COCHS Weekly Update: March 29, 2022

Highlighted Stories

Georgia Budget & Policy Institute: Letter to Support Georgians Re-Entering Society by Expanding Medicaid
In a letter to Georgia State legislators, multiple health care organizations in Georgia write: In recent years, Georgia has seen several bipartisan efforts to reform our state’s criminal legal system, reduce recidivism and support justice-involved Georgians. These reforms are a strong start to better supporting Georgians who are incarcerated, on parole and more, and we know you have supported many of them. It is for this reason that we, the undersigned, write to you today about another commonsense opportunity to support Georgians who were previously incarcerated: Medicaid expansion.

JAMA: Use of Medication for Opioid Use Disorder Among US Adolescents and Adults With Need for Opioid Treatment
Despite strong evidence that medication is the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD), adolescents and most adults with a need for OUD treatment reported a lack of medication for OUD in the past year, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Among those who may have needed opioid use treatment, only 28 percent received medication for OUD. See also: Only One in Four People Needing Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder Received Medication.

The Crime Report: DEA Expands Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Abuse
In an effort to combat what it said were misperceptions about its policy, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced plans to expand access to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) to help those suffering from substance use disorders. MAT has triggered controversy in some cities and among a few experts who say providing drugs to individuals is dangerous and counterproductive. But the DEA said reports that the agency was opposed to MAT were incorrect.

Council on Criminal Justice: Health and Reentry Project Issue Brief 1
This issue brief is the first in a series of publications from the Health and Reentry Project (HARP). It describes Medicaid’s role as well as the policy changes that are under consideration, health care in the criminal justice system, and key implementation issues that will be central to the success of changing Medicaid’s role at reentry. The brief is intended to inform and advance discussion of that changing role among health and criminal justice system leaders, advocates, and people and communities that will be affected by new policies in this area.

Conference/Webinar Announcements

Yale Law School: Medicaid Waivers, Prison Health & Reentry (Registration)
A discussion on access to care in prisons, reentry, and Medicaid Waiver Programs will be held on Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at 12:10PM - 1:30PM Eastern Time (US and Canada).

ACCJH: 15th Academic & Health Policy Conference happening April 6-8th
The Conference provides a forum for researchers, clinicians, administrators, educators, policy makers, and grant funding leaders to network, share evidence, and learn about emerging research and relevant policy updates in the field of correctional health care.

Oversight of Criminal Justice

Brennan Center For Justice: The Landscape of Recent State and County Correctional Oversight Efforts
The country currently has about 18 entities overseeing prisons, such as the Correctional Association of New York, the John Howard Association in Illinois, and the Pennsylvania Prison Society. This patchwork of oversight provides insufficient coverage. Over the past few years, despite some stalled legislative efforts to expand oversight bodies, a noteworthy number of states expanded their independent monitoring of state prison facilities and some jurisdictions have instituted new accountability mechanisms for local jails.

NPR: Alleged gangs in the LA Sheriff's Department to be investigated by oversight panel
This week, the civilian oversight board charged with keeping tabs on the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) announced it's launching an investigation into the prevalence of deputy gangs within the department. Gangs have created decades of problems within the department and with how it deals with the citizens of Los Angeles, according to the civilian oversight board. Those problems include claims of discrimination, excessive force and even murder.

State News

The Lens: Two bills before legislature aim to improve prison medical care
The Louisiana Legislature will consider two bills this session that seek to address the troubled state of health care in Louisiana prisons. One, House Bill 175, would eliminate co-pays for incarcerated people, and another, House Bill 517, would create an medical advisory council that would approve health care policies for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the hiring of a prison medical director, among other things.

Spectrum News 1: District attorneys back extending tuition assistance to people in prison
The statewide organization that represents local district attorneys in New York is backing a measure to extend the Tuition Assistance Program to people in prison. Support from the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York comes as lawmakers and Hochul are considering a range of criminal justice and public safety measures this week as part of the broader budget negotiations. Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this week proposed granting people in prisons access tuition assistance with the goal of reducing recidivism and helping people obtain employment after their sentence ends.

Washington Post: The Virginia Parole Board is too important for political plays
In an opinion piece, Brett Tolman, the executive director of Right on Crime and a former U.S. attorney, writes: Virginia Democrats made a critical error this month by playing partisan games and voting down four qualified candidates nominated to the Virginia Parole Board. In so doing, the Democrats have all but killed the critically needed overhaul of the parole system in Virginia. The momentum for bipartisan support of public scrutiny and more transparency ended suddenly as these commonwealth legislators chose to play politics with the criminal justice system.


Washington Post: In prison, having your period can put your life in danger
A recent series in Ms. magazine about menstrual equity — the ability to access affordable, safe period products — reported on the trauma experienced by incarcerated women who have been denied these necessities. These women have suffered not only dreadful health outcomes, but also humiliation and sexual abuse, including rape, at the hands of prison staff who use sex as a bartering tool.


Juvenile Justice Exchange: The scope of youth confinement is vastly understated
The decade-long drop in detention and commitment masks how common detention remains for youth in conflict with the law. Hundreds of thousands of youth are referred to juvenile courts annually; roughly one-quarter of the time, they are detained. That proportion has crept upward over a decade in which arrests have declined dramatically.

Inquest: 150 Years Is Enough
New Jersey has the worst Black-to-white youth incarceration disparity rate in the entire nation, with a Black child almost 18 times more likely to be locked up than their white counterpart. This extreme disparity occurs even though Black and white youth commit most offenses at similar rates. While New Jersey has worked diligently to decrease the number of incarcerated youth in the state — with only 102 youth incarcerated in state youth prisons as of February 2022 — Black youth account for over 60% of this total.


NPR: Senior citizens serving federal sentences have fallen through the cracks
The government agency that oversees some of the oldest and sickest people in federal prison has a problem: it has been undercounting the number of prisoners under its jurisdiction. The U.S. Parole Commission's miscounting came to light when Berkeley law professor Chuck Weisselberg noticed something strange this year as he read an annual report from the government. The report said the number of people in prison who were convicted before late 1987 had grown by 69% in one year.


NC Health News: Report: 2020 saw a record number of deaths in NC jails
There were a record number of 56 deaths in North Carolina jails in 2020, despite estimates that nationwide lockups reduced their populations by a quarter in just months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report found. Of those deaths, 32 were due to suicide or related to substance use, an increase from previous years.

St Louis Post Dispatch: St. Louis County declines to provide jail death medical records to investigators, frustrating citizen review panel
St. Louis County is withholding jail inmate medical records from auditors hired late last year under a long-delayed demand to investigate in-custody deaths, including five inmates who died of health complications in 2019. County officials insist that inmate medical records are confidential under federal patient privacy laws, and that the investigators are still able to interview employees and look at other records on the deaths. But without the medical records, some advisory board members doubt there can be an in-depth review of the type they have pushed for since August 2020.

Criminal Justice Reform

Social Science Research Network: Hidden Costs Revisited
Any time a person is arrested and accused of committing a crime, a decision has to be made. Will this person be quickly released back into the community, or will this person be detained in jail to await the next stage of case processing? The key question at hand is whether pretrial detention promotes future court appearance or public safety. If pretrial detention actually inflicts harm, then not only does it compromise public safety, but it also forces the public to bear additional costs—not only financially but also the human costs on people and their families- of incarcerating citizens unnecessarily.

gothamist: Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 10-point public safety plan, explained
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s last-minute plan to change some of New York’s landmark criminal-justice reforms has roiled state budget negotiations. New York’s cash bail laws don’t allow judges to consider a defendant’s “dangerousness” when deciding pretrial release conditions. Judges are required to hand out the “least restrictive” release conditions that will ensure a defendant shows up in court. Hochul’s plan would change that. For the most serious crimes like murder, manslaughter and certain gun-possession offenses, Hochul would allow judges to set bail conditions that “assure the safety of any person or persons or the community”.

New York Times: Biden to Ask Congress for 9,000 Fewer Immigration Detention Beds
The Biden administration is looking to cut more than 25 percent of the bed capacity at immigration detention facilities in its budget request for the next fiscal year, the latest indication that the government is shifting from incarcerating undocumented immigrants to using ankle-monitoring devices and other alternatives.

Columbus Dispatch: 'Fear-mongering' prosecutors stuck in the past, bail system dangerous to our health
In an opinion piece, Tanisha Pruitt and Piet van Lier, write: The criminal legal system often unfairly targets Black and brown people and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Both groups, along with women, are generally paid less than white men and are less likely to be able to afford bail. Two bipartisan bills – 315 in the House and 182 in the Senate – create a presumption for release that will reduce the toll money bail takes on people who can’t buy their way out.

Data & Statistics

Prison Policy Initiative: New report Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2022 provides the most comprehensive look at U.S. incarceration since the start of the pandemic
The Prison Policy Initiative has released Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2022, compiling national data sources to offer the most comprehensive view of how many people are locked up in the U.S. — and where they are being held — since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

PPIC: Two Years of Wide Variation in Crime Trends
As in the nation, California’s most troubling shifts in crime over the last two years are increases in homicides and aggravated assaults. Driven by gun-related deaths, the number of homicides increased by more than 500 statewide in 2020, the largest increase since the beginning of consistent crime recording in 1960. The number of aggravated assaults increased by 12%, and those involving a firearm jumped by almost 40%.

Health Records

Correctional Nurse: Using Non-Stigmatizing and Unbiased Documentation
A review of real charting in a health record that clearly included language that could be considered stigmatizing and biased followed by an example of one possible way the progress note could be written so as to be unbiased and pertinent to the complaint.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

WBUR: After scathing report, Massachusetts prison officials maintain Bridgewater State Hospital is safe
The Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) is taking issue with a scathing report on conditions at Bridgewater State Hospital. The DOC maintains that the facility is a "safe and healthy environment for employees, visitors" and those in custody there. The Disability Law Center (DLC) issued a report last month that found that Bridgewater workers often use "chemical restraints" or seclusion on those in custody and that there are structural problems within the hospital buildings.

Washington Post: Court eyes appeal over mentally ill inmate put in solitary
A federal appeals court is set to hear arguments in a lawsuit filed by a Delaware prison inmate, Lee Clark, who claimed he was deprived of his constitutional rights by being placed into solitary confinement because of his mental illness. While in prison, he was treated for serious mental illness, including manic depression, antisocial personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. Clark was housed in solitary confinement for fifteen days in 2015 and for seven months in 2016.

Mental Health Initiatives in Criminal Justice

Capitol Weekly: A deep dive into Newsom plan to overhaul mental health policy
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a sweeping proposal to address California’s badly broken system of “care” for the growing numbers of mentally ill Californians wandering the streets, clogging hospital ER’s, jails and prisons. Newsom dubbed the plan “CARE Court,” for Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment. Newsom’s plan would create an entirely new system of civil court supervision, connecting individuals with intensive treatment and, equally important, housing.

Salt Lake Tribune: Officials hope mental health facility can reduce burden on hospitals, jails
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox broke ground on the Washington County Receiving Center with representatives from state, county, law enforcement agencies and mental health providers in attendance. The facility, which will be completed in the next eight months, will offer social detox for those with substance abuse problems, beds for those needing more long-term care and crisis response teams.

Jackson Heights Post: State Sen. Ramos Calls on City Council to Invest in Mental Health Services as Opposed to Prison System
State Sen. Jessica Ramos (NY) is calling on the New York City Council to invest in mental health services for alleged lawbreakers rather than pumping money into the prison system. Ramos joined a rally on the steps of City Hall Wednesday morning to demand the council add funding to mental health services and decrease funding for the Department of Corrections in the upcoming city budget.

Prison/Jail Contractors

Inquest: Captive Consumers
In recent years, there has been growing interest in how prisons function as part of a macroeconomy based on extraction of wealth and resources from those who are already having a hard time making ends meet. Large sums of money, in the aggregate, are extracted from incarcerated people and their families to cover basic necessities (like communications services, food, medical care, and hygiene products) and other expenses related to their custody (like room and board). The money that people pay for these goods and services sometimes lands in the coffers of private firms, but public agencies also take a healthy share of the pie, in the form of contractually negotiated fees or “site commissions,” another term for kickbacks from the private firms that sell goods or services in correctional facilities.

The City: Mayor Eric Adams Orders Comprehensive Review of Pandemic Emergency Contracts
Mayor Eric Adams has pulled the plug on the unlicensed firm that’s been providing security at hotels where inmates released from Rikers and state prisons have been placed as part of an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Adams’ team confirmed that Global Operations Security told the Mayor’s Office it was “licensed, insured and operating in full compliance with the City, State and Federal Regulations,” but that the firm’s owners could not produce a copy of a valid license.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Georgia Law News: Household records data dying criticism in Savannah, Georgia jail
The family of Lee Creely, an inmate who died 17 months ago in Savannah, Georgia, filed a lawsuit this week against the prison’s county administration and its health care provider, CorrectHealth, accusing the detention center and its medical staff of the negligence care. Creely, 34, was arrested on September 3, 2020 for violating probation for failing to report his change of address the previous month. Three nights later, staff at the Chatham County Detention Center found Creely dead, with hands stiff in rigor mortis, according to prison records verified by Reuters.

Danville San Ramon: County sued over another suicide at Santa Rita Jail
A federal lawsuit filed last week excoriates Alameda County, the health care company Wellpath LLC and more than two dozen individuals involved with Santa Rita Jail in Dublin for failing to prevent the suicide of a pre-trial detainee with substance abuse and mental health issues.