COCHS Weekly Update: October 13, 2020
The Hill: What the REFORM Alliance's victory means for criminal justice reform
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has ushered in a number of criminal justice reforms, including changes to the systems of adult probation, juvenile justice and policing. Specifically, AB1950 would reduce probationary periods from three years to one for misdemeanors and five years to two for most felonies. According to the REFORM Alliance, violations of California's probation and parole system cost the state about $2 billion per year. Furthermore, over $200 million of those dollars are spent incarcerating people for "technical violations" and "victimless crimes."
COVID-19 California Prison Crisis
San Francisco Chronicle: California lawmakers ask judge to replace prison health overseer amid coronavirus outbreaks
Amid continuing coronavirus outbreaks in the California prison system, a group of state lawmakers called Friday for a federal judge to replace the court-appointed receiver who oversees prison health care. In a letter to U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in Oakland, six legislators asked him to remove J. Clark Kelso from the job he has held since 2008 and appoint a new receiver "committed to protect the health and safety of incarcerated persons, staff and the public."
The Hill: Activists gather outside California jails, call for mass clemency to stop COVID-19 spread
Activists gathered outside dozens of California detention centers and called for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to grant mass clemency to inmates in response to surging rates of COVID-19 infections in prisons around the country. A press release from the California Liberation Collective indicated that protesters gathered in 30 separate locations outside of various state detention facilities including California State Prison Solano and San Quentin State Prison, where activists displayed banners referring to the facilities as Newsom's "COVID death camp[s]."
Los Angeles Times: California kept prison factories open. Inmates worked for pennies an hour as COVID-19 spread
While much of California shut down this spring, Robbie Hall stitched masks for 12 hours a day in a sewing factory at a women’s prison in Chino. For several weeks, Hall and other women said, they churned out masks by the thousands but were forbidden from wearing them. The incarcerated seamstresses at the California Institution for Women grew increasingly worried: The fabric they used came from the nearby men’s prison, where an outbreak ended up killing 23 inmates. And their boss regularly visited both institutions.
COVID-19 Transmission in Corrections
Desert Sun: 'I'm scared for my life': Nearly 20% of detainees at Adelanto ICE facility have COVID-19
Nearly 20% of the people detained at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center have tested positive for COVID-19 amid a growing coronavirus outbreak at the federal immigration detention center in San Bernardino County. There were 148 active cases of the virus at the detention facility, according to data posted on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website. The facility houses 772 people. The Adelanto detention center currently has the largest active outbreak of any of the nearly 100 facilities in which the federal government detains immigrants.
The Daily Free Press: COVID-19 worsens shortfalls in prison, jail system
COVID-19 is spreading rapidly throughout correctional facilities around the country. The Boston Globe reports that at the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center in Plymouth, nearly a third of patients and close to a dozen workers tested positive for the virus. Staying in a prison or correctional facility that has inadequate health care measures and near-impossible avenues for social distancing makes for a COVID-19 hotbed and what can effectively be a death sentence.
Independent: Lompoc Prison Medical Inspection Reveals 'Serious Deficiencies' in COVID Response
A court-ordered medical inspection of the Lompoc prison complex, the site of a massive COVID-19 outbreak this spring that killed four inmates and infected more than 1,000 others, found 'serious deficiencies' in the facility's response to the health crisis.
Salisbury Post: Health Department: Salisbury prison outbreak now up to 72 positives
While single-day increases can fluctuate, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Rowan County, including in Piedmont Correctional Institute (North Carolina), which is now the second-largest local outbreak. The Rowan County Health Department says there have been 72 COVID-19 positives at the prison in roughly two weeks. That includes 70 inmates and 2 staff members. Piedmont Correctional is a designated intake facility where new offenders from county jails are processed to begin their prison sentences. State data does not make clear whether inmates transferred elsewhere are included in the total.
10 News: Danville City Jail has seen 73 positive COVID-19 test results to date, with masks now required
The Danville City Jail joins a long list of other correctional facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks across Virginia. According to the Virginia Department of Health, there have been 68 outbreaks, 5,798 total cases and 26 deaths at correctional facilities in the Commonwealth. Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul said a National Guard team helped fit staff members for N95 masks on Thursday. To date, 73 inmates and 10 staff members at the Danville City Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. 136 inmates tested negative, while approximately 20 refused to be tested. Three staff members tested negative, including Mondul.
News Channel 21: Snake River state prison reports fourth inmate with COVID-19 to die in 4 days
Four Snake River Correctional Institution inmates in Oregon who tested positive for COVID-19 have died at an area hospital in the past four days, bringing to 13 the number of state prison inmates to die after contracting the virus. The Department of Correction's COVID-19 tracking tool reported 1,093 positive cases among its inmates, with 899 recoveries. It also has recorded 270 cases among staff, with 244 confirmed recoveries.
COVID-19 Preventive Release
Mass Live: Editorial: COVID-19 outbreak reported at Middleton jail; 25 inmates, 21 employees test positive for coronavirus, Essex sheriff says
A coronavirus outbreak at a Massachusetts jail has infected nearly 50 inmates and employees, authorities said over the weekend. The Middleton House of Correction has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases at the facility, with 25 inmates and 21 employees testing positive for the viral respiratory infection, according to the Essex County Sheriff's Department. Prisons must begin depopulating as an effort to ensure the utmost safety for inmates and staff. Without significant changes in health procedures throughout prisons and jails, the health of those inside the facilities will continue to be at risk.
The Corvallis Advocate: Commentary: Oregon Has a Prison Health Crisis
Many people in Oregon say DOC conditions can't be made tolerable unless at least half of the state's prisoners are released. The rationale for such a large number is as simple as it is stark: no matter what prisoners have been convicted of, none of them were sentenced to death by fire or by COVID-19. The double disaster now facing everyone in Oregon is much worse for those whose lives have been restricted by the state. In a list of demands released on Sept. 15, prisoner advocates say it is urgent to release prisoners, improve physical conditions, and provide education and other services which will enable former convicts to re-enter society and stay out of trouble.
COVID-19 Voices of Incarcerated People and Their Families
Vera: If Prison Walls Could Talk
Vera asked people involved in the criminal legal system to reflect on how the pandemic has impacted them. These stories bring us behind prison walls and into emotional lives. The photos were taken by family members and friends.
Mansfield News Journal: Inmate's concerned mom protests for COVID-19 testing at Richland County Jail
Karen Castle worries about her son being locked up in the Richland County Jail during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kristian Moore, 21, is being held on a probation violation, failure to appear for an arraignment and disorderly conduct/intoxication, according to the jail website. While his offenses are minor, his mother said Moore has no release date because he has run up $5,000 in fines.
Dispatch Argus: Arizona inmates' letters cite COVID-19 lapses
Numerous inmates say Arizona's prison system has failed to provide necessary testing, supplies and treatment during the coronavirus pandemic, with one saying that effectively meant the state's prisoners were sentenced to get infected with COVID-19. Dozens of letters from inmates in recent months said the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry wasn't protecting staff and inmates during the outbreak
North Carolina Health News: Just as prison family visits were to resume, COVID strikes facility again
A week before visitations were slated to reopen at Greene Correctional Institution, a state prison in eastern North Carolina, officials announced that the novel coronavirus had struck the facility again. Within a week, the state prison, in a county that currently has the third highest number of new COVID-19 cases per capita in the state, has experienced an upsurge in cases. On Sept. 24, the day before the outbreak was announced, there were zero infections. By Oct. 2, the prison reported 63 positive cases, 59 of them among inmates. By Oct. 7, one incarcerated person had died. Prisoners who spoke to NC Health News say they believe the virus re-entered sometime in late September, and rapidly spread, as inmates continued to be transferred. They also allege improper quarantining protocols.
COVID-19 Voting in Jail
North Carolina Health News: Getting out the vote in jail, during a pandemic
Many people don't know that people in jail can vote. In North Carolina, individuals who have been convicted of a felony lose their right to the ballot until they have completed probation. But this does not apply to people awaiting trial in jails, who have not yet been convicted of a crime. In 1874, the Supreme Court affirmed that pre-trial detainees have a right to the ballot, leaving it up to states and local jurisdictions to decide how to do it. Yet few states have a specific plan for ensuring eligible voters who are incarcerated can access this right, and jail voting varies widely by county. Many correctional facilities "likened to incubators for COVID-19" have shut their doors to visitors, leaving voting rights groups like You Can Vote worried that in-jail voting will become another casualty of the pandemic.
Jail and Prison Conditions
East Bay Times: Inspection finds Santa Rita Jail COVID-19 compliant, but activists aren't convinced
The Alameda County Sheriff's Office is doing a decent job of keeping on top of COVID-19 at the Santa Rita Jail, an independent consultant found but activists are not convinced. Despite the report, activists (a group of civil rights attorneys, public defenders and others) are calling for better measures in the jail; they sent an 11-page demand letter to county supervisors on Friday, public health officers and others outlining the "inadequate sanitation and the violation of prisoners' constitutional and statutory rights."
Redding Record Searchlight: With jail deaths on the rise, California counties look to improve
California county jails remain a vessel for preventable fatalities. State data shows the Golden State hit a 15-year high in 2019, with 157 people dying in the custody of a county jail, over 80% of whom hadn't been convicted: Steven Neuroth spent the last night of his life struggling to breathe in a county jail. Hours earlier, the 55-year-old diagnosed with schizophrenia had been arrested after police found him running in traffic, saying someone was after him. When he acted paranoid and uncooperative at the Mendocino County Jail, guards punched Neuroth, threw him to the floor and restrained him in a way that led to his suffocation and death, his attorney charged in a lawsuit in federal court.
Mental Illness and Corrections
Courier Times: Repeal the IMD exclusion
Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (Bucks County, PA) writes: In any given year about 20% of Americans will experience symptoms of mental illness ranging from the mild to the serious. A person with mental illness is 10 times more likely to be in a prison cell than a hospital bed. A Michigan study reported the cost for housing a mentally ill inmate was $95,000 per year, versus $35,000 for prisoners without mental illness, and only $6,000 for mental health services for those not in jail. In the 1960s a new federal policy the Institution for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion prohibited Medicaid from reimbursing psychiatric treatment facilities with more than 16 adult beds. Without residential treatment centers, many people with SMI will continue to revolve in and out of acute crisis care settings resulting in high costs to taxpayers while patients continue to get sicker. Real reform must include full repeal of the IMD exclusion so that we can provide all those suffering from mental illness the care that they need.
The Lens: We do not need another jail complex
In an op-ed, Myrline Rose Belzince, MD, writes: There is no need to build the Phase III jail in New Orleans, primarily to house detainees that suffer mental disabilities. The growing presence in jails and prisons of those with mental disabilities was caused by the growth of the criminal legal system and the closing of publicly funded mental hospitals and community mental health centers. NAMI has initiated a national campaign, Stepping Up Initiative, that challenges counties to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jail. They also advocate expansion of crisis intervention teams composed of mental health and substance abuse professionals supported by trained police officers to intervene when a person suffers an acute mental crisis.
KREM: Mental health crisis building to open in Spokane
With the ground officially broken, Spokane will be home to the first-ever mental health crisis building in Washington state. First responders and law enforcement who get calls related to mental health issues will now have this building as a middle ground. It'll be a solution that doesn't result in the arrest of someone who can't necessarily control their actions.
The Davis Vanguard: Yolo County Board of Supervisors Will Not Move Forward with Regional Mental Health Correctional Facility
The Yolo County Board of Supervisors was in agreement to not move forward with the implementation of a mental health correctional facility in the county after hearing Phase 1 results from a feasibility study. The regional mental health correctional facility would have been a shared project among ten counties surrounding Yolo County. The Board of Supervisors chose to not move forward with the project due to the estimated costs and the supervisors' lack of interest in another expensive incarceration facility.
MAT in Corrections
The Joplin Globe: Crawford County Jail implements program for inmates to combat addiction, behavioral health issues
Inmates at the Crawford County Jail (KS) who are dealing with addiction and behavioral health problems can take a new path to recovery at no cost to them. The new path is the Crawford County Jail Addiction Treatment Program, a collaboration between the Crawford County Sheriff's Office and the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, a not-for-profit, federally qualified health center that provides care to everyone regardless of income or insurance status. The Community Health Center has received a federal grant to provide medication-assisted treatment and counseling services.
EClinicalMedicine - The Lancet: The hepatitis C virus care cascade in the New York City jail system during the direct acting antiviral treatment era
High patient turnover presents challenges and opportunity to provide hepatitis C virus (HCV) care in US jails (remand facilities). This study describes the HCV care cascade in the New York City (NYC) jail system during the direct-acting antiviral (DAA) treatment era. Jail health systems can reach large numbers of HCV-infected individuals. The high burden of HCV argues for universal screening in jail settings. Length of stay was strongly associated with being seen by an HCV clinician in jail. Treatment is feasible among those with longer lengths of stay.