Weekly Update: April 12, 2022

COCHS Weekly Update: April 12, 2022

Highlighted Stories

COCHS: Critical Support from RWJF and Aspen Health Strategy Group’s New Report on Health and Incarceration
Yesterday, Dan Mistak, acting president of COCHS, made two significant announcements:

Mississippi Today: Mississippi legislators want to save money on prisoners’ health care. Reluctance to expand parole makes that tricky.
Mississippi's House Bill 936 was approved by both chambers and is on its way to the governor for his signature. It aims to address prison health care costs by creating “special care facilities” that could serve as a home for some of the 600 Mississippians who have been paroled but have nowhere to go and so remain in Department of Corrections custody. It would shift some incarcerated people’s health care costs to Medicaid. But Federal guidance issued in 2016 says Medicaid won’t pay for nursing care if residents’ freedom of movement is restricted or if the criminal justice system retains a role in their health care. Dan Mistak, acting president of COCHS, said sending someone back to prison if their health improves seems to cross the line Medicaid has drawn. The provision requiring parolees to agree to share their medical records with prosecutors could also compromise “personal privacy and confidentiality” of clinical records, which is a right that facilities must respect if Medicaid is to pay for care.

US Department of Justice: Justice Department Issues Guidance on Protections for People with Opioid Use Disorder under the Americans with Disabilities Act
A deepening opioid epidemic is prompting the U.S. Department of Justice to warn about discrimination against those who are prescribed medication to treat their addictions. In guidelines published Tuesday, the department's Civil Rights Division said employers, health care providers, law enforcement agencies that operate jails and others are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act if they discriminate against people for taking prescription drugs to treat opioid use disorder. Also see: DOJ: Discrimination based on opioid treatment violates law.

Brookings: Tackling unfinished business and taking on current challenges: Putting Biden’s mental health proposals in context
President Biden’s State of the Union address brought renewed urgency to the challenges of treating and supporting people with mental illnesses in the U.S. His proposals respond to escalating rates of mental illness in the U.S., address several vexing long-term issues in mental health care, and deal with some contemporary dimensions of mental illnesses.

NACo: Senate Finance Committee releases report on mental and behavioral health
On March 29, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee released a report entitled Mental Health Care in the United States: The Case for Federal Action. The 36-page report was jointly authored by majority and minority committee staff, and provides a summary of issues raised during the two committee hearings held this past February on youth mental health (Part 1 and Part 2), as well as responses to the committee’s Request for Information (RFI) made last September.

COVID-19 Webinar

NCCHC: CDC Update on COVID-19 in Corrections (Apr 21, 2022 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM PDT)
Guidance on the COVID pandemic has changed rapidly as case counts and deaths have diminished, it’s important to know how this guidance applies to correctional institutions. Join NCCHC and CDC for an update on CDC guidance for preventing and managing COVID in corrections, a congregate setting with a medically vulnerable population.

COVID-19 In Corrections

Davis Vanguard: COVID-19 Outbreaks Subside Across California’s Prison System
As of Mar. 31 2022 there are 73,266 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system of which 83 are active in custody. There have been 252 COVID-related deaths thus far. Overall, 24 CDCR facilities out of 35 have active COVID-19 cases in custody. Across CDCR, 82% of the incarcerated population and 72% of staff members are fully vaccinated. Valley State Prison has the highest incarcerated population vaccination rate — 93%, and CA Medical Facility has the highest staff vaccination rate — 90%.

COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates

Los Angeles Daily News: Judge won’t stop LA County supervisors from assuming firing power over vaccine-resistant deputies
A judge denied a temporary restraining order on Thursday, April 7, that would have kept Los Angeles County supervisors from assuming firing power over sheriff’s deputies and other employees who won’t get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association, which represents higher-ranking deputies, asked the judge to clamp down on a law passed Tuesday, April 5, by the supervisors that empowered the county’s personnel director to discipline and fire any employee who won’t comply with the vaccine mandate.

State of Criminal Justice Reform

New York Times: New York’s Bail Laws Are Changing Again. Here’s How.
One of the most contentious items in New York’s $220 billion budget deal had little to do with fiscal issues: For the second time, legislators revised laws governing bail for criminal defendants that they had passed just three years ago. Those measures barred judges from setting bail for defendants charged with less serious crimes; those defendants were released while they awaited trial without posting bail.

Post-Journal: NY Removes About 8,000 Felons From Parole Obligations
As the result of legislation advocated by prison reform groups and signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, an estimated 8,000 convicted felons were discharged last week from parole supervision. It allows those on parole to earn as many as 30 days of credit for their sentence obligations every time they go 30 days without violating their release conditions while under supervision.

Rikers Island

gothamist: Thousands on Rikers still not getting scheduled medical care
More than 8,000 inmates on Rikers Island missed their medical appointments in February, city data shows, indicating that a long-standing health care problem at the troubled jail complex is getting worse. A judge previously ordered the DOC provide access to clinics five days a week and within 24 hours of making a sick call, and to ensure security for detainees headed to their appointments. A lawsuit filed on behalf of the inmates seeks a $250 fine for every time the DOC fails to provide an escort to a medical appointment.

House Committee on Oversight and Reform: Urges NYC Mayor to Address Mental Health Crisis at Rikers Island
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Committee Member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have sent a letter to New York City Mayor Eric Adams requesting an update on plans to improve conditions at Rikers Island, including efforts to increase access to mental health treatment for detained individuals, and alternatives to incarceration while protecting public safety.

City Limits: Defendants Living with Mental Illness Need Treatment, Not Jail
More than half of Rikers inmates are affected by mental illness and almost 17 percent have a serious mental health diagnosis. Yet throughout New York State, there are 30 mental health courts, which can only serve 140 participants under the current system. Rather than receiving treatment, jailed New Yorkers—disproportionately people with serious mental illness—continue to be subjected to inhumane, unsafe conditions, including solitary confinement.

Public Safety and Physical Abuse

The Guardian: LA jail guards routinely punch incarcerated people in the head, monitors find
Los Angeles jail guards have frequently punched incarcerated people in the head and subjected them to a “humiliating” group strip-search where they were forced to wait undressed for hours, according to a new report from court-appointed monitors. The report, filed in federal court, adds to a long string of scandals for the department. The monitors alleged that the use of “head shots”, meaning punches to the head, had been “relatively unchanged in the last two years or more, and may be increasing”.

Los Angeles Times: Help or handcuff? LAPD officers often delay providing medical aid after shooting people
LAPD officers are trained to view people they’ve just shot as ongoing threats. The result is that officers routinely wait several minutes before approaching those suspects, then focus on handcuffing and searching them, often delaying medical attention or taking no steps to give any until paramedics arrive. Officers who did not provide aid after some shootings were not punished, despite a department policy requiring them to assist those injured if they are able.

News 9 ABC: Former corrections officer pleads guilty to federal charges after beating inmate badly
Kenan Lister admitted while an inmate was sitting in a holding cell and not resisting whatsoever, Lister punched the inmate in the head and knocked him to the ground. Lister than continued to kick, punch and hit the inmate multiple times in his head, chest and torso after he was on the ground, seriously injuring the him.

Environmental Conditions in Corrections

AP: Feds accused of ignoring asbestos, mold at women’s prison
A government watchdog has found a “substantial likelihood” the federal Bureau of Prisons committed wrongdoing when it ignored complaints and failed to address asbestos and mold contamination at a federal women’s prison in California. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel now wants Attorney General Merrick Garland to step in to investigate the allegations after multiple whistleblower complaints were filed

The Appeal: Illinois Advocates Call for Action After Prison Officials Mislead on Contaminated Water
Community members are condemning the Illinois Department of Corrections for housing people in unsafe conditions after Legionella bacteria was found in five state prisons last month, with some expressing concern that state officials have misled the public about the extent of the contamination. Legionella was found in over 20 percent of Illinois prisons where testing and analysis has been completed. Testing has yet to be conducted at nearly half of all IDOC facilities.

Juveniles In the Justice System

Law 360: Youth Seeking A Second Chance Face 'Justice By Geography'
In California, juvenile arrest and court records involving nonviolent crimes are automatically sealed and even young people who don't complete probation and were accused of serious crimes can petition to have records expunged, in Idaho, young people must wait one to five years depending on the charge before they can file a petition to expunge, then must appear before a judge — and certain crimes, including drug possession near a school or a park, cannot be expunged. Advocates call this state law patchwork "justice by geography."

Juvenile Justice Exchange: Former juvenile lifers cite strengths and weaknesses of reentry preparation
Almost all of 112 Philadelphians who have been released from lifetime prison sentences said they participated in some form of prison programming, but 53 percent reported having been restricted from vocational programs such as barbering. Sixteen percent of those former juvenile lifers mentioned college credit courses when asked what programs they were shut out from.

Correctional Nursing Challenges

New York Times: Grand Jury Indicts Nurse, but Not Jail Officers, in Death of Black Man
A grand jury this week indicted a nurse, Michelle Heughins, but declined to indict five former detention officers in the death of a Black inmate. Ms. Heughins’s lawyer, Claire Rauscher, said on Tuesday that her client was not responsible for Mr. Neville’s death. “She did not restrain him or hold him face down on a mat in a cell,” Ms. Rauscher said in a statement, adding that she did not know why Ms. Heughins was the only person indicted.

correctionalnurse.net: Arthritis Management Behind the Wall
Arthritis is one of the top five chronic conditions found among our patient population, yet managing this debilitating condition is difficult in a secure setting. Our patients have limited access to therapeutic modalities and limited control over their daily activities. They are usually expected to walk on concrete floors and sleep on thin mattresses. Housing units stack bunk beds and have stairs-only access to upper tiers. Mobility aids such as canes or wheelchairs may be banned as potential weapons.

San Diego Union Tribune: Nurse accused in inmate’s death will be allowed to practice nursing while awaiting trial
A jail nurse accused of letting an ailing Las Colinas inmate die will be allowed to practice nursing as she awaits trial, an El Cajon judge ruled Wednesday. Danalee Pascua pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the 2019 death of Elisa Serna, 24, at Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee. Pascua was measuring Serna’s vital signs when Serna fell. Prosecutors say Pascua did not place her in a recovery position and left her on the cell floor.

Billing Health Care in Corrections

The Lens: Sponsor defers bill ending medical co-pays for prisoners
A bill that would eliminate medical co-pays for people incarcerated in Louisiana prisons was up for debate in a Wednesday committee meeting at the Louisiana legislature. But a vote was deferred to allow the bill’s sponsor and the Department of Public Safety and Corrections officials to work on a compromise — which could result in co-pays being reduced or waived when people have limited money in their prison accounts but not eliminated altogether.

Technology and Criminal Justice

The Conversation: Criminal justice algorithms: Being race-neutral doesn’t mean race-blind
Is race blindness always the best way to achieve racial equality? An algorithm to predict recidivism among prison populations is underscoring that debate. The risk-assessment tool is a centerpiece of the First Step Act, which Congress passed in 2018 with significant bipartisan support, and is meant to shorten some criminal sentences and improve conditions in prisons. But a review of the PATTERN system published by DOJ found that PATTERN overpredicts recidivism among minority inmates by between 2% and 8% compared with white inmates.


MSN: Felon voting ban is racially motivated and unconstitutional, NC judges rule
North Carolina’s law banning many people with felony records from voting after they get out of prison is unconstitutional, a state court ruled. Until now, state law allowed people with felony convictions to vote only once they finish their sentence. That didn’t only include their prison sentence — it also included probation or parole, which sometimes can last for years after someone is released from prison.


Lenconnect.com: Michigan prison recidivism declines as vocational skills rise
The state’s recidivism levels among inmates who’ve been out of prison for less than three years have been on the decline since 2016, and they continue to drop. In 2020, the recidivism — or return-to-prison — rate was 26.7%, down about 8% from a year earlier, according to the Department of Corrections. The decline is in sharp contrast to the 1998 rate of 45.7%.

Prison Closure's Economic Impact

Spectrum News 1: Shuttered Southport prison closure already impacting local businesses
Southport Correctional Facility (NY) was shut down last month, a site that employed over 400 people, many of them from area. Southport and the Elmira area are already feeling the effects of the closure. The prison contracted with several area businesses and now, those have ended. Dan Hurley bought the farm just a couple of years before Southport opened in 1988. He remembers a big jump in business, not just for him, but the surrounding area as well.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Houston Chronicle: How did this happen to my son?
Fred Garcia's death on Oct 31, 2021, is a devastating reminder of how mentally ill kids can fall through the cracks: They end up in crisis, on the streets or thrust into the adult mental health system where psychiatric beds are so scarce jail is often the only option. A Houston Chronicle investigation found that every school district in Texas — including Fred’s — failed to have the adequate number of all four recommended mental health professionals (nurses, psychologists, counselors and social workers) between the 2013 and 2020 school years.

Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice

Danville San Ramon: Main county jail opens new module for inmates with mental health concerns
Contra Costa County (CA) has opened a new module at the Martinez Detention Facility for inmates with mental illness. The county spent 18 months remodeling a jail module that formerly held 52 inmates into a specialized area for 24 inmates with mental health issues. The cells are all single-occupancy and five are designed for inmates with acute cases. There's also two private medical evaluation suites in the module.

Oklahoma: Justice Watch: Legislature Could Fund County Mental Health, Diversion Programs
State Question 781, proposed allocating funds saved from incarcerating fewer people to county-level mental health and substance abuse programs. It passed with 55% of the vote and triggered the creation of a County Community Safety Investment Fund. The legislature has never sent any money to the fund, citing difficulties coming up with a funding formula. Lawmakers say they’ve followed the people’s will by increasing appropriations to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Private Prisons

Tennessean: Trousdale correctional official charged with bringing fentanyl into prison
A clerk at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was arrested last week for allegedly sneaking fentanyl into the prison with the intent to sell the drug. The arrest of DHO clerk Denise Haggerd on March 31 by the Trousdale County Sheriff's Department was the second arrest of a staff member at the correctional center for "introduction of contraband" into the facility. The Trousdale prison is one of four in Tennessee run by for-profit prison company CoreCivic.

Daily Kos: Numerous immigrants jailed at CoreCivic prison claim sexual misconduct by staff worker
The CoreCivic-operated Otay Mesa Detention Center in California is back in the news. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that a number of immigrants have reported sexual misconduct by a staff worker, who they say walked into their cells unannounced and stared at their groins and buttocks while making inappropriate remarks. One of the men said that during one of these unwanted visits, the staff worker had a visible erection. “It’s pretty disturbing for me to even relive this,” Erik Mercado told The San Diego Union-Tribune. He recalled that when he questioned the staffer about what he was doing in his cell, the staffer responded that he was “looking for something big.”