Weekly Update: December 05, 2023
Pregnancy & Birth In Corrections: Shackling, Criminalization Post Dobbs, Preventing Mother & Child Separation

COCHS WEEKLY UPDATE: December 05, 2023

Highlighted Stories

KFF: Most States Ban Shackling Pregnant Women in Custody, Yet Many Report Being Restrained
U.S. jails admit 55,000 pregnant people each year, according to estimates based on 2017 data. About 40 states, including Georgia, have passed laws limiting the use of restraints such as handcuffs, leg restraints, and belly chains on pregnant people in law enforcement custody. In January, a Georgia woman, 32 weeks pregnant, was shackled for hours while waiting for a medical appointment and during transport. Minnesota passed an anti-shackling bill in 2014, but six years later a suburban Minneapolis woman sued Hennepin County after a wrongful arrest during which she was shackled while in active labor.

Mother Jones: From Emergency Room to Prison: Health Care Providers Are Most Likely To Report Pregnant People
Even before the fall of Roe, women were reported by doctors to law enforcement for conducting self-managed abortions, or SMAs. While only one state, Nevada, outright criminalizes SMAs, health care workers still reported pregnant people to law enforcement all across the country. And in a post-Dobbs world, experts worry this criminalization could get worse.

Health News Florida: Minnesota aims to stop separating mothers in prison from their newborn babies
When an incarcerated woman gives birth, she is typically separated from her baby within days or even hours. The state of Minnesota now allows some of these moms to spend more time at home with their new babies. The program is Healthy Start, which lets incarcerated women stay home with their babies for up to a year. It is an investment in maternal and child health that could be a crime prevention strategy.


Science: Excess mortality in U.S. prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic
This study is an analysis of mortality data collected from public records requests (supplemented with publicly available data) from 48 Departments of Corrections provides the most comprehensive understanding to date of in-custody mortality during 2020. Total mortality increased by 77% in 2020 relative to 2019, corresponding to 3.4 times the mortality increase in the general population, and that mortality in prisons increased across all age groups (49 and under, 50 to 64, and 65 and older). COVID-19 was the primary driver for increases in mortality. Still, the extent of total mortality in U.S. prisons during the pandemic is not known.

Pew: Veterans Who Have Been Arrested or Incarcerated Are at Heightened Risk for Suicide
Veterans are one of the highest risk populations for suicide in the U.S. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the suicide rate among veterans is almost 60% greater than it is for nonveterans. Veterans also have elevated rates of contact with the criminal justice system—which may range from arrest to sentencing to incarceration—and recent research suggests that this involvement can further exacerbate suicide risk.

NC Health News: How much do we know about suicide and self-harm that happen during incarceration?
Twenty-one states provided no information on suicides, shared data that was outdated or required the information be obtained through a public records request, despite the Death in Custody Reporting Act, which federally mandates that states report data on in-custody suicides. Researchers at the Third City Project, led by Duke University’s Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, graded each state prison system by level of data availability on in-custody suicides.

BMC: Managed care updates of subscriber jail release to prompt community suicide prevention: clinical trial protocol
Recent jail detention is a marker for suicide risk in community-based populations. However, healthcare providers are typically unaware that their client was in jail and few post-release suicide prevention efforts exist. This protocol paper describes a trial evaluating community suicide prevention practices triggered by advances in informatics that alert a large managed care organization (MCO), when a subscriber is released from jail.

Jail Health Care
NC Health News: Health care provided in jails likely falls short of community standards, survey says
Researchers conducted 45-minute phone surveys with jail personnel from 254 of the 346 jails identified in the four states from October 2020 to May 2021. Based on the survey’s findings, jail health care lags community standards in terms of staffing norms. There is not another setting in which nonmedical personnel have as many health care responsibilities as detention officers can have. For example, jails in the study were less likely to staff registered nurses than U.S. public primary and secondary schools.

Health Access For Justice Involved
BMC: How legal problems are conceptualized and measured in healthcare settings: a systematic review
This study seeks to answer the question, how has the concept of patients’ “legal problems” been operationalized in healthcare settings. Patients with past and current legal problems face significant barriers in accessing key services and are at risk of future poor health outcomes and high cost services. Different legal problems represent unique encounters with the criminal justice system and may create different risks or require different responses.

BMC: No health without access: using a retrospective cohort to model a care continuum for people released from prison at an urban, safety net health system
This study merged records from Denver Health (DH), an urban safety-net healthcare system, and the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC), for people released from January 1 to June 30, 2021. It harnesses information from a data exchange between correctional facilities and community-based healthcare agencies in Colorado to model a care continuum after release from prison.

Wiley: Cumulative trauma, adversity, and loss among juvenile justice–involved girls: Implications for health disparities
Despite declining juvenile arrests, girls are more likely than boys to experience adjudication, out-of-home placements, and incarceration for age-dependent status offenses (e.g., runaway) and probation violations. Childhood trauma experts persuasively argue that addressing symptom complexity associated with multiple and/or persistent adversities is necessary and requires the assessment of expanded adverse childhood experiences (ACE) event types.

Medicaid Update

Medicaid.gov: 1115 Waiver Demonstration - North Carolina Medicaid Reform Demonstration - Extension Request
This 1115 waiver extension request specifically include Justice Involved Pre-Release Services: it would increase Medicaid coverage for justice-involved individuals and would improve health outcomes for justice-involved individuals, including by improving transitions into the community following release.

The Appeal: A New Medicaid Program Could Dramatically Improve Healthcare for Imprisoned People—If States Use It
Tracie Gardner of the Legal Action Center and Sheriff Stacey Ann Kincaid of Fairfax County in Virginia write: 95 percent of incarcerated individuals will eventually return to our shared communities. As such, we must ensure that the hundreds of thousands of people leaving jails and prisons across the country can access the care they need. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has created a new, exciting pathway for states and localities to use federal Medicaid funds to pay for health care inside prisons and jails. [But] without a CMS-approved waiver, the “Inmate Exclusion” prohibits the use of federal Medicaid funds to finance non-inpatient health care services for people held involuntarily in public institutions. States that obtain waivers can turn the tide by ensuring that individuals are connected to health care coverage.

Ideastream Public Media: Maintaining Medicaid eligibility for Ohio's incarcerated can improve health, public safety
Ohio could reduce recidivism and improve public safety by taking advantage of new federal guidance that provides states a mechanism to allow incarcerated people to keep Medicaid coverage. "It certainly is a really huge opportunity for any state and any county who's really thinking about how to tackle some of these thorny issues around mental health and substance use," said report author Dan Mistak, of Community Oriented Correctional Health Service.

Opioid Epidemic

Filter: NIDA Director Calls Abstinence-Only Approach “Catastrophic” for OD Crisis
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow in an appearance at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference stated that the dangers of focusing on abstinence in SUD treatment, rather than meeting people who use drugs where they’re at. The “inflexibility” of abstinence-only “costs a lot of lives.”. Politicizing substance use disorder (SUD) has fostered a system of incarceration that increases overdose risk while biasing research that could reveal the benefits.

Trib Live: Allegheny County Jail ordered to provide medication to inmates with opioid use disorder
Allegheny County Jail health officials will now be required to provide medication for inmates being treated for opioid use disorder after reaching an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. As part of the agreement, the county also will pay a person at the jail who was denied access to methadone $10,000 for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to provide him treatment.

Sentinel: Arapahoe County jail expansion will focus on inmates with addiction, health problems
Arapahoe County is starting an expansion to the county’s jail, funded by COVID-19 relief funds and built to help inmates experiencing mental health problems and acute medical conditions. Sheriff Tyler Brown said it will specifically help the jail treat inmates experiencing drug and alcohol withdrawal, and create a dedicated space for participants in his office’s new peer navigator program to meet with inmates.


Marshall Project: A Warden Tried to Fix an Abusive Prison. He Faced Death Threats.
Thomas Bergami who took over Thomson penitentiary in Illinois was tasked with fixing a prison where five prisoners were killed in recent years and where more than 120 people have reported serious abuse. Bergami said he realized from his first day that the prison had an “enormous problem with inmate abuse,” including falsifying charges against Black prisoners and keeping men in painful restraints for days. Bergami said he tried to fire at least three officers who were found by internal investigators to have abused people in their custody, but his superiors blocked him each time.

AP: Ex-prison guard gets 3 years for failing to help sick inmate who later died
A former high-ranking guard at a federal prison in Virginia has been sentenced to three years in prison for failing to help an inmate who suffered a medical emergency and later died. An inmate exhibited sudden symptoms that included incoherence and the inability to stand, according to court filings by federal prosecutors. He continuously fell inside his cell and later in a suicide-watch cell. The man’s cellmate, correctional officers and suicide watch observers had notified prison supervisors and asked for help.

Solitary Confinement

Tifton Gazette: The Supreme Court should have heeded Ketanji Brown Jackson’s wisdom
Punishment that causes durable impairments of a person’s brain surely violates the Constitution’s Eight Amendment proscription of “cruel and unusual punishments.” the Supreme Court’s three “liberal” justices rightly dissented against the six “conservative” justices’ decision not to hear a case concerning the all-too-common prison practice of protracted solitary confinement. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson dissent states: "[that Michael Johnson] spent nearly every hour of his existence in a windowless, perpetually lit cell about the size of a parking space. His cell was poorly ventilated, resulting in unbearable heat and noxious odors. The space was … often caked with human waste."

Data & Statistics

BJS: Prisoners in 2022 – Statistical Tables
This report provides statistics on persons under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities. It includes counts and demographic and offense characteristics of prisoners in 2022, as well as findings on admissions, releases, and imprisonment rates.


Jails and Justice Support Center: Website
The Justice Department, through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National Institute of Corrections, announced the launch of the Jails and Justice Support Center (JJSC). This center brings together innovative policies, strategies, promising practices and resources to help in the management of jails.

State Roundup

North Gwinnett Voice: Jail Dogs Program suspended to advance treatment for inmates with chronic or mental illness
One quarter of Gwinnett County Jail inmates are in need of consistent access to medical care for mental health issues, chronic illness, and other disabilities and conditions. New space is required for inmates who need “direct access” to the hospital housed in the facility. Unfortunately, the available space was also the current home of the popular Jail Dogs Program. But the location was determined to be crucial for advancing inmate healthcare. The sheriff’s office has assured that this is but a “temporary suspension of the program”.

Nola: Louisiana should revamp jail regulations to better protect inmates, report finds
Louisiana has no single set of regulations for its jails, and the rules that are on the books fail to ensure safe living conditions for inmates or discipline for employees who abuse those inmates, a state-commissioned report has found. The findings comes after state lawmakers asked University of Texas researchers to evaluate Louisiana’s existing jail rules and enforcement of those rules, as part of an effort to reform the state’s criminal justice system.

Baltimore Banner: A corrections ombudsman? Support building for bill that could reshape the Maryland prison system
On a given day, the roughly 15,000 people in Maryland prison facilities might encounter trouble in a variety of forms: shoddy medical care, fears of violence, confrontations with correctional officers or unhygienic food, to name a few examples. While prisoners frequently file formal grievances with their facilities, they say those complaints are not always taken seriously. Lawmakers and advocates are increasingly optimistic those prisoners will soon have somewhere else to turn: an ombudsman’s office, which would operate as an independent wing of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General.

New York Times: How a ‘Goon Squad’ of Deputies Got Away With Years of Brutality
For nearly two decades, a loose band of sheriff’s deputies roamed impoverished neighborhoods across a central Mississippi county, meting out their own version of justice. Narcotics detectives and patrol officers, some who called themselves the Goon Squad, barged into homes in the middle of the night, accusing people inside of dealing drugs. Then they handcuffed or held them at gunpoint and tortured them into confessing.

CBS: Mental health waitlists contributing to PA's incarceration rates
Throughout the 1970's and 80's, Pennsylvania worked toward de-institutionalization--meaning those who were mentally ill would no longer be put in facilities and could live on their own. But now studies are showing that long wait times for mental health services can have a direct impact on the number of people who end up incarcerated.

West Virginia
New York Times: 6 Former Jail Officers Charged in Death of West Virginia Inmate
Six former correctional officers at a West Virginia jail are facing federal charges in the death of an inmate who was assaulted by a group of guards and died last year, the Justice Department said. The inmate, Quantez Burks, 37, had been at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver, W.Va., for less than a day on March 1, 2022, when he was beaten by a group of officers and died the same day. Mr. Burks was then taken by three officers to a “blind spot” inside the jail that was not monitored by security cameras.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin's DOC doesn't notify the public when a prisoner dies. How are their deaths investigated?
Wisconsin's Department of Corrections has long been criticized for its lack of transparency when it comes to reporting in-custody deaths, including how and when they occur. The agency does not notify the public when a prisoner dies in its custody. During the pandemic, the DOC began reporting coronavirus-related in-custody deaths after local pushback.

Continuing Stories From Local Jurisdictions

Rikers Island
New York Daily News: The NYC Board of Correction needs a correction: A former BOC leader’s plan for reform
In an op-ed, Meg Egan,cformer executive director of the Board of Correction, writes: For two years I served as executive director and saw firsthand how the board was destined to fail. In that role, I was charged with ensuring the department adhered to established minimum standards enshrined in local law to safeguard appropriate conditions for people in custody and staff. Quickly I realized how these standards could not keep pace with the decades of deterioration pervading every facet of DOC’s operation. A receivership has become the only viable option for the systemic overhaul needed to improve conditions and change the culture in the jail system.

Los Angeles County
Los Angeles Times: A woman was jailed for shoplifting. Weeks later, her mother got back a decaying corpse
Amanda Bews battled a nerve condition and started using drugs. She had been arrested on a pair of misdemeanor charges, and died in a Los Angeles County jail two days later. A week after Bews died, an embalmer from a funeral home, came to pick up her body. The embalmer said the body already noticeably decayed. A lawsuit was filed on Nov. 17 in federal court lists 11 claims, including negligence, wrongful death and deliberate indifference.

LAist: LA County Wants To Compensate Incarcerated People Caring For Peers Living With Mental Illnesses
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors threw additional support this week behind a program in which incarcerated people volunteer to care for peers living with a mental illness behind bars. The motion, which was unanimously approved, directs the Sheriff and Correctional Health to look into ways to provide incentives like wages, academic support and credits for early release for mental health assistants.

San Diego County
San Diego Union Tribune: San Diego sheriff confronts yet another lawsuit over a 2022 death in custody
The family of another man who died in sheriff’s custody has filed a federal lawsuit against San Diego County and the officials who run the jail and its healthcare system. The 34-page legal complaint is the latest in a long-running series of lawsuits brought by relatives of men and women who died in San Diego County jails. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has been repeatedly sued for negligence, excessive force and other allegations committed by deputies and jail medical staff.

Health Providers In Corrections

Correctional Nurse: Moral Distress and Correctional Nursing
Correctional nurses have unique situations that lead to moral distress. Examples include conflict with custody over patient access to care and a higher volume of patient healthcare needs than the resources available to meet them. Other potential sources of moral distress include nurse-provider conflict, nurse-nurse conflict, disrespectful interactions, workplace violence, and clinical ethical dilemmas.


The Guardian: Detainees speak out against ‘abusive’ US migrant jail: ‘This place is horrible’
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) detention center, in Lumpkin, Georgia operated by CoreCivic has been the subject of recent reports detailing alarming issues, including deaths, prolonged solitary confinement, sexual abuse and medical care neglect. A federal civil rights complaint highlighted the consequences of a mold infestation crisis, with one detainee losing roughly 50% of their vision due to lack of medical treatment.

Correctional Health Care

The Tributary: Duval jail death toll hits 14 this year after 2 more reported
Two men died in the last three days while under the care of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the office announced. These are the 13th and 14th in-custody deaths reported at the Duval County jail this year. This is the fourth year in a row the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has seen double-digit deaths at the jail under a private medical provider, Armor.

Corizon/YesCare/Tehum Care
Nation Of Change: Privatized prison healthcare in the US—profiteering at the expense of inmate health
In the vast, profit-driven expanse of the U.S. prison system, the healthcare of inmates, a critical yet often overlooked aspect, has fallen into the hands of a few large private companies. Dominated by private equity-owned firms like Wellpath and YesCare (formerly Corizon Health), this multibillion-dollar industry raises profound ethical questions about the commodification of health in correctional facilities.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Fulton jail to keep health care provider NaphCare another year
NaphCare will remain the health care provider for Fulton County jail inmates for at least another year. Its service drew criticism in the fallout from the Sept. 13, 2022, death of Lashawn Thompson in the Rice Street jail’s mental health unit. A county medical examiner’s report said the 35-year-old’s cause of death was undetermined, but an independent autopsy said he died of neglect. Thompson’s family said he had been visibly deteriorating for some time but was ignored, and died covered in lice and bedbugs.

Southern Health Partners
Colorado Politics: Jury to hear ex-La Plata County jail nurse's retaliation case under new Colorado whistleblower law
A jury will decide whether a former nurse in the La Plata County jail experienced retaliation and discrimination under a Colorado law enacted early in the COVID-19 pandemic to protect whistleblowers who raise public health concerns in the workplace. A jury could ultimately find the county jail's medical contractor, Southern Health Partners, Inc., took unlawful action against Allison Mitchell after she complained about her coworkers' refusal to follow public health protocols, such as masking.

WRDW: Augusta fast-tracks change in jail medical provider
After years of complaints about the current Richmond County jail medical provider, Wellpath, Augusta (GA) leaders aren’t wasting any time in changing things and are moving forward with move forward with VitalCore Health Strategies as the new provider starting Jan. 1. (Editor's Note: Revolving proprietary correctional health care vendors --especially this year with Wellpath & VitalCore-- are the rule rather than the exception. See May 16th's Editor's Note).

Laconia Daily Sun: At Hampstead Hospital, promises to fix NH's youth mental health system remain unfulfilled
Last year, the New Hampshire took over Hampstead Hospital. The number of patients seen at Hampstead has consistently been below what the contractor, Wellpath, agreed to in its contract. Some mental health advocates questioned whether Wellpath — whose prior work primarily focused on health care and mental health services in prisons, jails and adult psychiatric facilities — had enough relevant experience to care for vulnerable youth not involved in the criminal justice system.