COCHS Weekly Update: August 18, 2020

Medicaid Reentry Act

NSA, MCSA, and NACo: Letter to Congressional Leaders Supporting The Medicaid Reentry Act
On August 10, the National Sheriff's Association (NSA), Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA), and the National Association of Counties (NACo) sent a letter to congressional leaders in support of the Medicaid Reentry Act: "[The Reentry Act would] allow Medicaid to cover health services in the last thirty days before an individual is released from prison or jail.This provision would strengthen local agencies’ ability to connect people to critical healthcare as they leave incarceration, advancing connections to coronavirus testing and treatment and other services needed to protect their health, and ultimately the health of the community. Including this languagein the next COVID-19 response package would take an important step toward improving health outcomes for incarcerated individuals, reducing recidivism, and restoring the federal, state,and local partnership in delivering safety-net benefits."

125 National Organizations: Letter to Congressional Leaders Supporting The Medicaid Reentry ACT
On August 14, 125 national organizations also sent a letter to congressional leaders in support of the Medicaid Reentry Act: "This bipartisan legislation (the Mediciad Reentry Act) would permit Medicaid to support essential health care for 30 days prior to release and upon reentry, providing for more coordinated care for people in carceral settings and who are reentering. Access to and coordination of physical, mental health and substance use disorder care is especially important during this pandemic. Allowing for Medicaid coverage just prior to release would lead to reduced use of emergency departments, hospitalizations, and other medical expenses connected to health care needs upon reentry and result in health care cost savings. As we face a pandemic of infectious disease, the Medicaid Reentry Act would not only improve the health of reentering individuals but also would protect the health of the community."


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine: Registration for COVID-19 in Correctional Facilities
Jails and prisons are epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. What are best practices for preventing new cases? Join this webinar to learn more testing and contract tracing in correctional facilities, vaccine distribution, and best practices for decarceration.

COVID-19 and Sheriffs

The Washington Post: ‘This is no longer a debate’: Florida sheriff bans deputies, visitors from wearing masks
On August 11, as Florida set a daily record for covid-19 deaths, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods prohibited his deputies from wearing masks at work. His order, which also applies to visitors to the sheriff’s office, carves out an exception for officers in some locations, including hospitals, and when dealing with people who are high-risk or suspected of having the novel coronavirus. Woods is among the first law enforcement officials to outright ban masks for his deputies, though.

Ocala Star Banner: Marion County nurse victim of COVID-19 a dedicated caregiver
A nurse at the Marion County Jail who died of COVID-19 complications over the weekend was remembered as a dedicated caregiver and proud father. Charles “Dan” Manrique, 71, a charge nurse at the jail, was the first health care worker in Marion County whose death has been attributed to the virus. He died on Saturday, according to a news release from the Heart of Florida Health Center, which recently took over healthcare operations at the jail.

The Sacramento Bee: Sacramento sheriff refuses to share COVID-19 case information with state oversight board
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones is refusing to give COVID-19 testing and case information to an oversight board in charge of monitoring the state’s jails, leaving the public in the dark about how the virus has spread among inmates and staff under his control.Following months of demands from experts, officials and advocates, the Board of State and Community Corrections recently launched an online dashboard tracking COVID-19 in California jails. The website includes data about the number of inmates with active cases, the number of tests conducted, and how many people are hospitalized. But Sacramento County is one of just two counties that said it will not provide the information to the state. The other is Tehama County.

COVID-19 California Prison Crisis

The San Francisco Chronicle: San Quentin officials ignored coronavirus guidance from top Marin County health officer, letter says
Two days after California prison officials in late May shipped busloads of prisoners from a coronavirus hot spot in Chino to San Quentin State Prison, Marin County’s top public health officer issued urgent guidance to the prison’s leadership. Dr. Matthew Willis had learned that the 122 prisoners weren’t tested for weeks before they were transferred on May 30. Unless they were “radically sequestered” from the native population, Willis warned, the prison was setting the stage for a major outbreak. This advice — given in a June 1 conference call with acting San Quentin Warden Ron Broomfield and other high-ranking prison staffers — was the first in a series of public health recommendations to be issued and ultimately dismissed by prison officials

The Davis Vanguard: 40 Incarcerated People At San Quentin File Petition Seeking Immediate Release As Outbreak Violates Eighth Amendment Rights – Weekly Highlights – Breaking Down COVID-19 in CDCR
After a petition, asking for immediate release, was filed by over 40 incarcerated people at San Quentin, a judge in Marin County is beginning to consider the grievances. In the petition, they argue that their continued incarceration during the outbreak violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.” They are being represented by the public defender offices in Marin, San Francisco and Alameda counties, as well as the Santa Clara County Alternate Defender Office and Charles Carbone, a prisoner rights lawyer in San Francisco. Last week, Judge Geoffrey Howard ordered CDCR to respond to the writs. The state attorney general’s office has since responded, saying that the petitions fail to meet several procedural requirements.

The Fresno Bee: Prison deaths from COVID-19: How many staff, inmates have died in the Fresno region?
Since the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 were identified earlier this year, more than 1,950 prison staff within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have contracted the virus. And while 916 of those workers have recovered and returned to work, eight prison staffers have died from the disease, including two at prisons in Madera County. The prison system reports that almost 1,400 inmates statewide currently have active COVID-19 infections, while more than 6,900 have recovered. Additionally, about 300 inmates have been released from prison after fulfilling their sentence while still categorized with an active coronavirus infection. Those releases don’t count thousands of other inmates released from custody to decompress the prison population. Under an initial round of releases in April, about 3,500 inmates who were within 60 days of their scheduled release — and not serving time for a violent crime — were set free.

The Sacramento Bee: Employee dies and over 100 inmates infected with coronavirus at Folsom State Prison
Folsom State Prison reports 99 inmates with active COVID-19 infections, all of them confirmed within the last two weeks, according to the CDCR coronavirus data tracker as of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, an increase from the 56 listed in the morning. Another four inmates at Folsom had lab-confirmed cases that are now classified as “resolved,” and an additional three were released from custody with still-active cases, CDCR reports. No inmate deaths at Folsom have been reported.

COVID-19 Transmission in Corrections

The Economist: How America’s jails are helping spread covid-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic criss-crossed the globe this spring, public-health officials feared that the world’s prisons would become incubators of the disease. The confined nature of America’s prisons has enabled the spread of disease within their walls, and the jail system may have seeded more cases into the wider community. What makes jails so dangerous is their high turnover. Whereas prison inmates have been tried and convicted of crimes and are serving their sentences, often for years or decades, jails are meant for short-term detention.

Honolulu Civil Beat: COVID-19 Cases Erupt At OCCC — 70 More Inmates, 7 ACOs Test Positive
Of 110 jail inmates who were tested for COVID-19 earlier this week at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, 70 turned out to have the disease in exactly the kind of outbreak inside correctional facilities that advocates have feared. The state Health Department released conflicting data that suggest the OCCC cluster may be even larger than corrections officials have reported. Health officials announced there were 86 new diagnosed cases of coronavirus Thursday at OCCC. American Civil Liberties Union in Hawaii Legal Director Mateo Caballero on Thursday called on Gov. David Ige to begin releasing prisoners to reduce the number of infections.

The New York Times: Senators Criticize Guantánamo Prison Coronavirus Plan
Senators, led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper in May seeking details on how the remote base would handle an outbreak, particularly among the older detainees and those with chronic illnesses. One key concern is that, by law, prisoners at Guantánamo must receive all their medical care there, while any of the other 6,000 residents could be medically evacuated to mainland hospitals if needed.

Carteret County News Times: Close quarters may have contributed to outbreak at correctional center
More then 25% of the offender population at Carteret Correctional Center tested positive for COVID-19 during recent mass testing of the state’s prisons, and the layout of the facility may have contributed. Meanwhile, several detention officers at the Carteret County jail recently tested positive, as well. According to the N.C. Department of Public Safety, 76 offenders at the state-run Carteret Correctional Center in Newport tested positive for COVID-19.

News Channel 20: Inmate says he contracted virus after jail put him in cell with positive cases
A Logan County Jail inmate (Lincoln, Illinois) is speaking out after he says negligence from jail staff caused him to contract COVID-19. The inmate said he, along with six other inmates, were ordered to transfer to Graham Correctional Facility. It wasn't until arriving at that facility that that two of the transferred inmates were identified as positive for COVID-19.

The Los Angeles Times: ACLU and activist groups concerned over inmate deaths and COVID-19 procedures in O.C. jails
As four more inmates died last month, civil rights attorneys and local activists are continuing to advocate for better health safeguards in Orange County jails to protect inmates from COVID-19. They contend that the Sheriff’s Department hasn’t been forthcoming about the true nature of the deaths and continues to forgo basic safety protocols like social distancing and adequate sanitizing. Jacob Reisberg, a jail advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he’s skeptical of the Sheriff’s Department’s description of the inmate deaths.

COVID-19 Testing

Michigan Live: Amid spike in prison coronavirus cases, Gov. Whitmer orders testing and safety protocols
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order to establish new coronavirus safety and testing protocols inside Michigan correctional facilities through the end of September. The order mandates that incarcerated people be tested for COVID-19 upon entry to, transfer, and release from prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities, and resumes the suspension of transferring people from jails to prisons unless certain risk-reduction and testing protocols are established inside the jail. The announcement comes as the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), which oversees the state’s prison system, has 435 active COVID-19 cases, its largest spike since the spring.


Tennessean: CoreCivic pivots to new finance strategy as Nashville officials scramble to take over prison
Private prison giant CoreCivic is seeking to counter negative publicity and reverse its falling stock as the national criminal justice reform debate plays out at a South Nashville prison. The change comes as CoreCivic weathers political scrutiny following controversy about treatment of inmates at privatized prisons. In Nashville, criticism from Metro Council members last month led to a breakdown in the company's relationship with county leaders. CoreCivic walked away from its long-standing contract to run the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility in South Nashville.

Responsible Investor: 'The melting has begun' - responsible investors hail CoreCivic's relegation to small-cap index
Controversial US prison operator CoreCivic will be booted out of the S&P MidCap 400 next week, in what some responsible investors are describing as proof of the industry’s unsustainability.

Law 360: Detainees Slam Facility Operator's Bid To Lower Damages
Detainees at CoreCivic's Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, said Friday that it was too soon for the federal court to rule on whether food and housing costs should be deducted from damages when the court hasn't even decided if the detainees are entitled to damages for allegedly being forced to work for less than minimum wage. If food and housing costs were deducted from damages, the detainees would be paying for the basic necessities that CoreCivic is required to provide them under its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the brief. In addition, CoreCivic forces detainees to join in its voluntary work program by threatening to place them in solitary confinement or criminally prosecute them for not participating, the detainees said. In the program, the detainees must clean, mop and cook, among other responsibilities, for only $1 to $4 an hour even though CoreCivic would have to pay federally contracted employees $7.25 an hour or more to do the same work, they said.

Justice System Contributing To Racial Disparities

Bloomberg City Lab: The Disparate Financial Impact of the American Justice System
Among the less visible ways that policing and the justice system can disproportionately impact people of color is through their pocketbooks. Fines for infractions such as running a red light or littering, and fees charged for going through the court system, can lead to lasting damage for those who can’t afford to pay, from lost drivers’ licenses to jail time. A new analysis of municipal court data from Seattle offers a rare look into how these monetary sanctions affect Black and Brown residents at dramatically higher rates and with greater constraints on their freedom compared to their White neighbors.

Prison Abolition

The New York Review of Books: What Replaces Prisons?
Nearly two decades ago, the activist and scholar Angela Davis observed that prison abolitionists were “dismissed as utopians and idealists whose ideas are at best unrealistic and impracticable, and, at worst, mystifying and foolish.” Today this is no longer the case—the prison abolition movement has gone mainstream. The recent killings by police officers of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade—among many others—have sparked a national reckoning about the entire US justice system that has reached news outlets, city governments, and boardrooms.

Correctional Healthcare Cost

ABC 10: Overtime at California’s prisons swelled to almost half a billion dollars last year
Prison psychiatric nurses with badges and guns — who exist only in California — clocked $6.7 million in overtime last year, more than a decade after a federally appointed receiver decided the dual role should be eliminated. According to salary data obtained by CalMatters, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation paid overtime to approximately 250 employees who functioned as both nurses and correctional officers at three psychiatric programs in the prison system. A nurse-guard who more than tripled his salary working extra hours at California Medical Facility, the state’s flagship prison hospital in Vacaville, was the top overtime earner in 2019.