COCHS' Media Scan has now become COCHS' Weekly Update. The update will keep subscribers informed of our work and work of partner organizations, which is particularly critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Weekly Update will continue to inform readers of media stories, as the media scan has done for many years. Each update will start with COCHS activities, with a focus on addressing the COVID-19 crisis. In this first COCHS' Weekly Update, we would like to draw your attention to :
New COCHS Paper: Establishing State and Federal Correctional Health Coordinators to respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic
In this new paper, COCHS proposes that states establish correctional health coordinators to coordinate the emergency response for incarcerated people, and that the federal government create a federal emergency response coordinator in the Department of Health and Human Services. These new positions would be charged with addressing the emergent health needs of inmates and correctional staff and protecting overall public health and public safety. These coordinators would develop, monitor and coordinate the operational responses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. After the pandemic, they would maintain an ongoing role to manage public health related to corrections during other emergencies, including national disasters and bioterrorism incidents. This role would help protect the health of the public in times of crisis. States can establish these roles immediately using the Coronavirus Response Funds provided in the CARES Act; in future coronavirus response legislation, the federal government should also consider providing grant funding for states specifically for the purpose of supporting correctional health coordinators.
New COCHS Resource: Interactive Map of State Department of Corrections COVID-19 Statistics
COCHS now offers an interactive map which provides easy access to current COVID-19 statistics posted by each state' departments of corrections. Many of these pages are being updated on a daily basis. At the moment 35 states are providing statistics about COVID-19 cases.
Please refer back to our COVID-19 page. We are continually updating it with our proposals addressing the pandemic, along with links to our resources and partner resources as they become available.
COVID-19 ResourcesHarvard Kennedy School/NCCHC: Assessing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on correctional institutions
NCCHC and researchers from Harvard University are working together to gather information on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting correctional facilities. NCCHC has a page on its website devoted to this where there are multiple links to PDFs that contain statistics about COVID-19 from a state and regional perspective. The data are presented in the following formats: graphs, tables, and maps.
Prison Policy Initiative: Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
Prison Policy Initiative is tracking examples of state and local agencies taking meaningful steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. This page contains multiple links to reports of jurisdictions that are releasing inmates, reducing jail and prison admissions, reducing incarceration and unnecessary face-to-face contact for people on parole and probation, eliminating medical co-pays, and reducing the cost of phone and video calls.
COVID-19 Behind Bars: Map of News Stories of COVID-19 Outbreaks Within Correctional Facilities
COVID-19 Behind Bars is an independent journalism project tracking jails, prisons, detention centers, and other facilities of incarceration impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. On this site you will find a world map with markers that link to news stories of COVID-19 reports in specific correctional institutions.
Bureau of Prisons: Inmate COVID-19 testing in federal correctional institutions
The Bureau of Prisons is tracking cases of COVID-19 at all of its facilities. It is providing a table of inmates and staff that have tested positive. There is also map showing where these outbreaks are occuring.
Correctional Service Of Canada: Inmate COVID-19 testing in federal correctional institutions
Our neighbor from the north, Canada, is providing detailed statistics from its multiple facilites in each providence. The tables are be updated on a regular basis and are presented in a concise, comprehensible format.
COVID-19 Judicial ResponseThe San Francisco Chronical: Coronavirus and prisoners: Legal battles rage in California over jail conditions, releasing inmates
In California, state prison officials have ordered the release of about 3,500 inmates with less than 60 days remaining on their sentences, and say the population will drop by another 3,000 because of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 30-day freeze on transferring newly sentenced inmates from county jails to state prisons. Lawyers for the prisoners that it is note enough: conditions in California’s 35 prisons were a disaster waiting to happen. More than one-third of the state’s inmates live in packed dormitories — one of them, in a men’s prison in Sacramento, with 129 bunks as close as 26 inches from each other, the lawyers said in court filings. A key arbiter is a three-judge panel that has overseen medical care in California prisons for many years, and ordered a major reduction in the prison population more than a decade ago to address another health crisis.
Q13 Fox: Supreme Court: Inslee, Washington state must protect inmates from virus
The Washington Supreme Court late Friday told Gov. Jay Inslee to protect the health of inmates in the state during the coronavirus outbreak and gave officials until Monday to detail the steps that have been taken. At least seven inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex — the second largest prison in the state — have the disease and officials are awaiting results on 54 other cases, according to Department of Corrections.
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Racing to avoid disaster behind bars, Philly released hundreds of inmates | Coronavirus Newsletter
County jails are breeding grounds for disease, and experts say a COVID-19 outbreak behind bars could not only put hundreds of inmates at risk but also spread the virus to surrounding communities. This week, Philadelphia courts held the first hearings to review such cases, and over three days approved the release of more than 200 inmates.
COVID-19 Providers On The FrontlineThe Washington Post: I'm a doctor on Rikers Island. My patients shouldn't have to die in jail.
A doctor working at the jail complex in Rikers Island, New York City writes: Last weekend, my boss called me at home to tell me that Michael Tyson, a patient in custody in the New York City jail system, had died. He was 53 years old. I did not take care of Mr. Tyson directly, but I had been speaking with his hospital doctors and attorneys: We'd hoped to free him before he passed, but he wasn't released before it happened. This makes the circumstances of his death seem like an accident of timing — as though they didn't result from a decision someone had made and then tacitly renewed by refusing to unmake it. (This death was reported in last weeks Media Scan: First Rikers virus-positive fatality was jailed on technicality)
COVID-19 Cases Within Correctional FacilitiesEdhat Santa Barbara: Lompoc Prison Now Reports 59 Positive Coronavirus Tests
The United States Penitentiary (USP) Lompoc (Lompoc, CA) is now reporting 45 inmates and 14 staff members are infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) as of Saturday. The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (PHD) has called the situation an "outbreak." In their daily briefings, the staff and inmates are now being recorded as part of the county's total numbers. That's a 210% increase from one week ago. On Friday, April 10, PHD Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg reported 10 of the infected inmates are hospitalized with 2 in the intensive care unit (ICU), as well as 1 hospitalized staff member.
Daily News: Ex-prisoner fears coronavirus rampant at Brooklyn federal lockup, says early release likely saved his life
An ex-inmate at Brooklyn’s federal jail says the compassionate release he was granted 10 days before his sentence was to run out might have spared him from the deadly coronavirus. Inmates were coughing and sneezing, and guards wore no personal protective equipment, reported the former inmate, who fears the disease is spreading through the Metropolitan Detention Center.
VT Digger: With tests pending, positive cases of Covid-19 at St. Albans prison continue to rise
With some testing still pending, the Vermont Department of Corrections reported Friday, April 10, an uptick in positive cases of Covid-19 among inmates and staff at the Northwest State Correctional Facility. In a press briefing Friday evening, James Baker, interim corrections commissioner, said there are currently a total 32 inmates and 14 staff members who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus at the St. Albans prison.
Buzz Feed News: This Man Says Inmates At His Prison Are Getting No Medical Care For COVID-19
Over the course of a seven-day quarantine for COVID-19, David Sell, an inmate in Wende Correctional Facility, says he received no medicine, no care, not even a change of clothes. He said he had to plead with prison staff to clean the thermometer before taking his temperature. Prison health experts have repeatedly warned state officials that prisons and jails could be a “tinderbox” for the virus to spread.
COVID-19 Conditions Inside Correctional FacilitiesThe Washington Post: Inmates sharing sinks, showers and cells say social distancing isn’t possible in Maryland prisons
Every morning, Diallo Shalto sees how flagrantly he violates Maryland’s social-distancing rules. And there’s nothing he can do about it. Within several feet, he said, four other men sleep in bunks. Beyond them are another two dozen men on beds lined up inside an open room at Dorsey Run Correctional Facility — a minimum-security prison in Jessup where inmates serve the last 12 months of their sentences. The men share a bathroom area — toilets, sinks, showers — with another open room of about 30 inmates. Correctional officers walk through the two dorms, wearing masks over their face and coming and going every day in a state where more than 6,900 people have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Wall Street Journal: Coronavirus Puts a Prison Under Siege
A Louisiana prison guard sat alongside a sick inmate for more than an hour inside a van and his hospital room, told by a supervisor he didn’t need a mask despite the prisoner’s severe cough and other telltale signs of Covid-19. Within 10 days, the 49-year-old inmate, Patrick Jones, was dead from the coronavirus. The officer, Aubrey Melder, was back at work, having been told days earlier to return, without quarantining, to his duties inside the low-security prison in Oakdale, a lawyer for the union representing prisons employees reported.
Fox 10 Phoenix: Woman voices concerns over jail health conditions as COVID-19 continues to spread
As two Arizona inmates test positive for COVID-19, the loved one of another inmate is speaking out, saying: the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry isn't doing enough to keep those incarcerated safe. Inmates are exposed to the dozens of employees coming in and out. What's even more concerning is that inmates can't use hand sanitizer, hand sanitizer contains alcohol.
AZ Family: Arizona prison inmates making face coverings for employees but not themselves
Arizona prison inmates making face coverings for employees but not themselves. So far, the inmates have made more than 8,000 face coverings already, and expect to produce more in the coming days and weeks. The press release from ADCRR does not indicate whether the inmates will be allowed to wear masks.
COVID-19 Release From Correctional FacilitiesStatesman Journal: 12 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Oregon prisons, leaders consider early release of nearly 3,000 inmates
With a total 12 cases involving both staff and inmates, Gov. Kate Brown (OR) and prison leaders are tasked with how to stop the spread of COVID-19 among the more than 14,400 inmates and 4,500 employees in Oregon's prisons. As of Friday, 12 cases involving four staff at the Oregon State Penitentiary and three staff and four inmates at Santiam Correctional Institution in Salem and an inmate at Shutter Creek Correctional Institution North Bend were confirmed.
WJAC: Gov. Wolf orders DOC to create temporary program to suspend prison sentences
Gov. Tom Wolf (PA) announced Friday that his office had ordered state Department of Corrections officials to establish a temporary program to suspend prison sentences in order to help the department in the transfer of qualifying inmates to community corrections facilities or home confinement amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to the order, the program only applies to state prison inmates who have been identified as being non-violent and who otherwise would be eligible for release within the next nine months or are considered at high risk for complications of coronavirus and are within 12 months of their release.
The Washington Post: The forever bars
The pandemic poses an outsize threat to the nation’s jails and prisons, where confined populations can’t take the recommended precautions and often lack access to such basics as soap and hand sanitizer — sometimes even running water. Federal and state authorities, as a result, have begun to release thousands of inmates. The debate over which prisoners to release early and what to do with them rarely considers those charged with or convicted of violent crimes, except to declare that they should stay behind bars. The narrow definition of violence used by the Bureau of Justice Statistics: homicide, rape and sexual assault, robbery, and assault. Some states define violence more broadly, including offenses ranging from purse snatching and burglary to drug dealing and embezzlement, and so they have even higher percentages of prisoners officially in for violence.