COCHS Weekly Update: June 23, 2020


Scripps National News: Vikki Wachino Interviewed
Scripps National News broadcasted an interview with COCHS' CEO, Vikki Wachino, concerning the spike of COVID-19 cases within correction. Vikki discussed how relief legislation moving through Congress needs to address COVID-19 in prisons and jails, describing how the Reentry Act (a part of the HEROES Act) would allow Medicaid to cover incarcerated people 30 days before release, improving public health and safety.

United States of Care: COVID-19 State Preparedness Handbook
The United States of Care's handbook on COVID-19 preparedness lists five actions states should be taking to reopen safely. For protecting and fortifying sites at a high risk of transmission, the handbook recommends that states build a strong, coordinated criminal justice system response plan in partnership with jails and prisons. This recommendation includes designating a person in charge of coordinating and implementing the state’s COVID response, as COCHS recommended earlier this year. The recommendation (page 7) provides a link to COCHS' proposal to establish state and federal Correctional Health Coordinators.

Partner Webinar

Registration Open: Challenges & Opportunities in Implementing Medication-Based Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in Rural and Mid-Sized County Jails
The O'Neil Institute, Georgetown Law, is hosting a virtual event on June 29 12:00-1:30 EDT that will provide a deep dive into the challenges rural and mid-sized counties face in implementing medication-based treatment, as well as opportunities for reform. This interactive session will provide opportunities for state and county leadership to engage with experienced experts from the field on developing successful models, overcoming implementation hurdles, identifying funding, and successful approaches to training and buy-in.

COVID-19 Racial Disparities

VT Digger: Black inmates make up a disproportionate share of Covid-19 cases in prison
Data from the Vermont Department of Corrections shows that while black inmates were almost 9% of the total prisoners tested for Covid-19 in the state, they made up nearly 18% of the prisoners who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Black inmates were also 2.2 times more likely to test positive than white inmates. The release of the information follows the completion last week of blanket testing of all inmates and staff at the state’s six correctional facilities, with the testing taking place at one prison per week.

Medical News Today: ‘We don’t have a health system:’ Expert on prisons, race, and COVID-19
In an interview, John Eason, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Justice Lab, states that there’s also a lot of conjecture and a lack of understanding about the empirical reality of where prisons are built. His research has shown that while we think that these are overwhelmingly white towns, the average town that gets a prison has a higher percentage of Black and Latinx people and places with prisons have higher rates of COVID than counties that don’t.

COVID-19 Voices of Incarcerated People and Their Families

KPIX: Activists, Inmates Call For Action Amid San Quentin COVID-19 Outbreak
Activists, prisoners and their families on Tuesday were demanding action to stop what they are calling a brewing public health crisis at San Quentin State Prison due to COVID-19. During a virtual press conference Tuesday morning, activists with Oakland’s Ella Baker Center for Human Rights said the coronavirus started rapidly spreading through the prison last week. There have been 26 confirmed cases so far. Prison staff are being tested, but those inside say robust testing of inmates has not occurred. Activists and prisoners are now asking for Governor Newsom to release more inmates at a faster pace and keep the prison population down.

COVID-19 Lawsuits

The Intercept: Revealed Sick-Call Requests From a Federal Jail Show People Desperate for Medical Attention Amid the Pandemic — and Waiting Weeks to Get
A federal judge last week denied a request by people held in a federal jail in Brooklyn to order officials to improve their efforts to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in the facility.The incarcerated people had alleged a level of medical neglect at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn that rose to the degree of unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment. They sought a temporary injunction ordering jail officials to improve medical care and disease prevention at the jail, as well as appointing a special master empowered to oversee those changes.

AZ Central: Federal lawsuit filed against Maricopa County for treatment of inmates during COVID-19
Two weeks after receiving a demand to test all inmates for COVID-19, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Maricopa County in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit is asking the court to release those who are the most vulnerable and force the county to protect inmates from COVID-19, including with mass testing.

The Washington Post: Judge demands plan for inmate reductions at D.C. jail, finds ‘deliberate indifference’ to prisoners’ health in pandemic
Continuing from the story above: A judge ordered District and federal authorities Thursday to plan to reduce the number of inmates in the D.C. jail system, finding officials have shown “deliberate indifference” to the health of nearly 1,300 prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 Transmission in Corrections

The New York Times: Coronavirus Cases Rise Sharply in Prisons Even as They Plateau Nationwide
Cases of the coronavirus in prisons and jails across the United States have soared in recent weeks, even as the overall daily infection rate in the nation has remained relatively flat. The number of prison inmates known to be infected has doubled during the past month to more than 68,000. Prison deaths tied to the coronavirus have also risen, by 73 percent since mid-May. By now, the five largest known clusters of the virus in the United States are not at nursing homes or meatpacking plants, but inside correction institutions.

ABC 6: Health officials claim COVID-19 'has run its course' in Ohio prisons
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections reports zero prisoners who are currently positive with COVID-19 at Marion Correctional. More than 2000 are now listed as “recovered"" at the facility. But the risk is not over, one county health commissioner said. At the height of the coronavirus outbreak, troops with the National Guard were called in to help beleaguered corrections officers at the Marion Correctional Institution.

Tribune Chronicle: Virus cases increase at state prison (Ohio)
While Trumbull County has seen a much smaller surge of nursing home coronavirus cases and deaths than Mahoning County and avoided the prison cases and deaths seen in Columbiana County’s federal prison at Elkton, virus cases are rising at the Trumbull Correctional Institution. Data released by the Ohio Department of Health indicates that TCI has seen an increase in the past week in the number of staff members and inmates who have tested positive for the virus. Fourteen staff members tested positive during the past week, compared to seven the previous week.

KSBY News: Santa Barbara Co. sees highest COVID-19 hospitalization rate since start of pandemic
Sixty-seven new COVID-19 cases were reported in Santa Barbara County Friday, a number health officials call concerning. There are now at least 2,319 confirmed cases in Santa Barbara County. Nearly 1,000 of those are linked to an outbreak at the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex.

The Dallas Morning News: Texas coronavirus totals jump due to 1,500 previously excluded state prison infections
Texas’ coronavirus case total jumped this week in part due to nearly 1,500 infections among state prisoners that had not been previously counted in statewide tallies. Previously excluded were infections among inmates in two counties: 887 in Anderson County and 589 in Brazoria County. State health department sent both counties a letter demanding they include state prison cases in their totals.

News & Record: N.C. kept moving hundreds of inmates during pandemic. Experts say that increased risks.
A day after North Carolina prison leaders reported the first case of COVID-19 in the state prison system, about 200 inmates at Neuse Correctional Institution refused to go back to their dorms. In response, officials put 36 of the protesters on a bus and shipped them more than 140 miles away to Pasquotank Correctional Institution, a maximum-security facility outside Elizabeth City without a single diagnosed case of the coronavirus. But they didn’t test the men for COVID-19. Soon after arriving at the prison, 19 of them tested positive.

COVID-19 Testing

The Coastland Times: North Carolina to test all prison inmates, staff members
North Carolina prison officials released a plan on June 18 to test all of its inmates and staff members for the coronavirus, following a court mandate ordering the state to release a proposal for universal testing by June 22. It will take at least 60 days to perform COVID-19 tests for all 31,200 offenders.

COVID-19 Correctional Healthcare Provider Shortages

CT News Junkie: Prison Health Workers Stage Protest
Healthcare staffing shortages at Osborn Correctional Institution during the coronavirus pandemic are putting inmates and employees at risk, according to union officials who staged a protest Monday near the prison in Somers. About two dozen healthcare workers turned out to show their support for the union’s call for the state to provide more incentives such as bonuses to attract qualified people who are willing to work within Connecticut’s prison healthcare system.

Deadline Detroit: 'Staffing is dangerously low:' Nurses describe strains at Detroit's Wayne County Jail
Wayne County Jail is reported to have severe nursing staff shortage since March. The president of the deputies union accuses county officials of downplaying the Detroit jail system's health emergency, releasing false numbers to employees, and sending sick and untested inmates into the community.

COVID-19 Correctional Healthcare Vendors

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland to reimburse prison health care provider for coronavirus-related expenses, estimated at $3M per month
Maryland is set to begin reimbursing Corizon Correctional Healthcare which provides health care to state prison inmates for coronavirus-related expenses, on top of its existing five-year, $680 million contract with the state. Corizon Correctional Healthcare had negotiated an emergency deal with state corrections officials to receive an additional $3.2 million per month related to the costs of managing and preventing cases of COVID-19. Comptroller Peter Franchot, one of three members of the state spending board, raised concern that a flat 30% increase to Corizon’s contract over the next six months did not allow for enough accountability.

COVID-19 Solitary Confinement

NPR: As COVID-19 Spreads In Prisons, Lockdowns Spark Fear Of More Solitary Confinement
Prisons across the country have placed prisoners on lockdown — they're kept in their cells mostly around-the-clock — as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Now prison reformers are worried that the response has increased the use of a practice they've long fought: solitary confinement. The United States stands out, among Western and industrialized countries, for its use of extended solitary confinement in prisons.

The City: Layleen Polanco-Inspired Solitary Confinement Reforms Languish a Year After Her Death on Rikers Island
In the days and months following Layleen Polanco’s June 2019 death in a solitary cell on Rikers Island, politicians urged change. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for an end to solitary confinement in the city, as did Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and other Council members. But the changes to solitary confinement in New York City jails have not come. Department of Correction officials, meanwhile, contend that their locking people in isolation for 21 hours a day plus a shower does not qualify as solitary confinement.

Abuse of Mentally Ill, Incarcerated People

ProPublica: Somebody's Gotta Help Me
ProPublica has investigated found that county jail staff failed to address an inmate's urgent medical and mental health needs. The investigation found the staff used violent force against the inmate then lied about it in reports. Phillip Garcia, 51, died approximately 44 hours after his arrest. His death was ruled a homicide. ProPublica found that Riverside County jail staff used force in the form of control holds, a stun gun and pepper balls on Phillip Garcia, then falsified reports of his death. The 51-year-old’s death was ruled a homicide but didn’t lead to any charges or disciplinary action.

Bangor Daily News: State investigating Portland jail’s use of pepper spray against 2 inmates with mental illness
Maine is reviewing whether Cumberland County Jail guards used excessive force last year when they pepper sprayed two inmates in the throes of psychosis and then allegedly failed to provide them with enough medical care before bringing them to a psychiatric hospital for mental health treatment.