man earlier this month. A preliminary death report from the Board of Correction oversight agency, indicates that two assistant deputy wardens, a captain, two correction officers and two nurses were suspended in the wake of Marvin Pines' death on Feb. 4. According to the death report, Pines was sick for more than an hour in the bathroom, but no officers had checked on him.

Gothamist: Coming soon to NYC jails: Electronic surveillance, fees to text loved ones
Under a new city contract that puts electronic tablets in the hands of Rikers detainees, correction officials can surveil correspondence using keyword searches and collect fees for some messaging services. The new details about the Department of Correction’s contract with a tablet provider have emerged on the eve of a meeting at which officials will decide whether to ban physical mail and personal packages from being sent to detainees at the Rikers Island jail complex.

Los Angeles County Jail

Los Angeles Daily News: Los Angeles County’s hellish jails draw needed scrutiny
Four United States senators condemned the state of Los Angeles County jails in an October 2022 letter to the U.S. Department of Justice. In a “blistering” letter to Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland, the senators described conditions in L.A. County’s jails as a ‘humanitarian crisis’ and ‘appalling'.


JCOIN: Reentry Best Practices for Individuals with Substance Use Disorders: A TASC Course on Reentry
This course was developed by Addiction Policy Forum, TASC, and JCOIN to share the best practices in criminal justice settings to ensure successful reentry for people who have substance use disorders. The course takes approximately 40 minutes to complete and will cover topics including screening and assessment, withdrawal management, MOUD, behavioral interventions, and release planning.


Immigrant Defense Project: New York Council Hearing Reveals Deep Collusion Between Dept of Corrections and ICE
At a City Council hearing on Wednesday, the Immigration and Criminal Justice Committees heard hours of testimony from community members and advocates illustrating how the City has continued to funnel people into the hands of ICE and why we need to strengthen our local laws to protect immigrant New Yorkers. In questioning the Department of Corrections and other City officials, dozens of emails were cited that reveal extensive collusion in particular between the NYC Department of Corrections and ICE that are illegal under New York City Law.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Pew: More Than 1 in 9 Adults With Co-Occurring Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders Are Arrested Annually
Adults reporting co-occurring serious or moderate mental illness (hereafter “mental illness”) and substance use disorders in the past year were far more likely to be arrested compared with both those with mental illness alone and those who didn’t experience any mental illness or substance use disorder. People with co-occurring disorders were also unlikely to receive treatment for more than one disorder,

AP: Family sues after nuclear physicist’s death in Virginia jail
The family of a nuclear physicist who died by suicide in a Virginia jail is suing the U.S. government after his psychotropic medicine was discontinued and he was denied admission to a federal medical prison.

Mental Health Initiatives In Corrections

El Paso Matters: El Paso mental health court would provide alternative to prison
El Paso County is moving closer to starting a mental health court for adults in the criminal justice system. Earlier this month, the county approved a $200,000 grant application toward INSPIRE Treatment Court, a treatment program for people with both serious mental illness and substance use disorder.


Corrections 1: Using virtual reality to improve inmate interaction with families
One way of improving inmates’ chances for successful reintegration is to train them in life/social skills, conflict resolution, and improved decision-making prior to release. Doing this by having inmates wear immersive virtual reality (VR) headsets allows them to learn using real-life 360-degree training scenarios. In VR training, the inmates get to "interact" with 2D/3D characters in all kinds of social situations, including those that are emotionally challenging.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Editor’s Note
As many of our subscribers are aware, this last section of the Weekly Update is usually devoted to stories about correctional health care vendors. Mostly these articles detail lawsuits concerning the health care delivered within correctional environments. With the recent announcement of Corizon Health's bankruptcy, COCHS editorial staff thought it would be an opportune moment to direct our readers' attention to articles that explore the business decisions of YesCare/Corizon Health and how Corizon Health's bankruptcy might impact states where this company was contracted to provide services.

Alabama Political Reporter: Corizon prison healthcare provider declares bankruptcy, YesCare apparently replaces CEO
A spinoff entity tied to the company that landed Alabama’s $1 billion prison health care contract has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Texas. Corizon filed the case Monday in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. Corizon took advantage of Texas law to break into two companies, leaving Corizon with most of the problems and debt and the other company, CHS TX, with a clean slate and almost all of the employees, contracts and assets. CHS TX also retained all Corizon executives, including new CEO Sara Tirschwell. A few months later, another company controlled by Tirschwell, YesCare, bought CHS TX and began operating under the YesCare name. However, it appears it will move forward without Tirschwell as CEO.

1819 News: Former state prison health care provider declares bankruptcy, linked to contract on hold
Corizon Health Services, a former prison health care provider to the state of Alabama, declared bankruptcy this week. Corizon has been linked in multiple media reports to YesCare. The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) selected YesCare as its winning bidder to provide health care services to the state's inmates. YesCare also recently changed CEOs from Tirschwell to Jeffrey Sholey.

USA Today: Prison health care provider declares bankruptcy, leaving Arizona malpractice claims on hold
Corizon Health, once one of the largest prison health care companies in the United States, has declared bankruptcy, leaving malpractice claims in Arizona and other states on hold and denying currently and formerly incarcerated people the justice they seek. The bankruptcy filing also potentially could saddle taxpayers in Arizona and other states that hired Corizon with an additional financial burden years after their contracts expired.

KOB: Concerns taxpayer money may be needed for lawsuits over health care allegations in jails
An Albuquerque attorney says local governments could soon have to pay out for lawsuits that they didn’t think they would be on the hook. The problems revolve around a private company hired to provide health care inside the jail in in Bernalillo County. Some know the company as “Corizon Health.” Right now, the company with the contract is called “YesCare.” Attorney Matt Coyte said the company is splitting assets, moving resources around and changing names, but it’s the same corporation.

Bernalillo County: Bernalillo County to Partner with UNM Hospital for MDC Medical and Behavioral Health Services
The county and UNM Hospital are in the beginning phases of forming a partnership to provide medical and behavioral health services to inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center, the largest county detention and behavioral health facility in the state of New Mexico. The county’s contract with YesCare, the current MDC healthcare provider, has been terminated and will end on July 25.

Other Vendors In The News
FOX23: ‘The largest standing civil rights death claim verdict in US history,’ $86 million
Attorney Daniel Smolen confirmed that an $86 million verdict had been determined on Feb. 24, against Correctional Healthcare Companies on the behalf of their client, Deborah Young. The jury awarded Young $14 million in compensatory damages and $68 million in punitive damages. Ms. Young predicted her own death. Due to the culture of indifference permeating the Jail under Correctional Healthcare Companies she knew her serious medical needs would not be addressed.

Oklahoma Watch: Sheriff, Jail Health Care Provider Seek Public Money to Increase Staff After Two Women Died
Founded in 2009 by state lawmaker Jon Echols, Turn Key Health Clinics operates in 100 detention facilities in nine states. The Oklahoma City-based company is the target of lawsuits in at least three states where patients have died under the care of its medical staff. A former Turn Key nurse told Oklahoma Watch that inadequate staffing left patients with substandard care.

Imperial Valley Press: Imperial County changes Inmate Medical Service Plan for first time in 20 Years
The Imperial County Sheriff's Office (ICSO), Corrections Division will be changing their inmate medical services provider for the first time in 20 years, bringing in NaphCare. ICSO has been using Wellpath as a health care provider for more than 20 years, but after a round of requests for proposals, ICSO found NaphCare offered a wider variety of services.

Charlotte Observer: Family sues Mecklenburg jail over UVA honor graduate’s suicide after withholding drugs
On May 22, 2021, Haley, a former University of Virginia honors graduate, was found hanging in his cell. In their lawsuit, Haley’s parents and siblings blame Haley’s “slow, preventable and totally unnecessary death” on his mistreatment at the jail. The complaint names almost 20 defendants, from Mecklenburg County and Sheriff Garry McFadden and many of his top jail assistants, to Wellpath, LLC, the jail’s medical provider.