COCHS Weekly Update: August 03, 2021
AJPH: Tracking Incarcerated Individual Mortality in Local Jails
Mortality trends in most of America’s 3000 local jails are almost impossible to discern because jail-by-jail death data collected by the federal government over the past 20 years is kept secret—unavailable to the public, news organizations and researchers, and even government officials. Reuters filled the information gap by requesting 12 years of death data from 523 local jails or jails systems—every jail in the country with an average of 750 or more incarcerated individuals, plus the 10 largest locally operated jails in each state, regardless of size. The data, which provides the largest-ever public accounting of US jail deaths, reveals how dozens of jails routinely post death rates two or three times the national average.
Washington Post: Prison officials allowed convicted sex abuser Larry Nassar to pay little to victims while spending thousands on himself
Federal prison officials have allowed Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor accused of sexually abusing hundreds of girls and women, to avoid paying financial penalties that are part of his sentence — even as he spent more than $10,000 from his Federal Bureau of Prisons account while behind bars, according to a new court filing. See previous Washington Post Story: Federal prisoners hold $100 million in government-run accounts, shielded from some criminal scrutiny and debt collection.
The Virginia Pilot: Former Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe heads to trial on federal bribery charges next week
Nearly two years after being indicted by a federal grand jury, former Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe is set to go to trial Tuesday on multiple corruption charges. McCabe is charged with multiple counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Each of the 11 charges he faces carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. He’s been free on bond as he’s been awaiting trial. The prosecution team alleges McCabe used his position to solicit bribes and campaign donations from individuals and companies that had multimillion dollar contracts with the jail, especially Correct Care Solutions and owner Gerald F. Boyle.
COVID-19 Delta Surge in Corrections
Mercury News: Contra Costa jails see COVID-19 outbreak; 96 cases reported so far
Contra Costa Health Services is responding to a COVID-19 outbreak in the county jail system that includes 96 positive tests of inmates and staff members, officials confirmed Friday. The 96 positive tests were split between the county’s three jail facilities in Martinez, Richmond and unincorporated Clayton, according to an email from a CCHS spokesperson. As of mid-day Friday, no one had been hospitalized. Asked about the outbreak, a Contra Costa Sheriff’s spokesman declined to comment and referred questions to CCHS. News of the outbreak came as COVID-19 cases continue to spike locally and nationally, with more than 10,000 new cases reported in California on Thursday. Most are believed to be the highly contagious Delta variant. There are also indications that the jail outbreak has had an impact on the county’s superior court system as well.
KQED: US Judge May Require Vaccines for California Prison Staff
A federal judge on Thursday said he will consider ordering all California prison employees and inmate firefighters to be vaccinated as the state tries to head off another coronavirus infection surge driven by the more contagious delta variant.Efforts to encourage voluntary vaccinations among staff haven't been enough to reach the rate needed to avoid new outbreaks, federal receiver J. Clark Kelso told U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar.
The Hill: Visitation suspended at Louisiana prisons amid COVID-19 surge
The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections on Tuesday said it would be temporarily suspending visitation and volunteering at all state-run prisons as Louisiana is reporting record surges in COVID-19 infections among its largely unvaccinated population. Visits had been reinstated at state prisons in March after a nearly yearlong suspension due to COVID-19 as several prisons across the country recorded virus outbreaks among inmates and staff.
Fox 59: Boone County Jail reinstates all COVID-19 policies after 25 inmates test positive
The Boone County Jail has reinstated all COVID-19 policies after 25 inmates tested positive for the virus. The Boone County Sheriff’s Office says it began to slowly open the jail in late May by lifting some, but not all, of the restrictions and allowing more inmates to enter the facility. All positive inmates were removed from the block and placed in quarantine. As a precaution, the effected block was placed in quarantine. The sheriff’s office says it immediately began to work with the Indiana State Department of Health and the Boone County Health Department and reinstated policies.
COVID-19 Vaccine and PPE Resistance
Fox 17: Bledsoe Co. sheriff calls COVID-19 vaccines 'deadly', doctor warns of misinformation
Bledsoe County Sheriff Jimmy Morris tells us so far, only one person among the jail's employees and inmates wanted the shot. Infectious disease expert Dr. Davey Smith says he hopes public health agencies are working to educate the public and local leaders on the vaccine. Sheriff Morris believes the COVID-19 vaccine is deadly. When we asked Morris where he got the information behind these bold claims, he declined to tell us.
Bismarck Tribune: South Dakota governor lifts mask requirement in prisons
Staff and inmates at South Dakota prisons are no longer required to wear masks following an order from Gov. Kristi Noem lifting the requirement. The Republican governor's move, made after a meeting with prison staff Friday, comes as virus cases have seen a recent uptick and defies a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that masks still be worn in facilities like prisons where large numbers of people are in close proximity to each other.
Vox: Medical debt was cut nearly in half in states that expanded Medicaid
Medicaid expansion doesn’t just provide more people health insurance — it appears to cut medical debt enormously, a new study has found. The Affordable Care Act offered states a huge infusion of federal money to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults, and about 30 states took that deal right away in 2014. Since then, new medical debt in those states has fallen 44 percent, a dramatically bigger drop than was seen in the states that refused to expand the program over the same period. Those states showed only a 10 percent decline.
Suicide in Corrections
The Tampa Bay Times: Florida inmates on suicide watch could be observed by other inmates
Florida inmates are now being tasked with observing other inmates on suicide watch after the state Department of Corrections quietly implemented a new policy in April. Some inmates are taking on parts of this vital task, according to an internal document obtained by the Tampa Bay Times and confirmed by a spokesperson for the prison system. David Fathi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project, questioned the state’s plan to have inmates observing on suicide watches. He said creating any kind of power imbalance among inmates, or giving certain inmates access to private information about other inmates, is irresponsible.
North Carolina Health News: Could MAT be the key to reducing recidivism in NC’s jails?
The National Sheriffs’ Association has come out in support of implementing MAT programs in jails, saying “jails are on the front lines of this epidemic, and they are also in a unique position to initiate treatment in a controlled, safe environment.” Buncombe County identified the need for a MAT program, as the county is one of North Carolina’s most disproportionately affected by the opioid epidemic, said Sarah Gayton, division director of community integration and MAT services at the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. Data is limited, but Gayton said Buncombe County has seen a 17 percent reduced recidivism rate for program participants compared to those who remain untreated over the course of a 9 month period.
Crime Report: Opioids and the Justice-Involved: A ‘Mishandled’ Crisis
An estimated 65 percent of the United States prison population suffers from an active substance abuse disorder, and about 80 percent of people in jail or prison report using illicit substances in their lifetimes. Yet research indicates that few incarcerated individuals receive evidence-based substance abuse disorder treatment—resulting in continued substance abuse post-incarceration.
NASHP: State Policy Actions to Decriminalize Controlled Substances
In the wake of a nearly 30% increase in drug overdose fatalities within a single year, states have been grappling with how to reduce overdose deaths, including exploring new approaches to penalizing the use of substances. Aligning to Biden administration priorities to increase access to treatment services and address racial inequities in drug policy, some state approaches specifically target interventions to respond to disproportionately high numbers of Black and Latinx Americans who are currently incarcerated for drug violations.
Health Care Conditions In Prison
The Marshall Project: A Filthy New Orleans Jail Made My Son Sick. The ‘Cruel and Unusual’ Medical Treatment at Angola Prison Killed Him
My son Farrell Sampier was 45 when he was sentenced to 20 years in the Louisiana State prison system. He died at 51, shackled to a hospital bed. When they brought Farrell to Angola, they put him in hospice care. He and I were both confused. He didn’t have a diagnosis yet, but there was no reason to believe he was terminally ill or in the last weeks of his life. As it turns out, Angola uses their hospice program, featured in rosy documentaries, to manage care for patients perfectly capable of treatment and even full recovery, as Farrell was. Nurses would routinely give Farrell medication without gloves. He would drip mucus from his nose onto my son’s body — inches from Farrell’s open bedsores — with no mask and seemingly no concern or awareness.
Newsweek: Inmates are Dying in Connecticut's Prisons Due to Medical Negligence
Staff shortages, widespread mismanagement and poor quality of care has caused medical negligence that has led to inmates dying in Connecticut's prisons, even well after medical workers have been alerted of their illnesses. On July 8, state officials agreed to pay the family of 19-year-old Karon Nealy $1.65 million. An inmate in a Connecticut prison, Nealy died in July 2015 from complications from lupus. Connecticut is the only U.S. state where its Department of Correction (DOC) runs its prison medical system and lawyers have argued that a mismanagement of this system and staff shortages led to the death of Nealy and other inmates. The Nealy settlement marked the end to a three-year legal fight.
Mental Health Crisis
Los Angeles Daily News: Response times remain extremely slow for LAPD mental health units, commissioner says
Faced with overwhelming demand and slow response times, the Los Angeles Police Department is again looking to expand its team of officers and clinicians tasked with calls involving people with mental illnesses. The Mental Evaluation Unit responded to 9,725 calls in 2020, according to a report presented to the L.A. Police Commission on Tuesday, the largest number of calls in at least three years. That means that the dozen or so units across the entire city over 24 hours are responding to, at least, 26 calls a day, some that take hours to resolve.
Cal Matters: California needs public health responses to behavioral health needs
In an op-ed, Sydney Kamlager and Chesa Boudin write: From San Francisco to Los Angeles, there is a crisis on California streets. Our state’s failure to adequately treat and house people with behavioral health needs has led to surges of overdose deaths, overflowing tents on our streets, and concerns about public safety. We believe our government can do better to promote public safety by prioritizing resources on expanding treatment and housing.
Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health
The State: ‘Militaristic’ jail culture to blame for mentally ill man’s death, SC solicitor says
Even though two deputies will not be criminally charged in the death of a man with mental illness in the Charleston County jail, their actions were “negligent” and the officers’ training was to blame, according to a South Carolina prosecutor who explained Monday why there will be no charges. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said the Charleston County jail has had a “militaristic” culture that emphasized intimidation over deescalation for more than a decade.
Private Prisons and Corrctional Health Care Vendors
Traverse City Record Eagle: Repeat ruling: Sheriff, not courts, control the jail
A district court judge has again ruled the court cannot order jail medical staff to provide specific medications to people incarcerated. 86th District Court Judge Robert Cooney denied an emergency petition filed by attorney Jesse Williams, on behalf of client Austin Phillips, who said jail medical workers were not providing him with Vyvanse, a prescribed medication. The county contracts with Wellpath, a Nashville-based corporation, to provide healthcare in the jail and Elaine Kaiser, a nursing supervisor employed by the company, testified the medications were among those not dispensed over concerns about misuse.
az central: Arizona lawmakers invest more in private prisons after record-high campaign contributions
A lobbyist for the GEO Group, a private prison company, invited state Rep. John Kavanagh for food and drinks in January of 2020. The bill was modest enough: $55.31, according to state records. It’s unclear what the lobbyist and Kavanagh talked about — lobbyists aren’t required to provide receipts or a record of what was discussed to the state. Campaign records show Kavanagh received $3,750 in campaign contributions that same year from the GEO Group. The following year, when it came time to expand the amount of money that private prisons can be paid, Kavanagh joined his Republican colleagues and voted for a $43 million increase.