COCHS' Weekly Update: June 30, 2020

Partner Announcement

Commonwealth Fund: Medicaid RFP
As part of its efforts to attract a broader set of grantees, the Commonwealth Fund’s Medicaid program is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) to engage historically underrepresented researchers, early-career researchers, and researchers or institutions that have not previously received Fund support. The Fund’s Medicaid program has two goals: 1) to inform efforts to maximize Medicaid enrollment under current law, and 2) to improve the quality of enrollees’ health care and health outcomes.

Racial Disparities

Public Policy Institute of California: Proposition 47’s Impact on Racial Disparity in Criminal Justice Outcomes
This Public Policy Institute (PPIC) report examines the impact of California's Proposition 47, which reclassified a number of drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, on racial disparities in arrest and jail booking rates and in the likelihood of an arrest resulting in a booking. Significant inequities persist in California and elsewhere, our findings point to a reduction in pretrial detention and a narrowing of racial disparities in key statewide criminal justice outcomes. Prop 47 led to notable decreases in racial/ethnic disparities in arrests and bookings. The African American–white arrest rate gap narrowed by about 5.9 percent, while the African American–white booking rate gap shrank by about 8.2 percent. On Wednesday, July 1, PPIC researcher Brandon Martin will outline the report’s findings and a panel of experts will discuss a range of criminal justice issues.

California Healthline: Officials Seek To Shift Resources Away From Policing To Address Black ‘Public Health Crisis’
From Boston to San Bernardino, California, communities across the U.S. are declaring racism a public health crisis. Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color, as well as the killing of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, cities and counties are calling for more funding for health care and other public services, sometimes at the expense of the police budget. It’s unclear whether the public health crisis declarations, which are mostly symbolic, will result in more money for programs that address health disparities rooted in racism.

COVID-19 Tracking

The Sacramento Bee: ‘A moral failure’: California not tracking jail inmates and staff infected with coronavirus
More than three months into the coronavirus pandemic, California officials say they still have no plans to collect and publish basic data about COVID-19 testing and outbreaks in local jails, frustrating advocates, families and even some members of the state’s own jail oversight board. Sheriffs across the state for months have put up barriers blocking access to information about COVID-19 testing behind bars and details about how widespread some outbreaks have become.

COVID-19 Transmission

The Washington Post: Covid-19 outbreaks at jails and prisons should make us rethink incarceration
In an op-ed, David Helps writes: Jails and prisons have become centers of the coronavirus, as they have been during every outbreak before it. Incarcerated people have been denied tests and medical care, with those exhibiting symptoms simply thrown into solitary confinement. But jails are even more deadly transmitters of the virus than prisons, because they are embedded in local communities. Unlike state and federal prisons, jails are run by counties. Long before covid-19 ravaged incarcerated populations and local communities, government officials turned jails into deadly places by gutting welfare programs and expanding incarceration — policy decisions that have brutalized communities of color in particular.

Route 55: Prisons and Jails Remain Outbreak Vectors for Coronavirus
When the novel coronavirus first made headlines in the U.S., prisons and jails had early warning signs that they might soon face major outbreaks, as the physical constraints of their facilities were going to make it hard for people inside to follow public health guidelines. A new report from the ACLU and Prison Policy Initiative concludes that despite these warnings no states did an even adequate job protecting staff or prisoners from the highly contagious respiratory illness.

Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Covid-19 resurface in Cummins lockup dismays
Active cases in Arkansas, once numbering in the hundreds, had plunged earlier this month to zero under a Health Department policy that considers inmates recovered two weeks after they test positive. Of those who tested positive, 11 died. But dozens of new covid-19 infections were identified k at the Cummins Unit prison dashing hopes that the Department of Corrections had successfully contained one of the state's largest outbreaks. Arkansas Health Secretary Nate Smith, when asked about the new infections, said it was emblematic of the difficulties of keeping the virus contained in a crowded prison setting, even if measures are taken to quarantine inmates.

NM Political Report: 172 new cases of COVID-19, including 64 at Otero County Prison Facility
New Mexico's Department of Health announced 172 additional cases of COVID-19, including another 64 cases from the Otero County Prison Facility, which is privately run and the site of a major outbreak in southern New Mexico. In addition to the 172 cases, the state announced two additional deaths related to the disease.

FOX 19: Spike in COVID-19 cases at Ohio federal prison, health officials say
Columbiana County health officials said there has been another spike in COVID-19 cases Thursday, mainly related to Elkton Federal Correctional Institution. A total of 628 inmates at the prison have tested positive for COVID-19. According to health officials, nine inmates at the prison have died from COVID-19. Soldiers with the Ohio National Guard spent several weeks at the prison in April on a medical mission.

The Fresno Bee: 108 Fresno County Jail inmates test positive for the coronavirus. More results pending
At least 108 inmates inside the Fresno County’s North Annex jail have tested positive for the coronavirus, the sheriff’s office said Thursday. The sheriff’s office said it administered 1,200 COVID-19 tests this week.The 108 positive inmates are being quarantined on the fourth floor. The results come after three correctional officers at the jail tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week.

COVID-19 San Quentin Prison California

San Francisco Chronicle: UC health experts: San Quentin coronavirus outbreak could pose threat to entire Bay Area
A team of UC Berkeley and UCSF health experts warned prison medical officials nearly two weeks ago that they’d need to cut the population of San Quentin State Prison in half to avoid a potentially “catastrophic” outbreak there. But prison officials didn’t heed the warning and since then, confirmed coronavirus infections among prisoners have rocketed from 48 to 456, far outpacing any other facility in the state and overwhelming a system that waited too long to react.

NPR: 'Shocking, Heartbreaking' Coronavirus Outbreak In CA Prison Alarms Health Officials
An explosion of coronavirus infections at California's San Quentin State Prison, the state's oldest, has public health officials there worried about its impact on prisoners, staff and the wider hospital system in San Francisco Bay Area. There were zero inmate coronavirus cases at the prison throughout March, April and May. Today, there are more than 500 infections. Public health officials and prison advocates say the outbreak was entirely preventable. They point to a transfer in late May of 122 inmates to San Quentin from an overcrowded state men's prison in Chino, where COVID-19 is ravaging the inmate population.

KCBS Radio: More Than 600 San Quentin Inmates Infected
A Marin County lawmaker is speaking out about the coronavirus outbreak at San Quentin State Prison. KCBS Radio reporter Melissa Culross tells us State Assemblyman Marc Levine is calling for the resignation of the prison executive he said is responsible for the outbreak.​

COVID-19 Voices of Incarcerated People and Their Families

The New York Times: We Would Die of the Virus or Not. The System Would Roll On
In an opinion piece, a former prisoner writes: It was early May at this point, and Lorain Correctional Institution had already taken many steps to cabin-in the coronavirus. We didn’t know it at the time, but a few prisoners and staff members had already gotten sick. The virus was spreading like wildfire at the prison in nearby Pickaway, where more than 25 had died, and in Marion, where more than 10 had died. No matter how many masks prisons distributed or how strict the lockdown was, the plain fact of our overcrowded incarceration put us at risk of illness or death. And no one was going to do anything about that.

Penn Live: Protesters meet with Dauphin County Prison Director of Corrections
Brian Clark, Director of Corrections at the Dauphin County Prison, met with several dozen people protesting health conditions and their loved ones treatment inside the prison, June 27, 2020, in Harrisburg, Pa.

Mental Health in Corrections

KJZZ: 'A Silent Epidemic,' Self-Harm Incidents Surging In Arizona Prisons
According to a data analysis, the Arizona Department of Corrections is experiencing a years-long surge in incidents of self-harm among inmates. In the past five years, total annual incidents of self-harm in Arizona state prisons have increased more than 360%. The number of cuttings reported in Arizona prisons has increased from 181 in 2015 to 1,040 in 2019. Hangings have increased annually from 51 to 183 in the same time period. Incidents of self-harm described by the Department as “blunt force,” which can include an inmate banging their head repeatedly into a wall, increased from 124 in 2015 to 299 in 2019.

KevinMD: Why a prison psychiatry rotation should be mandatory for all medical students
Medical students should rotate through correctional facilities, simply because it is the right thing to do. Half of the incarcerated population have a diagnosed mental illness, and we should go where we are needed. As social unrest continues to unravel and society looks to right its wrongs, health care must acknowledge it has been complicit in perpetuating racism and exploiting the most vulnerable. Inmates’ distrust of the medical field is not new– it tracks back in time with medical exploitation peaking in the twentieth century. Medical students should rotate through correctional facilities, simply because it is the right thing to do. Half of the incarcerated population have a diagnosed mental illness, and we should go where we are needed.

Studies on Correctional Environments

Pew: Small but Growing Group Incarcerated For a Month or More Has Kept Jail Populations High
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Pew analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data showed virtually no change in jail populations from 2010 to 2017, although crimes, arrests, and jail admissions declined. Researchers found that the average time spent in jails nationwide increased about 22% between those years from approximately 21 to 26 days, a change that helps to explain the continued high populations. A person staying a month or more takes up at least as much space—known as “bed days”—as four people staying a week or less. Because of that dynamic, small increases in the number in jail for long periods can offset much larger decreases in the number of short stays. Southwestern correctional facilities' drinking water puts inmate health at risk
The first nationwide analysis of drinking water quality in United States correctional facilities found average arsenic concentrations in drinking water in Southwestern United States correctional facilities were twice as high as average arsenic concentrations in other Southwest community drinking water systems.

Elderly in Corrections

Yahoo News: Prisoners in US suffering dementia may hit 200,000 within the next decade – many won't even know why they are behind bars
Prison officials are bracing for a silver tsunami that will flood correctional facilities with elderly and often vulnerable prisoners. Like the rest of the United States population, the prison population is aging fast. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2030, people over the age of 55 will account for almost one-third of all incarcerated people. That means that American prisons will house upward of 400,000 older prisoners. Caring for these elderly prisoners suffering from physical and mental frailty will create significant challenges for prisons.

Daily News: Families fear ‘nursing home’ coronavirus outbreak at upstate NY prison for older inmates
A New York State plan to move more than 100 older inmates to a prison in the Adirondacks has relatives and advocates worried the lockup could become a deadly “nursing home”-like location if coronavvirus spreads there. The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision announced in May that it would transfer inmates 65 and older to the Adirondack Correctional Facility.


The New York Times: Wrongfully Accused by an Algorithm
A nationwide debate is raging about racism in law enforcement. Across the country, millions are protesting not just the actions of individual officers, but bias in the systems used to surveil communities and identify people for prosecution. Facial recognition systems have been used by police forces for more than two decades. Recent studies by M.I.T. and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, have found that while the technology works relatively well on white men, the results are less accurate for other demographics, in part because of a lack of diversity in the images used to develop the underlying databases. This month, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM announced they would stop or pause their facial recognition offerings for law enforcement.

Healthcare Innovation: A New York HIE Goes All In on Patient Matching for the Homeless
Healthix, the largest public health information exchange (HIE) in the nation, bringing together over 1,200 healthcare organizations at thousands of locations across New York City and Long Island. Healthix has developed an alert, and alerting is our strongest services we provide in the community—essentially letting our providers know when their patients are going to the hospital, get released, or maybe they [end up] in jail or a nursing home, or even that they died. With COVID-19, we are letting providers know when patients are tested and what the results were.