Weekly Update: November 16, 2021

COCHS Weekly Update: November 16, 2021

Highlighted Stories

The Hill: HHS unveils drug overdose prevention plan to boost accessibility to care
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra unveiled the Biden administration’s drug overdose prevention plan, aiming to increase access to care among those with substance use disorders. The four-part HHS plan focuses on efforts to promote evidence-based prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery. The administration intends to funnel resources into researching testing strips that detect fentanyl sometimes hidden in drugs, supporting syringe distribution and exchange services, and boosting access to opioid overdose reversal treatments.

Chicago Tribune: Counterfeit prescription pills loaded with fentanyl a growing menace in overdose crisis.
Drug dealers have used the lab-made chemical for years as a cheap and powerful additive to heroin, or even as an outright substitute. Experts say that’s still the main problem in the overdose epidemic, but more and more, fentanyl is showing up in entirely different drugs — cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, among others.

Treatment Magazine: Women with Addiction
Clinicians told us that because of their general scarcity, treatment programs targeted for women and specifically focused on their needs are in acutely short supply. More female-only integrated treatment programs—especially residential programs—are needed to facilitate trust and get women with co-occurring disorders to open up, especially about highly sensitive and painful issues of intimate partner violence and physical or sexual trauma that are prevalent in this population

AP: Workers at federal prisons are committing some of the crimes
The federal Bureau of Prisons, with an annual budget of nearly $8 billion, is a hotbed of abuse, graft and corruption, and has turned a blind eye to employees accused of misconduct. More than 100 federal prison workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for crimes since the start of 2019, including a warden indicted for sexual abuse, an associate warden charged with murder. In some cases, the agency has failed to suspend officers who themselves had been arrested for crimes.

Sacramento Bee: The bad food served in California prisons is a problem for human rights and public health
Lunch was the usual brown bag: two slimy pieces of bologna between stale white bread, some chips and dry cookies. That, after a breakfast of egg substance poured from a bucket that gave off a pungent aroma, followed by a dinner of colorless chunks swimming in a bed of undefined runniness. Prison fare not only violates state law requiring inmates be provided sufficient, healthful food, but even California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Kathleen Allison has said she wouldn’t eat it.

COVID-19 Surge in Corrections

US News & World Report: Massachusetts Jail Deals With New COVID-19 Outbreak
Nearly 60 inmates and eight employees at the Middleton Jail have tested positive in two days, a spokesperson for the Essex County Sheriff's Department. Just three of the eight employees who tested positive reported being vaccinated, Grosky said. Among detainees, 58% who tested positive reported being vaccinated or had received vaccinations in custody.

Mercury News: Santa Clara County jails see biggest COVID-19 surge since January
The Santa Clara County jail system is seeing its largest surge in COVID-19 cases since a string of record-setting outbreaks in January, underscoring the ongoing infection risk in custody environments even amid wide availability of vaccines. There were 100 active cases in the county jails as of Tuesday, with the majority reported at the Elmwood men’s jail in Milpitas, according to county data and accounts from family members of people being held in the jails.

VT Digger: St. Johnsbury prison Covid outbreak grows to 20 incarcerated individuals
A Covid-19 outbreak at the St. Johnsbury prison continues to grow, with the latest testing results revealing that a total of 20 incarcerated individuals have now contracted the coronavirus. In addition, recent test results have shown that four corrections staff members at the Northeast Correctional Complex have tested positive for Covid-19.

DC Jails

The New York Times: Problems at D.C. Jail Were Ignored Until Jan. 6 Defendants Came Along
For several months, a few dozen men being held without bail in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol have loudly and repeatedly complained about conditions at the District of Columbia jail. None of these allegations of neglect came as a surprise to local Washington officials, many of whom have complained about conditions at the jail for years. Despite longstanding problems at the jail, it took the arrival of a small group of out-of-town — and largely white — defendants to finally get anyone to care.


OCNJ Daily: Prison Reform: Stacy Scuderi Speaks On Why Florida Prisons Are Inhumane
Since the start of COVID-19, prisons across the country have experienced unprecedented staffing shortages. However, the state of Florida has experienced perhaps the most significant loss of security staff, with nearly 30% of all prison guard positions vacant across the state. Due to this staffing shortage, in late August of 2021, the Florida Department of Corrections was forced to close three of the state’s central prisons.

ABC: Shortage of health care staff in Florida prisons increases danger, retired nurse says
Florida’s prison system is being pushed to the brink, with a critical shortage of correctional officers and struggle to staff health care workers. In 2018, the state contracted prison health care services to Centurion, the only bidder for the $375 million contract. While most contracts include detailed staffing plans to monitor vacancies, the state’s contract with Centurion did not. An audit stated that the impact of staffing levels on services is so significant that “it should be tracked, and the vendor held accountable for providing agreed levels” pointing to lawsuit settlements that have cost Florida taxpayers millions.

The Marshall Project: Two Strikes and You’re in Prison Forever
Mark Jones, a 37-year-old former West Point cadet, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism, according to court records. He had been arrested before for low-level crimes and served a year in prison after stealing a $400 tool set from a Home Depot. For an unsuccessful carjacking, however, he was sentenced to life without parole. That means he will never get out of prison, no matter how sober and industrious he has become in his 10 years behind bars. Today, Florida has more than 13,600 people serving life without parole, far more than any other state.

Prison Closures

New York Times: Why New York Is Closing 6 Prisons
The number of people incarcerated in New York is less than half of what it was in 1999, and the facilities being closed are well below capacity. With the closings, Gov. Kathy Hochul is following the lead of her predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo, who shut 18 prisons during his nearly 11 years in office amid a series of criminal justice reforms that reduced New York’s prison population.

Private Prisons

CNN: Biden vowed to close federal private prisons, but prison companies are finding loopholes to keep them open
Biden signed an executive order his first week in office that banned new private prison contracts, but it didn't apply to immigrant detention centers. But the order didn't include ICE detention centers, which are overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. A Pennsylvania federal prison owned by the corporate giant GEO Group has reopened as an immigrant detention center, and local officials around the country told CNN prison companies are exploring the same playbook for at least a half-dozen other private facilities.

Fox: NAACP calls for investigation into mistreatment of Black men at Midstate prison
The NAACP is protesting conditions of a private prison run by CoreCivic in Trousdale County, alleging Black inmates are treated more harshly than others. The Nashville branch of the NAACP says Black inmates at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center deal with a slew of “barbaric treatment.”

Geriatrics in Corrections

New York Times: On Rikers Island, a Doctor Who Tends to the Oldest and Sickest
Excerpt from an interview with Dr. Rachel Bedard, a geriatrician on Rikers Island: I’ve had this incredibly intimate exposure to what it’s like for older people to be incarcerated. I carry a greater sense than most people do of their suffering, which is acute and extensive, and also of what it means about us as a society that we are willing to keep 85-year-olds in chains.

Correctional Health Care Provider Shortages

KGW News (You Tube): Multnomah County jail (Portland OR) system understaffed, overwhelmed with mental health patients
A corrections grand jury report found a chronic and acute staffing crisis. It also found the jail system is a “de facto mental health hospital.”

Transgender People in Corrections

The Charlotte Observer: Inmate who sued for gender surgery seeks $2.8M in legal fees
A former Idaho inmate who became the first person to receive court-ordered gender confirmation surgery after suing the state Department of Correction is asking a judge to order the state to pay more than $2.8 million in attorney fees and other costs associated with the case.

Sheriffs in The News

Politico: She Wants to Fix One of Louisiana’s Deadliest Jails. She Needs to Beat the Sheriff First.
This month, Incarceration Transparency released a database documenting 15 deaths at the Orleans Justice Center between 2014 and 2019. Only two other Louisiana jail facilities, both of which have larger incarcerated populations, had higher death counts. These deaths add to long-standing concerns about the safety which falls under the control of New Orleans Sheriff Marlin Gusman. Now, though, for the first time since 2014, he has a serious electoral challenger: progressive candidate Susan Hutson, who hopes to oust Gusman.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Local 10: Autopsy reveals startling information about mentally ill Miami-Dade inmate who died while in custody
Randy Heath died July 18, 2021, just days after his 39th birthday. Miami-Dade court records show, less than two weeks before Randy Heath died in jail, a judge ruled he was incompetent, and ordered him remanded into the custody of the Department of Children and Families. The medical examiner also noted pica as a contributing cause of death. Pica is a disorder which causes people to eat things other than food. The medical examiner found plastic, “spongy material consistent with bandages, a mustard packet, and part of a peanut package” in his intestine, along with other “foreign materials”.