COCHS WEEKLY UPDATE: January 09, 2024

Highlighted Stories

Editor's Note
Happy New Year! This week's update contains an overwhelming number of stories. As our subscribers have probably noted that the spotlight on the interaction between health care and corrections has dramatically intensified over the last year. There are both federal and state initiatives designed to lessen the gap between community-based health care and correctional health care. Several states have had their 1115 waivers approved by CMS to allow for Medicaid coverage in the last 90 days of incarceration (noted in an article below, Pennsylvania has submitted a similar waiver). Additionally, COCHS's Dan Mistak, in an article for the Center For Community Solutions, explains that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 allows Medicaid and CHIP to cover certain services for eligible juveniles as they exit the correctional system. One section of that act mandates that each state establish and implement a plan to provide screening or diagnostic services to eligible juveniles up to thirty days before their release from a public institution. This change is regardless of whether a state has expanded Medicaid based on income as allowed by the Affordable Care Act.

And for those states that have not expanded Medicaid, there is mounting pressure to do so. The article from Governing explains how advocates in Kansas are promoting Medicaid expansion to provide access to medical care, saving jails health care costs. This type of pressure was key to pushing North Carolina into the Medicaid expansion column. The article from the Charlotte Observer reports that some sheriffs in that state look to Medicaid coverage to alleviate the burden of having people with mental health and substance abuse issues ending up in their facilities.

It is also heartening to see professional journals like JAMA and Health Affairs, and organizations like the CDC, including the health of incarcerated people in their assessment of the nation's health. The article from JAMA makes a direct connection between health reform and criminal justice reform. The Health Affairs article describes a COVID-19 Health Justice Policy Tracker that captures and categorizes policies using a health justice lens. The CDC has announced a funding opportunity designed to understand the feasibility and acceptability of providing long-acting injectable antiretroviral therapy to incarcerated persons with HIV.

On another note, John Jay College is closing its website, The Crime Report. The Weekly Update has often included articles from that source and is saddened that its contribution to our criminal justice/health dialogue will no longer be available.

Center For Community Solutions: Changes to Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Eligibility for Justice-Involved Youth
COCHS' Dan Mistak writes: A significant obstacle to establishing a coordinated care system wherever justice-involved youth are needed is the longstanding statutory limitation known as the “inmate exclusion” in the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In response to mounting calls for change, a bipartisan provision was passed as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. This provision will enable Medicaid and CHIP to cover certain services for eligible juveniles as they exit the correctional system.

WESA: Proposed Pennsylvania Medicaid changes would provide food and housing help
Pennsylvania is seeking federal approval to modify its Medical Assistance program (Medicaid) to expand coverage. The proposed changes include reentry supports for individuals leaving incarceration, such as helping them apply for Medicaid before their release; housing supports targeting people who are homeless; food and nutrition support, including meals or groceries; and continuous Medicaid coverage for children up to age six.

Governing: Kansas Medicaid Expansion Could Reduce Jail Populations
Advocates for Medicaid expansion in Kansas say expanding access to medical care would save jails medical costs, cut down on the number of mentally unwell people in jail and reduce recidivism rates. As things stand, counties in Kansas shoulder in-facility health care and treatment expenses for inmates, a cost that’s become more burdensome because of the severe shortage of room in psychiatric facilities across the state.

Charlotte Observer: NC jails rife with mental health problems. Sheriffs look to Medicaid expansion for relief
Across North Carolina, people who struggle with mental health and substance abuse find themselves walking through a revolving door, going from the streets to jail and to the streets again. But the jails are not equipped for the job of fully caring for them, nor should they be, say some sheriffs who are hopeful that Medicaid expansion will alleviate the problem.

Pew: For Too Many With Mental Illness, Incarceration is the Default
There is a growing recognition of the challenges faced by people with mental health and substance use disorders, prompting new efforts at the federal, state, and local levels to build out a robust and more interconnected system to provide a continuum of care. A new initiative through Medicaid is helping by covering some services up to 90 days before a person is released from a correctional setting. California was the first state to receive approval for this, and there have been and will be others.

JAMA/Health Affairs/CDC
JAMA: Criminal Justice Reform Is Health Care Reform
Given the burden of medical needs in the carceral setting and the profound health risks associated with incarceration itself, criminal justice reform and health care reform are inextricably linked. Although federal legislation, such as the First Step Act, does not directly alter state prison or county jail practices, it does establish norms across the country and illuminate a path for reform. With the national election approaching, shared advocacy between those directly affected by the criminal-legal system, federal policymakers, correctional leaders, public health experts, and health care professionals is necessary to continue the positive, bipartisan change witnessed these past 5 years.

Health Affairs: COVID-19 Policies To Advance Health Justice For Vulnerable Populations
Health Justice Policy Tracker captures and categorizes these policies using a health justice lens. The tracker focuses on policies for six population groups: children, the elderly, people with disabilities, migrant workers, incarcerated people, and people who were refugees or were seeking political asylum. The tracker accounts for national policies established from March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus disease a global pandemic, until December 31, 2020, when the first mRNA vaccines were authorized for emergency use and rolled out to designated priority groups, such as the elderly, in high-income countries.

CDC: Long-Acting Antiretroviral Therapy for People with HIV Released from Prison
This Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) is designed to understand the feasibility and acceptability of providing long-acting injectable antiretroviral therapy (LAI-ART) to incarcerated persons with HIV who are soon to be released from state prison facilities. People with HIV living in prison facilities are often released to the community lacking support for ongoing HIV care. There is a paucity of programs for this population demonstrating effectiveness with retention in care and maintaining sustained HIV viral suppression after release.

Reducing Incarceration

New York Times: How Biden Can Tackle Mass Incarceration
Mr. Obama, who recognized that many criminal punishments were overly harsh, ineffective at maintaining public safety and infected by racial bias, argued in a Harvard Law Review article that presidents have an “obligation” to correct injustices baked into the county’s criminal legal system. Mr. Trump, in social media posts after Congress passed substantial changes to tough-on-crime laws in 2018, said that it was his job “to fight for all citizens, even those who have made mistakes”. Mr. Biden can chart his own course by taking advantage of a little-used law that allows prison officials to recommend to federal judges that they re-evaluate sentences of people for “extraordinary and compelling reasons.”

Forbes: CARES Act Prisoners On Home Confinement Become Political Pawns
A provision of the 2020 CARES Act allowed thene Attorney General, then William Barr, to declare an emergency in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to move minimum security inmates to home confinement to complete their sentences. There are over 2,600 prisoners still on home confinement under CARES Act and Congress seems poised to order them back to prison. The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) stated once the pandemic was declared over, prisoners must return to prison. The Biden administration has determined that it is up to the BOP as to whether or not the inmates would have to return to prison upon the end of the pandemic.

Marshall Project: Federal Prisons Are Over Capacity — Yet Efforts to Ease Overcrowding Are Ending
The Bureau of Prisons faces a host of major challenges. Federal prisons are chronically short-staffed, creating dangerous conditions for both the people working there and for those who are incarcerated. The aging buildings are in need of major repairs and maintenance. Despite the grim conditions, two programs — which allow people to live in their communities while serving their sentences if they are not likely to commit new crimes — have ended, or are at risk of ending: the Elderly Offender Program and the First Step Act.

Star Tribune: State of Minnesota drops effort to get inmates released during pandemic back into prison
Three former Minnesota prison inmates granted early supervised release during the COVID-19 pandemic will not be forced back behind bars. That's after the state Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to drop its opposition to a 2022 lawsuit brought by the inmates attempting to prevent their reincarceration, which was the state's original plan.


New York Daily News: Judge calls Brooklyn jail 'abomination' in inmate health care fail
A furious federal judge described staff of Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center as “contemptuous of human life and dignity” after jailers defied her order to send an inmate with a severe contagious infection to a medical facility. Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Dora Irizarry ripped into federal prosecutors and lawyers representing the troubled jail’s management in a tense hearing after she learned how the MDC handled the treatment of detainee James Young, who’s battling a MRSA infection.

New York Times: Judge Refuses to Send Defendant in Drug Case to Troubled Brooklyn Jail
A federal judge, citing complaints of dreadful conditions, near perpetual lockdowns and grave staffing shortages in a long-troubled federal jail in Brooklyn, refused to order a man convicted in a drug case to be sent there while awaiting sentencing in March. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department and runs the jail, had no comment on the judge’s decision.

NPR: There is little scrutiny of 'natural' deaths behind bars
Deeming a death natural, prison authorities are not required to conduct an autopsy death. It's how at least three-quarters of all federal prison deaths since 2009 are characterized. The CDC says natural deaths happen either solely or almost entirely because of disease or old age. Yet 70% of the inmates who died in federal prison the last 13 years were under the age of 65.

Opioid Epidemic

Pew: Federal Government and States Should Assess Addiction Treatment in Correctional Facilities
Congress, the Biden administration, and some state governments have recently taken steps to cover opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment in jails and prisons through Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income Americans. This represents a major policy and financing change following long-standing program limitations on use of Medicaid for people who are incarcerated.

FORE: Webinar: Policy and Regulatory Opportunities to Address the Opioid and Overdose Crisis in 2024
The past year brought about several major policy changes that aimed to better address the nation’s opioid and overdose crisis. Looking forward to 2024, FORE grantees have identified additional policy and regulatory opportunities that can help stem the tide of the crisis.

The Press of Atlantic City: Atlantic County jail’s addiction approach spreading and succeeding
The Atlantic County jail in Mays Landing and the John Brooks Recovery Center several years ago were among U.S. early adopters in using medication to treat addicted inmates. Now, about 630 of the roughly 5,000 jails and prisons nationwide provide medication treatment for opioid use. The Biden administration has said it wants medication treatment available for every drug user in federal custody and at half of state prisons and jails by 2025. This expansion will test whether wider access to medications can help counter America’s drug crisis.

TribLive: Allegheny County Jail now offering treatment for opioid use disorder without a prescription
A month after reaching an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, Allegheny County Jail officials announced that incarcerated people with opioid use disorder can now be treated with buprenorphine as part of their medication-assisted treatment program. Even patients who don’t have a prescription will be able to benefit from Suboxone, Subutex and Sublocade. Prior to the announcement, patients at the jail could be treated only if they had a prescription from a community provider.

Statesman Journal: Marion County eliminating barriers for addiction treatment in jails
There were 459 Marion County Jail inmates who started opioid use disorder treatment while in custody this year under a program administered by an outpatient clinic provider. Employees of the clinic provider, Ideal Option, help inmates get medication-assisted treatment through funding from Ballot Measure 110, Oregon’s Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act. Medication-assisted treatment is available to anyone who is opioid dependent and tests positive after a drug test.

Data & Statistics

Good Faith Media: U.S. Prison Population Decreases, Jail Population Increases
The U.S. prison population decreased from 2020 to 2021, while the jail population increased. By contrast, the jail population increased 16% to 636,300 in 2021. The jail population was relatively stable from 2011 to 2019, with an average daily population of 735,511, before declining sharply from 2019 to 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then increasing again from 2020 to 2021.

BJS: Jail Inmates in 2022 – Statistical Tables
BJS has released Jail Inmates in 2022 – Statistical Tables. It describes the number of persons held in local jails, jail incarceration rates, inmate demographics, conviction status and most serious offense, the number of admissions to jail, jail capacity, inmate turnover rates, and staff employed in local jails.

BJS: Annual Survey of Jails, 2022
BJS has released the Annual Survey of Jails, 2022 dataset through the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. Data are from a sample of 892 active jail jurisdictions, represented by 935 reporting units (city, county, regional, and private jails) nationwide. The collection provides national estimates on counts of admissions, releases, and staff.

BJS: Federal Pretrial Release During the Coronavirus Pandemic, Fiscal Years 2019–2021
This Just the Stats report provides data on the numbers of suspects arrested, defendants charged, and initial hearings held from October 2018 to September 2021. It also presents findings on the number and percent of persons released at initial hearings during the same time frame.

State Roundup

NPR: Seeking redemption for aged and infirm prisoners amid Alabama's high bar for parole
A legal non-profit, led by a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, is working to get aging and infirm inmates out of the state's overcrowded and dangerous prisons. It's called Redemption Earned. "We believe in redemption. We believe in second chances," says former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, who founded the organization. She says it's an effort to counter a broken parole system that leaves people to languish for decades in a prison system.

New York Times: Prisoners Sue Alabama, Calling Prison Labor System a ‘Form of Slavery’
A group of current and former prisoners sued Alabama saying that the state’s system of prison labor is a “modern-day form of slavery” that forces them to work, often for little or no money, for the benefit of government agencies and private businesses. In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, the 10 plaintiffs, who are all Black, say the state regularly denies incarcerated people parole so that they can be “leased” out to produce hundreds of millions of dollars in profits for local and state agencies and businesses every year.

FOX10 Phoenix: Judge outlines fixes to poor health care in Arizona prisons
A federal judge who previously concluded Arizona was providing inadequate medical and mental health care to prisoners said she will give the state three months to ensure it has enough health care professionals to meet constitutional standards. Judge Roslyn Silver outlined the changes she plans to impose on the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to remedy its constitutional violations of prisoners’ rights. She had concluded that $2.5 million in contempt of court fines against the state didn’t motivate authorities to comply with the settlement, either.

Newsweek: 'Not Treated as Humans': Critics Say Arkansas Neglects Inmates' Health
Arkansas' correctional data reveals that all its prisons operate at over 100% capacity. Dr. Melanie Jones, who worked at Arkansas' Wrightsville Prison from 2012 to 2020, highlights that medical and mental health concerns are secondary in such overcrowded conditions. Understaffed watch stations result in inadequate inmate monitoring. State prisons, while equipped with full-time medical units, often struggle with insufficient staffing to meet the incarcerated population's medical needs. Overcrowded local jails face similar staffing challenges, mainly relying on periodic visits from private providers.

CDCR: Report to Transform San Quentin Submitted to CDCR
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation today announced the San Quentin Transformation Advisory Council submitted its independent report aimed at improving public safety in California by reshaping San Quentin into a premier rehabilitation center through a scalable model. The independent report, which is divided into 11 sections consisting of more than three dozen independent recommendations, calls for expanding rehabilitation and reentry plans, optimizing education and job training programs, and evolving correctional officer training to create a more rehabilitative culture.

Los Angeles Times: Newsom freed elderly and sick prisoners during COVID, but he’s grappling with risks of more mercy
Governor Newsom has granted a "medical reprieve," a type of clemency, to 35 prisoners. Initially established during the pandemic, medical reprieves aimed to offer mercy to sick and elderly inmates. The prisoners were selected by Newsom's administration as part of California's approach to reduce the prison population without jeopardizing public safety. However, with the pandemic receding and Newsom nearing the end of his tenure, the governor faces the decision of whether to expand this clemency approach to additional inmates. He is approaching the matter with caution.

CalMatters: Year in review: California closes prisons and transforms others
The long, loud fights over prison closures in 2022 spilled into 2023 as communities dependent on prison dollars continued to argue for their own survival. Despite protests, lobbying and lawsuits by the affected cities, California is following through on plans to close a total of four prisons. With inmate populations still falling, the Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report in February that said the state could close five more by 2027.

Los Angeles Times: One of California’s largest ICE detention centers could close. Staff urge Biden to keep it open
Workers at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, one of the largest immigrant detention facilities in California, are appealing to the federal government to keep it open. According to Randy Erwin, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, closing the facility would severely impact the local economy. The Adelanto center has been under scrutiny from federal and state watchdogs due to health and safety violations. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a warning to the GEO Group, the private corporation managing the facility, following the discovery that misuse of a chemical disinfectant spray led to detainees experiencing nosebleeds and nausea.

Yahoo: California prison guards are dying too young. How Norway can help
Steve "Bull" Durham, a California corrections officer with 25 years of experience, was surprised during a visit to a Norwegian prison by the relaxed demeanor and casual interactions between his Norwegian counterparts and the inmates. Norway, a small, affluent country with a predominantly white population and about half the population of Los Angeles County, may not seem like an ideal model for California. However, California isn't looking to replicate Norway's system. Rather, the state aims to transform its approach to incarceration. The "Scandinavian method" recognizes that most people in prison are not there for life and focuses on the fact that the majority will eventually re-enter society.

ABC: Women who underwent forced sterilization in CA prisons running out of time for compensation
A program to compensate survivors of state-sponsored forced or involuntary sterilizations is coming to a close at the end of 2023. Survivors and advocates for the program describe the impact of the program and concerns as time is running out for people to file applications. In 2013, the Center for Investigative Reporting found that at least 132 women were sterilized through tubal ligations without the necessary approval in California prisons between 2006 and 2010 and possibly 100 more dating back to the late 1990s.

San Francisco Chronicle: A judge urged S.F. jail to allow outdoor exercise. Instead, it opened a window
In response to a ruling that said San Francisco violates the rights of people held in its San Bruno jail by keeping them indoors all day and must allow some of them at least 15 minutes of access to sunlight, the sheriff’s office has removed some of the covering from windows at the jail’s gym, but is still requiring most of those held in jail to remain indoors.

WHAM: 'Large' TB outbreak may affect 800 people who were incarcerated in Washington state
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) said a “large” tuberculosis (TB) outbreak in the Washington state prison system may have affected more than 800 people who were incarcerated and later released. The DOH and DOC identified over 2,900 “potentially exposed contacts” during the investigation, but the TPCHD said more than 800 people were released from prison before the DOH or DOC identified that they were exposed to the disease.

Illinois Answer Project: Illinois Taxpayers Shell Out Hundreds of Millions as Prison Reform Lawsuits Grind On
Court-ordered audits show the Illinois Department of Corrections continues to fail to provide basic care to inmates — a point underscored by the Illinois Answers Project in interviews with more than a dozen people who are incarcerated. The state has paid more than $13 million in legal fees and fines so far as part of the settlements and faces an ultimate tab of hundreds of millions of dollars to fulfill settlement requirements.

Lexington Herald Leader: ‘Like an extra set of eyes.’ KY jails use new technology to help monitor inmates’ health
Some Kentucky jails are among the first in the country to get new contact-free technology that can measure a patient’s heart and respiratory rates using a sensor mounted in the wall or ceiling, allowing jail officials to better monitor whether inmates are having health issues. The system uses radar technology to monitor patients’ vital signs by responding to the tiny vibrations in their bodies created by the movement of their heart and lungs.

New York Times: Who Investigates the Sheriff? In Mississippi, Often No One.
Mississippi has a long history of powerful rural sheriffs breaking the law with little consequence. Sheriffs and deputies have dodged accountability after allegations that they had sexually abused women in their custody, tortured people for information or misused subpoena power to spy on others. A woman in Bolivar County said that in 2016 a deputy held her arms behind her back and raped her in her cell. A man in Simpson County said that the sheriff in 2012, Kenneth Lewis, choked him and slammed his head against a cell wall until he passed out.

New Hampshire
Concord Monitor: Partnership between state prison and NAMI NH aims to help incarcerated individuals
Prison officers will receive training from the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New Hampshire to better support incarcerated individuals facing mental health challenges. Funded by a state grant, the initiative aims to create a correctional environment that is sensitive to trauma by providing crisis intervention training and teaching prison staff to provide effective responses to individuals with mental health challenges while working in a stressful environment.

New Jersey
The Current: $500K settlement in Camden County jail beating lawsuit
A man who alleged in a federal lawsuit that he was severely beaten by Camden County Sheriff’s deputies while jailed in 2021 settled his case for $500,000. The half-million dollar settlement represents the latest financial repercussion from deputy misconduct. Over the past year, five Camden deputies were indicted for allegations of beating inmates in jail caught on video.

New York
New York Focus: This Agency Is Supposed to Monitor Jails. Is Anyone Monitoring It?
The State Commission of Correction, SCOC, is an independent state body tasked with keeping correctional facilities safe and humane. SCOC has unusually wide-ranging power to keep facilities in check. But the commission rarely deploys its full arsenal, even against facilities caught with egregious violations. In the 1990s, SCOC stopped regularly inspecting prisons, neglecting one of its key statutory duties. It has failed to stem assaults and deaths in some of the state’s most dangerous jails. Commissioners tend to be former county sheriffs or jail administrators, emerging from the same systems that they’re supposed to hold to account.

North Carolina
Justia: Prison Officials Have Qualified Immunity on Confinement Claims
North Carolina prison officials are entitled to qualified immunity against an inmate’s challenge to certain confinement conditions, the Fourth Circuit ruled. The inmate, Jordan Andrew Jones, had appealed a lower court’s decision granting summary judgment to the defendants on his claims that temporary confinement conditions during a 2015 episode violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The decision illustrates how the court evaluates Eighth Amendment claims based on how egregious the conditions were.

Oklahoman: Activists argue federal authorities should take over Oklahoma County's troubled jail
A group hoping to get Oklahoma County's troubled jail taken over by the U.S. Justice Department made its case during the Oklahoma Human Rights Alliance Awards Ceremony and Symposium held recently at Oklahoma's state Capitol. However, a representative of the Criminal Justice Advisory Council formed to help the county improve the jail's operations defended its track record.

KGW: Multnomah County jail conditions improving, audit follow-up finds, but isolation policies show no progress
The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office has been making progress on several recommendations from a 2022 audit of its jail conditions and practices, according to a follow-up report released this month, but several recommendations have been neglected, particularly those that called for reducing the use of inmate isolation. The original 2022 audit found that although discipline and use-of-force procedures appeared to be consistent with standards, Black inmates had force used against them at disproportionate rates and received a disproportionate number of misconduct citations.

Austin Chronicle: With Mental Health Diversion Center Forthcoming, Sheriff Still Wants More Humane Jail Facilities
Sheriff Sally Hernandez of Travis County has made improving mental health care in jail one of her top priorities since being elected in 2016. That desire drove her years-long push for a new women's jail, imagined as a more humane facility that could accommodate more robust mental health services. The progressive Travis County Commissioners Court shot that plan down. Commissioners and advocates who opposed a new jail argued the county's money would be better spent on mental health care to prevent jail stays than on mental health care for those already in jail.

CBS19: Gregg County Jail employee arrested after allegedly falsifying medical documents in connection with inmate's death
A Gregg County Jail staff member accused of falsifying medical documentation in connection with an inmate's death was arrested this week. The employee turned herself into the Gregg County Jail Thursday afternoon on a tampering with a government record charge. She bonded out of the jail the same day after having a $10,000 bond.

West Virginia
ABC: Inmate dies after he was found unresponsive at highly scrutinized West Virginia jail
An inmate at a West Virginia jail scrutinized in lawsuits citing inmate deaths and alleging poor living conditions was pronounced dead in his cell. Correctional officers at Southern Regional Jail found the 24-year-old man unresponsive. Several former correctional officers with Southern Regional Jail were indicted in November of last year by a federal grand jury in connection with the 2022 death of an incarcerated man who was beaten while handcuffed and restrained in an interview room and later a jail cell. They were also charged with trying to cover up their actions, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Rikers Island
New York Daily News: Deaths at Rikers, NYC jails often follow health care staff errors that are rarely disciplined
In the aftermath of Brandon Rodriguez’s 2021 death by suicide at Rikers Island, investigators found a number of serious missteps by jail medical staff, but none resulted in discipline, according to records and interviews. That’s not unusual. Just two Correctional Health Services staffers have been disciplined in the 44 deaths reported in city jails since January 2021.

Gothamist: NYC jail staff shut off sprinkler system before April fire at Rikers, report finds
Before a Rikers Island fire that injured 13 people in April, jail staff shut off the sprinkler system, didn’t do fire safety checks, stopped making rounds and then kept people in solitary confinement for 27 minutes as the fire spread. The blaze sent nine correction staff and four detainees to the hospital with injuries.

Gothamist: New Yorkers accused of failing to pay child support were locked up at Rikers for 23 hours a day
A group of about 10 men held at Rikers Island on civil charges like failing to pay child support were locked in isolated cells for 23 hours a day for nearly a month in November. It's unclear why the men were held in these conditions, which are usually reserved for people who have assaulted others while in jail. Lawyers and advocates say the isolated units still amount to solitary confinement – a practice that city officials maintain they have not used in several years, and that the City Council is set to outlaw.

New York Times: How Rikers Island Became New York’s Largest Mental Institution
As the proportion of mentally ill people on Rikers Island has risen, many of them have been placed in the jail’s general housing areas, which have seen almost unimaginable levels of disorder since the pandemic swept across New York. Early on, as guards failed to report for duty en masse, gang members and other detainees gained near total control over parts of some units, moving freely through staff rooms and other restricted areas.

Gothamist: NYC jails have $250,000 worth of sniper rifles, but haven't trained officers on how to use them
The city’s Department of Correction has not trained its officers on how to use the $250,000 worth of sniper rifles it purchased a year ago, according to records obtained by Gothamist. According to training records obtained through open records requests, the department’s Emergency Service Unit has trained mostly on handguns and tactical shotguns over the last year.

Los Angeles Times: State regulators find mold, broken toilets, missing fire safety records in L.A. County jails
When state regulators showed up to inspect Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles in September they found broken toilets, moldy towels, rodent droppings and cell gates that wouldn’t lock. It appeared that guards weren’t doing their required hourly checks, and, according to state records, the facility had no proof of monthly fire inspections.

Criminal Justice's Detrimental Impact On Mental Health

Island News: Hawaii prison staff members have higher physical and mental health problems due to job stress
The Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission found that Hawaii prison staff face increased physical and mental health issues due to job stress. Employees at the Oahu Community Correctional Center have reported physical stress symptoms like high blood pressure and a greater risk of heart attacks, along with more substance abuse. Officers also noted that working with mentally ill inmates without proper training leads to their own mental health problems. Staff have described feelings of gloom and dread outside work, among other negative psychological effects.

Broken Arrow Sentinel: These Oklahomans needed mental health care but died in jail
Last year, 28 jail detainees died from untreated mental health or substance use conditions, accounting for more than half of the state’s 53 jail deaths. Accountability for the mistreatment and deaths of detainees is minimal in Oklahoma. The state agency that inspects jails has limited enforcement power under the law.

New York Focus: He Was Sick, So They Sent Him to Prison
In New York, individuals with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system are often sentenced to supportive housing facilities. Due to high demand, these facilities are frequently full, leading to their remand to local jails. If a jail lacks adequate resources, they may be transferred to state prisons, which are said to be better equipped with 24-hour medical and security staff. However, this often results in these individuals entering a system known for violence and medical neglect.

The Guardian: Boom, bang! Tales from a cell below the ‘crazy unit’ of a US prison
Banging is normal in prison. We hear it all day, constantly. Doors bang against walls and slam to close. Guys stomp up the steps. Food ports, through which meal trays are provided, bang closed. And sometimes guys bang on something, anything, because they’re “wilding out”. It has three cells for suicide watch, where men are stripped down and given “turtle suits”, thin vests that barely keep them covered. There are no pillows, blankets or sheets. A man is left with only his skin and his wits. These are the units where incarcerated men throughout the state are sent when they experience mental health difficulties.

KSL: Idaho keeps some psychiatric patients in prison, ignoring decades of warnings about the practice
Idaho has continued to ignore warnings over and over that its law fails mental health patients by sending them to a cell block. Governors, lawmakers and state officials have been put on notice at least 14 times since 1954 that Idaho needs a secure mental health unit that is not in a prison. They also have been told publicly at least eight times since 1974 that Idaho may be violating people's civil rights by locking them away without a conviction, and that the state could be sued for it.


AAMC: Out of prison, but struggling to stay healthy
Incarcerated individuals are 1.5 times more likely to report a history of diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure than those who have not been incarcerated. They are 10 times more likely to have hepatitis C, which can be deadly, and up to 5 times as likely to meet the threshold for serious psychological distress. One statistic is particularly telling: The risk of dying within two weeks of release from prison is nearly 13 times higher than that faced by other individuals even after adjusting for age, race, and sex.

NIJ: Looking Beyond Recidivism: New Research on Well-Being in Prisons and Jails From the National Institute of Justice
Recidivism on its own is a limited metric in evaluating the effectiveness of corrections programs and cannot account for all the achievements that make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities. Researchers are redefining what success means for those currently or formerly incarcerated by reframing corrections research with human-focused outcomes related to well-being, rather than crime-focused outcomes related to reoffending.

Governing: How Often Do Inmates Actually Return To Prison? It’s Unclear.
Recidivism rates across the country can vary greatly because of how they’re defined and how it’s presented to the public. So it can be difficult to say that, for example, one state is doing better than another in rehabilitating formerly incarcerated residents. Recidivism data tracks the number of convicted offenders who engage in new criminal activities after being released from prison or jail within a specific time frame. Kentucky defines recidivism as a return to state custody within two years of release, either due to committing a new felony or a technical violation. But some states only consider felonies as recidivism, excluding less serious misdemeanors that may result in local jail time rather than a state prison sentence.

Price Gouging & Correctional Technology

PBS News Hour: Biden signs bill aiming to ease costs for prison calls
President Joe Biden signed into law a bill aimed at easing the cost for incarcerated people to call family and friends. The legislation clarifies that the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates interstate and international communications through cable, radio, television, satellite and wire, can set limits for fees on audio and video calls inside corrections facilities.

Slate: The Robber Barons of Prison Tech
A few companies control prisoners’ access to phone and video calls, educational resources, data storage, music and podcasts, word-processing software, and messaging platforms—resources that people on the outside use every day. If you’re in prison, chances are that a private firm largely controls not only whether you’re able to use anything from that list, but how much you’ll pay for it. GTL, Securus, and competitor CenturyLink Public Communications account for 90 percent of the inmate phone services market. These companies are amenable to private equity firms’ key demand: to squeeze out as much money as possible in order to earn sky-high returns as a company investor.

USA Today: Holidays can be 'horrible time' for families dealing with rising costs of incarceration
About a decade ago, phone calls to prisons and jails frequently cost more than $1 a minute, according to Wanda Bertram, communications strategist for nonprofit criminal justice research organization Prison Policy Initiative. The costs rose because private telecommunications companies monopolized the industry, and prison officials would often contract with them based on the commission payments companies offered them. In 2020, the Federal Bureu of Prisons began offering inmates about 500 minutes of phone calls for free. States including Connecticut, California, Colorado, Minnesota and Massachusetts have also since made phone calls free.


ABC: Audit finds Tennessee prisons severely understaffed, officers worried about safety
Tennessee prisons are severely understaffed, with a vacancy rate at one prison of 61%, leading to unsafe conditions for both inmates and guards, a state audit of the prison system found. The audit also found a shortages such as therapy, substance abuse treatment, education and re-entry assistance. It also found problems safeguarding against sexual assault. Auditors surveyed correctional officers at prisons operated by both the Tennessee Department of Correction and private contractor CoreCivic about how the staffing affects them.

Macon County Times: State will continue to contract with private company in spite of bad audit
Despite an audit showing a 146% turnover rate for correctional officers at CoreCivic-run prisons in 2023, Tennessee will continue to contract with the private company. Northwest Correctional Center in Tiptonville, for example, had a 60% vacancy at its facility in the last year. Personnel shortages there caused staff to feel unsafe because inmates were “out of control,” according to state auditors, who found 10 major problems in their investigation. In spite of those shortcomings, the Government Operations Committee voted to extend the department for three years and require a one-year review.

WFMJ: Northeast Ohio Correctional Facility sued for forcing employee to quit after being stabbed
A former corrections officer sued the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NOCC), claims that the private prison forced him to quit after he was stabbed while trying to break up an inmate fight. According to court documents filed on November 7th, Michael Schneider was a correctional officer at the NOCC facility owned by CoreCivic since spring of 2021. Problems and safety concerns at the facility are not new. A 2023 report also found that staff surveys were overwhelmingly negative, with employees expressing concerns over staff retention and communication.

Los Alamos Daily Post: NMILC Files Complaint Against Cibola County Correctional Center For Pepper Spray Attack On Immigrants
The New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (NMILC) filed a complaint against CoreCivic and the Cibola County Correctional Center for its recent pepper spray attack on people held in ICE detention at the facility. On or around Nov. 18, 2023, several masked CoreCivic officials entered an ICE unit at Cibola and dispersed pepper spray in response to a demonstration by five individuals who were protesting inadequate food and water, and growing frustration with their delayed deportations despite having removal orders from several months prior. CoreCivic staff reportedly turned off the ventilation units during the attack.

Correctional Health Care Vendors

Advanced Correctional Healthcare
Kansas City Star: ‘I can’t breathe’: After man dies while restrained in jail, Jackson County pays $1.2M
Jackson County will spend $1.2 million to settle its part of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a 21-year-old man with “mental health concerns” who died in a restraint chair while in custody at the Jackson County Detention Center. Left alone in his cell for hours, Marquis Wagner was caught on video repeatedly stating that he could not breathe. Advanced Correctional Healthcare Inc. and Maxim Healthcare Staffing Service Inc. did not join in the settlement, so the lawsuit will continue through the courts until they settle or the case goes to trial.

Forbes: Prison Deaths - A Potential Breach of Fiduciary Duties For Healthcare Companies
Mississippi State Prison system's primary health care service provider is Centurion a subsidiary of Centene Corporation, a company that provides medical, mental, and dental care in correctional facilities. Laura Wood in 2020, sought to compel the inspection of Centene's books and records. Wood is the owner of 344 Centene common stock shares since 2008. In her lawsuit she invoked her stockholder rights to inspect Centene's books and to investigate potential breaches of fiduciary duties by the company's board of directors. Wood noted Centurion's long history of failing to provide proper health care to the prison populations covered by its contracts.

Corizon/YesCare/Tehum Care Services
Baltimore Banner: Maryland extends contract with troubled prison health company
Maryland officials ran out of time to pick a new contractor to provide medical care in state prisons, so they’re extending the current contract with YesCare. For the next three months, YesCare will continue to provide medical care to people who are incarcerated in prisons across the state and a jail complex in Baltimore. The company has been paid hundreds of millions of dollars, even as the quality of its care has come under scrutiny from an independent monitor and dozens of medical malpractice lawsuits have been filed in Maryland and other states.

Baltimore Banner: Shake-up in Baltimore jail health care lawsuit: Medical monitor resigns, new judge at helm
The medical monitor of the Baltimore jail system, Michael Puisis, resigned 10 days after the state of Maryland made a lengthy argument against his findings. The circumstances behind Puisis’ departure are not immediately apparent. Last year, attorneys working for the state had disallowed Puisis from directly interviewing clinicians. In his reports, Puisis has provided an atypical level of transparency into the dysfunction of the jail’s health care system under its current private medical provider, YesCare.

Hoodline: Fulton County Jail and Medical Provider NaphCare Sued Over Death of Incarcerated Atlanta Teen
The Fulton County Jail and its medical staff are facing a lawsuit after an Atlanta teen with a history of mental health issues died while in custody. Shane Kendall, 18, who had been charged as an adult for the murder of his adoptive mother at the age of 15, was found unresponsive in his cell on Feb. 1, 2021. Court documents highlight that a medical provider from Naphcare, the for-profit company contracted to provide medical care in the Fulton County Jail, refused to perform CPR on Kendall due to having a "bad knee."

Yahoo News: County extends $7.6M contract with healthcare provider at jail following inmate deaths
Montgomery County commissioners in December approved a $7.6 million contract for 2024 correctional healthcare with provider NaphCare, which oversaw care at the jail amid a sharp uptick in inmate deaths. This decision came after the jail reported multiple inmate deaths. Since the beginning of 2023, a total of eight inmates have died after being booked into the facility.

Arizona Luminaria: Pima County memo assesses jail medical care provider NaphCare
A lawsuit filed against NaphCare — as well as against Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos and individual jail guards — by the family of 18-year old Sylvestre Inzunza who died of a fentanyl overdose in the jail in February of 2022 claims that NaphCare is responsible for “systemic failures” in providing medical care and was “grossly negligent.” Complaints of delayed care continue today, according to multiple sources currently detained in the jail.

CNN: Senators raise alarm about nation’s largest prison health care provider
U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Jon Ossoff (D-GA) to send a letter to Wellpath—the nation’s largest private provider of prison health care—raising concern over reports of inadequate care at federal, state, and local prisons and jails. In the letters, the lawmakers highlight systemic problems driven by Wellpath’s incentive to maximize its profits, including “minimizing the number of healthcare services provided and opting to provide less resource-intensive services.”

MassLive: Company that runs healthcare at Mass. prisons under scrutiny as contract nears renewal
Long waits for care, service denials, and staffing gaps — those are just a few of the complaints lodged against the company that manages healthcare across Massachusetts’ state prison system. In a letter, Democratic U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey fired off a series of questions about the quality of care that Nashville, Tenn.-based Wellpath provides to incarcerated people as the firm’s contract with the state comes up for renewal in 2024. Those queries include whether Wellpath, which took over healthcare services in 2018, plans to cut its healthcare operational costs even as the state’s prison population grows older and sicker; the percentage of required staffing it’s provided to meet those needs, and even whether — and how much — the company has donated to county sheriff races across the state.

WCAX: Vt. lawmakers to examine health care in prisons
Vermont lawmakers this session are taking a closer look at health care delivery to inmates at correctional facilities. The hearing comes on the heels of testimony in September about inmates getting the wrong medications to inadequate mental health and substance use services. Taxpayers front about $33 million annually for the private company, Wellpath, to manage the health care of prison inmates.

WNEP: A former inmate claims 'indifference' by Lackawanna County Prison's healthcare provider led to amputation
Locked in a cell at the Lackawanna County Prison, Ryan Curtis drained his painful and swollen toe and wrapped his wound in a sock provided at intake, a recently filed federal lawsuit alleged. Curtis, 38, pleaded with his jailors for aid during his weeklong pretrial incarceration in 2022. Providers from Wellpath instead told him to wash his infected wound using his jail cell's sink and gave him antibiotics that did not arrest the bacteria.

LGTB Nation: Trans inmate sues prison for causing her “severe” distress by withholding gender-affirming care
A transgender woman who has been incarcerated in a men’s prison in Georgia has filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Corrections (GDC) along with two of its for-profit medical contractors (MHM & Wellpath) for denying her gender-affirming care.

In Observation Of Martin Luther King Day
COCHS Weekly Update Will Not Be Published Next Week