Weekly Update: June 13, 2023

COCHS Weekly Update: June 13, 2023

Highlighted Stories

Office Of Senator Cory Booker: Booker, Kuster, Fitzpatrick Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to End Outdated Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and U.S. Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) reintroduced the bicameral, bipartisan legislation, Humane Correctional Health Care Act, to end the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP), which strips justice-involved individuals of their Medicaid coverage, passing the cost on to counties and states.

US News World & Report: Southern States Lag in Medicaid Expansion. Racial Justice Demands They Catch Up.
While 40 states have expanded Medicaid, 10 states have not – and most of those are in the South. This refusal to enact Medicaid expansion amounts to a refusal to ease the health care burden of some 3.5 million uninsured adults. Ironically, Southern states are some of the hardest hit by interrelated issues like poverty, poor health care access and health disparities. And many states in the South are home to myriad communities with high social vulnerability, meaning they are more likely to suffer negative effects from a hazardous event like a disease outbreak.

The Guardian: A new system in California recasts gun violence as a public health concern. It’s saving lives
In August, Gavin Newsom, the California governor, signed Assembly bill 1929 into law, allowing violence prevention services provided by qualified professionals to be covered by Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. The bill recasts gun violence as a public health concern, not just a criminal justice one.


Health Affairs: COVID-19 Restrictions In Jails And Prisons: Perspectives From Carceral Leaders
As COVID-19 outbreaks spread in the US in early 2020, many carceral facilities undertook infection control measures such as increased quarantine and reduced outside visitation. These strategiesn were rapidly adopted across facilities, but in an inconsistent manner. Comprehensive guidelines for pandemic diseases are urgently needed to ensure that future responses are more equitable and effective.


Health Affairs: Jail Conditions And Mortality: Death Rates Associated With Turnover, Jail Size, And Population Characteristics
Certain facility characteristics are related to mortality. For example, high turnover rates and high populations are associated with higher death rates. Greater proportions of non-Hispanic Black people in jail populations are associated with more deaths due to illness. Heavy reliance on incarceration and the prevalence of broad health disparities escalate jail mortality.

Opioid Epidemic

Georgetown Law (O'Neil Institute): Transcending MET (Money, Ego, Turf): A Whole Person, Whole Government Approach to Addressing Substance Use Disorder Through Aligned Funding Streams and Coordinated Outcomes
This report outlines steps state and local governments can take to improve behavioral health by reimagining behavioral health financing. It includes recommendations on how flexible, collaborative funding can drive positive, community-oriented outcomes.

Medical Xpress: Overdoses and deaths related to substance use didn't increase after a large-scale prison release, shows study
Contrary to expectations, the risk for relapses, overdoses and deaths related to substance use disorder didn't increase after a large-scale prison release in New Jersey, according to a Rutgers study. The researchers analyzed prison releases among incarcerated individuals with substance use disorders in New Jersey from 2019 to 2020 and examined hospital and death records within 45 days after release.

NBC: Doctors call for changes to laws that criminalize drug use during pregnancy
Treatments for drug addiction during pregnancy are safe for both the mother and the baby, doctors say. Methadone and buprenorphine, for example, can reduce cravings and help users carry a pregnancy full term, without long-lasting effects on the baby. A study that included 26 pregnant women in Massachusetts found that the decision whether to take anti-addiction medicines "was entirely wrapped up in what happened with respect to mandated reporting to Child Protective Services at the time of delivery.


AP: Grand jury indicts 2 Bureau of Prisons employees in inmate’s death
A grand jury has indicted two federal Bureau of Prisons employees for allegedly failing to provide medical care for an inmate in Virginia who had a serious medical emergency and later died, the Justice Department announced.

NPR: Prison sexual assault victims can now petition for compassionate release
For years, Aimee Chavira suffered sexual abuse in a Dublin, Calif., federal prison by the officers responsible for protecting her. Now, thanks to a program known as compassionate release, she is free. And her freedom could help pave a similar path for other people who experienced physical or sexual assault behind bars.

NY Times: Kaczynski Is Said to Have Died by Suicide in Prison
The man known as the “Unabomber” had been transferred to a federal prison medical center in 2021 after more than 25 years at a maximum security facility. The circumstances of his suicide are unclear. But the self-inflicted death of another high-profile inmate, after the accused sex offender Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself, is certain to raise fresh questions about the quality of security at the understaffed federal prison system.

State Roundup

CalMatters: How can Gavin Newsom reform California prisons but still allow solitary confinement?
It is difficult to understate the damage solitary can do to an individual. The practice of solitary confinement was so routine in California that many individuals were kept in isolation for years at time with little to no oversight. It took multiple hunger strikes, some that grew as large as 30,000 incarcerated individuals to bring attention to the practice. Despite all of the pressure, and a class-action lawsuit, solitary confinement reform has still eluded California.

Los Angeles Times: Four of California’s prisons ranked worst at handling COVID, care for inmates
After analyzing nearly 300 letters and interviews from people in prison, a team of law students ranked which facilities had the most red flags for potential constitutional violations between April 2020 and April 2021, the first year of the pandemic. At the top of the list were the prisons in Chino, Solano, Chuckwalla and Mule Creek.

Bloomberg Law: Appeals Court’s Bar for Negligence Favors Prison Health Workers
The recent decision of an Eleventh Circuit appeals court to apply a “more than gross negligence” standard in a case involving a prisoner’s medical care is highly favorable to health-care providers in prisons and likely to set the bar for these cases in the circuit going forward—unless the full court takes up the case, attorneys said. Five prison employees at Walker State Prison in Georgia, three of whom were nurses, were granted qualified immunity by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit after being accused of deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s medical needs in violation of the Eighth.

New Jersey
New Jersey Monitor : Pooches in prison? Lawmakers say service animals could aid inmates with disabilities
Incarcerated people with disabilities could get service and companion animals under new legislation proposed by several Democratic state lawmakers. Under the bill, someone who uses a service animal and gets sentenced to state prison would be able to petition the Department of Corrections to bring their animal behind bars with them. Those already incarcerated would be able to request a service animal.

New York
Gothamist: NY to automatically seal most criminal convictions. Here’s how the Clean Slate Act works.
New York state is set to create a process to automatically seal most criminal convictions, a move supporters say is designed to help people more easily reintegrate into society after serving their sentences. The Clean Slate Act would seal many misdemeanor and felony convictions from public view after a person finishes their incarceration and completes a multiyear waiting period.

Department of Justice: Justice Department Announces Improvements to Conditions in Erie County Holding Center and Erie County Correctional Facility
The Justice Department announced today that it has joined with Erie County, New York, to request that the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York terminate the consent decree regarding the Erie County Holding Center and the Erie County Correctional Facility. The county successfully achieved substantial compliance with the decree and maintained compliance for more than 18 months, as required by the decree.

The Oklahoman: Oklahoma agrees to $1 million wrongful death lawsuit settlement involving ill inmate
Oklahoma legislators have approved a $1 million payment to the mother of a man who died from acute appendicitis while being held in a state prison. The payment of $1,050,000 to Christina Smith will resolve a federal lawsuit she filed against Oklahoma after her son, Joshua England, 21, died in 2018.

VT Digger: Corrections department hires law firm to increase transparency, review ongoing death investigations
The Vermont Department of Corrections announced on Thursday that it has hired a law firm to help create a process for making findings from its investigations public. The firm, northern New England-based Downs Rachlin Martin, will also review the department’s ongoing death investigations and recommend “areas of improvement,” according to a release.

Rikers Island

NY Times: N.Y.C. Jails Chief Is Hiding Dysfunction at Rikers, Federal Monitor Says
Louis A. Molina, the jails commissioner, has failed to stop rampant violence, and officials have shut down avenues of information about what happens behind bars, according to a report filed in federal court. The clawing back of information from the public and failure to report deaths and serious injuries have drawn widespread criticism. Several city officials say they will formally call for a federal takeover of the complex.

Marshall Project: I Spent Over 40 Years Working in Corrections. I Wasn’t Ready for Rikers.
Vincent Schiraldi writes: During my seven months as corrections commissioner, conditions at Rikers consistently fell below my already-low expectations. The only path I see to real change is for the federal court already overseeing the Rikers Island consent decree to appoint a receiver to run the system while we reduce its population.

The City: Stiff Prices, Unfulfilled Orders: How the Private Contractor Running Rikers Commissary Serves Detainees
In April 2022, the New York City Department of Correction signed a no-bid contract with a company called the Keefe Group to take over the commissary operations at Rikers Island, and offer a new web-based service that allows friends and family members to send food and other provisions to detainees. Yet, every product listed through the new service is being sold at a price higher than the one stipulated in the contract, and more than double those at local grocery stores and online retailers.

Cook County

WGN9: How inmates are using mail to get high at Cook County Jail as overdose incidents more than double
A rare look inside the Cook County Jail as crews search cells for drugs making their way inside through the mail system. At the end of last year, the Cook County Jail saw an average of about 7 overdose incidents each month. This year the average number is up to 18. A team is now tasked with searching cells each week, going through books and beds to find the contraband. Right now, there are 11 pending autopsies that jail administrators believe may be linked to the drugs.

San Diego County

San Diego Union Tribune: Grand jury joins chorus of people suggesting sheriff screen deputies, all jail visitors for drugs
As deaths and overdoses continue to plague San Diego County jails, the grand jury says in a new report that Sheriff Kelly Martinez should do more to keep illegal drugs from being smuggled into the jail. The department should start by adding more body scanners and having civilian experts to operate the technology. Jurors also said there should consider a plan to screen everyone who enters a jail, including deputies.


WKRN: ‘They are pretending like nothing is happening’: TN inmate advocate slams state for private prison contract extension
The state of Tennessee awarded private company CoreCivic a new two-year contract extension (with a third-year option) with more money for its South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tennessee. The Tennessee Comptroller found widespread problems in CoreCivic prisons in an audit it released in 2020, including mishandling of sexual abuse claims. But the day after state leaders unanimously voted to extend the contract, Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) doubled down on the private prison company. Advocates note that the company has paid out nearly $18 million in fines and either settled or is litigating multiple other lawsuits.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

CapRadio: Heart transplant recipient dies after being denied meds in jail; ACLU wants an inquiry
On the day he was arrested for a misdemeanor, Dexter Barry warned Florida police that if he did not take his anti-rejection medication, his heart would fail. "I take rejection medicine for my heart transplant. I can't miss those doses," he said, according to body camera footage. Barry, 54, pleaded with the arresting officer seven times back in November. He alerted the jail nurse employed by Armor Correctional Health Services and a court judge about his condition too. But in the two days that Barry was held at Duval County Jail in Jacksonville, Fla., no one allowed him access to the medication he desperately asked for.

The Tributary: Duval jail’s medical provider says anti-rejection meds were ordered for inmate who later died
Dexter Barry, a heart transplant recipient’s anti-rejection medications were ordered, but weren’t delivered to the jail until after his release, according to the medical provider, Armor Correctional Health Services, for the Duval County Jail. A spokesperson from Armor Correctional Health Services said in a statement that Barry was evaluated by medical staff within 8 hours of his arrival.

WABE: Company hired to provide healthcare at DeKalb Jail was convicted in death of Wisconsin inmate
A new contractor began providing healthcare to DeKalb Jail (GA) inmates, replacing the contractor, Wellpath that was in charge in 2022 when the DeKalb County Jail had the most inmate deaths in a decade. But that new contractor, Armor Health , has faced litigation, investigations, and in one case a criminal conviction over deaths that have occurred in the numerous facilities where the company has a contract.

Willamette Weekly: Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Following Suicide in Clackamas County Jail
In 2021, Rhonda Burke was booked twice in one week in Clackamas County Jail (OR). Three days into her stay at the jail, Burke died by suicide. Burke had been placed in isolation within two days of her second booking. A lawsuit alleges, she was denied medication to treat her acute alcohol withdrawal. Her family filed a $20 million lawsuit accusing Clackamas County, and its medical contractor, NaphCare, of “gross negligence.” NaphCare recently contracted with Washington and Clackamas counties, and has faced similar accusations across the country. Last year, New York state slammed the company’s “deficient” care following the suicide of a 27-year-old woman.

FOX 5: Medical contract for Fulton County Jail extended despite multiple complaints
Despite multiple complaints and repeated coverage on the health services offered to inmates at the Fulton County Jail, commissioners unanimously voted to extend Napcare's contract. Last year, Lashawn Thompson was found dead, covered in bedbugs in a dirty cell on the psychiatric floor. An autopsy revealed he was "eaten alive" by the insects. Jail records showed detention officers and medical staff at the jail noticed Thompson's deteriorating health but did nothing to help him.

The Appeal: Georgia Jail Medical Staff Failed to Treat Man While Tumor Slowly Killed Him: Lawsuit
Jordan Davidson arrived at Georgia’s Gwinnett County Jail without apparent disabilities. A year after he first entered the jail, he was dead. While in jail he repeatedly asked for help from the jail’s medical staff. Despite his numerous requests, they did practically nothing for months, according to a lawsuit filed for medical malpractice and wrongful death against NaphCare, the jail’s healthcare provider.