By Emily Widra and Dylan Hayre Tweet this
June 25, 2020
When the pandemic struck, it was instantly obvious what needed to be done: take all actions possible to “flatten the curve.” This was especially urgent in prisons and jails, which are very dense facilities where social distancing is impossible, sanitation is poor, and medical resources are extremely limited. Public health experts warned that the consequences were dire: prisons and jails would become petri dishes where, once inside, COVID-19 would spread rapidly and then boomerang back out to the surrounding communities with greater force than ever before.
Advocates were rightly concerned, given the long-standing and systemic racial disparities in arrest, prosecution, and sentencing, that policymakers would be slow to respond to the threat of the virus in prisons and jails when it was disproportionately poor people of color whose lives were on the line. Would elected officials be willing to take the necessary steps to save lives in time?
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Lawmakers question federal prisons’ home confinement rules
WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers are raising questions about the federal Bureau of Prisons’ release of high-profile inmates and are calling for widespread testing of federal inmates as the number of coronavirus cases has exploded in the federal prison system.
Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries sent a letter Monday to Attorney General William Barr and Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal over the home confinement policies. They expressed concern that a number of high-profile inmates, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, had been released despite not meeting all the criteria that the agency has set for inmates prioritized for home confinement.
“As President Trump’s associates are cleared for transfer, tens of thousands of low-risk, vulnerable individuals are serving their time in highly infected prisons,” the lawmakers wrote.
Infectious Disease Society of America: IDSA, HIVMA Call for Strengthened Detention Facility Responses to COVID-19
With data showing alarmingly high rates of COVID-19 infection among people who are incarcerated, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and its HIV Medicine Association today released policy recommendations to prevent and respond to the spread of the coronavirus in detention settings: Ensuring availability of preventive measures as well as diagnostic and treatment supplies and services; immediate action to reduce population density in correctional facilities; and optimizing access to Medicaid coverage to ensure appropriate testing and treatment.
Yale School of Public Health: Release Connecticut’s Prisoners? Health Experts, Activists Urge “Decarceration” to Slow Pandemic
Members of the Yale and local activist communities are coming together to urge Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to depopulate the state’s prisons to combat the spread of COVID-19 and protect the state’s most vulnerable populations from the pandemic. More than 50 faculty members signed a letter to the governor recently, urging him to “thoughtfully release a substantial portion of the state’s prison population.”
COVID-19 Impact on Mass Incarceration
Politico: A Republican Crusader Takes on Oklahoma’s Prison Machine
Oklahoma has led the nation in the number of citizens it incarcerates, often in a neck-and-neck race with Louisiana. A June 2018 report by the Prison Policy Initiative declared Oklahoma “the world’s prison capital”—putting the tally at 1,079 people incarcerated per 100,000. From 2000 to 2010, the cost of corrections in Oklahoma soared 30 percent. The prison system remains so overloaded that the state’s Department of Corrections has requested $884 million to increase capacity by 5,200 beds.
The New Yorker: Will the Coronavirus Make Us Rethink Mass Incarceration?
For decades, community groups have pointed out the social costs of mass incarceration: its failure to address the root causes of addiction and violence; its steep fiscal price tag; its deepening of racial inequalities. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed another danger of the system: its public-health risks. But the pandemic accomplished in weeks or months what activists had been working toward for decades, leading to large experiments in decarceration. Activists were heartened by the initial wave of mass releases this spring. But optimism gave way, for some families, to panic and indignation, as many facilities delayed reducing their populations and instituting safeguards, and coronavirus outbreaks began.
COVID-19 Early Release of Incarcerated People
The Los Angeles Times: California’s prisons and jails have emptied thousands into a world changed by coronavirus
State data show California’s prisons have released about 3,500 inmates while the daily jail population across 58 counties is down by 20,000 from late February. The exodus is having a profound and still-evolving effect: Those leaving custody enter a vastly different world in which a collapsed economy, scant job opportunities and the closure of many government offices have compounded the challenges of getting lives back on track. Reentry programs are struggling to meet the deluge of incoming inmates as the disease has forced them to close shelters and serve fewer people.
AP News: Common’s #WeMatterToo push urges jail releases amid virus
Rapper and activist Common concerned about incarcerated people he has met during visits to jails, prisons and juvenile detention centers around the U.S., launched a campaign with dozens of advocacy and activist groups calling attention to the threat that the coronavirus pandemic poses on millions of men, women and youths who are incarcerated in the U.S. The campaign, dubbed #WeMatterToo, is urging authorities to immediately release people who have served the vast majority of their sentences, especially if they have existing health conditions that put them at greater risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
San Francisco Chronicle: SF’s federal prosecutor eases requirements for sick inmates seeking early prison release
After a federal judge called the practice “appallingly cruel,” San Francisco’s top U.S. prosecutor said Friday his office will no longer require defendants pleading guilty during the coronavirus pandemic to wait at least 180 days before seeking release if they later become seriously or terminally ill in prison. The procedure known as “compassionate release” allows prisoners in federal custody, who are dying or gravely ill, to ask a judge to be transferred to home confinement, if the judge determines it would not endanger the public. A 2018 federal law allows the inmate to go to court 30 days after seeking release from the prison warden.
The New York Times: U.S. Prison Population Remained Stable as Pandemic Grew
The United States prison population remained stable in the early months of the year, decreasing by just 1.6 percent from January through March even as prisons emerged as incubators for the spread of Covid-19, according to a report released on Thursday. The prison population in five states — Idaho, Iowa, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming — was larger on March 31 than it was at the end of 2019. The steepest reduction was recorded in Vermont, where the prison population declined by 11.6 percent between Jan. 1 and March 31, followed by North Dakota and Oregon, where the number of prison inmates dropped by 9.8 percent and 8.3 percent.
The New York Times: Cycle of Arrests Leads Woman to Jail at a Dangerous Time
After failing to appear in court on traffic and other charges, a pregnant woman was detained overnight at a Montgomery, Ala., jail, where a coronavirus outbreak has occurred. Martha Morgan, a retired professor at the University of Alabama law school, said that the jailing of people for minor offenses, potentially exposing them to the virus, had put a spotlight on the persistent, underlying problems of poverty and the criminal justice system. The debate over which inmates should be released has played out across the United States, as officials try to balance public safety with public health concerns. In a high-profile example, Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was released from federal prison on Wednesday and granted confinement at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 Correctional Environments
Berkeleyside: How safe is Santa Rita Jail under COVID-19? Inmates and the sheriff paint very different pictures
Detainees in Alameda County jail say few people inside the jail are being tested. Based on their own experiences and the symptoms their cellmates are displaying, they believe the number of prisoners infected by the virus is much higher than the official count of 50 posted on the sheriff’s website. But the sheriff’s office said its efforts are among the best in the nation among jails and prisons. Alameda County Sheriff’s Sergeant Ray Kelly told Berkeleyside that inmates have been given adequate supplies of soap, PPE, and cleaning supplies, and the jail’s common areas are constantly cleaned and sanitized.
Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Prison's outbreak spreading unease outside the walls
More than 330 inmates at the prison have tested positive for the virus along with at least 17 staff members, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. Last week, the surrounding St. Francis County recorded an uptick in positive cases, a troubling sign that the virus is spreading in the community.
The New York Times: Supreme Court Rejects Bid for Virus Protections in Texas Prison
The Supreme Court denied a request on Thursday from two inmates in a Texas geriatric prison to reinstate a trial judge’s order instructing officials to take steps to protect them from the coronavirus pandemic. As is the Supreme Court’s custom in ruling on emergency applications, its brief order was unsigned and gave no reasons. But Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, issued a seven-page statement expressing concern about the plight of the nation’s prisoners.
The Press-Enterprise: Riverside County to submit coronavirus inmate-care plan by May 20
Responding to a lawsuit alleging inadequate health care for inmates, Riverside County promised Friday to deliver by May 20 to the plaintiff a draft of a plan to care for inmates during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The plan will include provisions for testing, according to the document filed in U.S. District Court. The county is providing that information to the Prison Law Office, which in 2013 filed a class-action lawsuit that was settled in 2015. Then this April, as the pandemic took hold in the jails, the Prison Law Office asked U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips to enforce the terms of the settlement.
JDNews: Judge refuses to intervene in N.C. prisons’ virus response
A judge on Wednesday rejected requests of several offenders and civil rights groups exhorting him to tell North Carolina corrections leaders to reduce the prison population further to protect inmates from COVID-19. The denials from Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier came after he received an extensive report he demanded last week from prison officials on what wardens are doing to discourage the virus’ spread in the more than 50 prisons. The plaintiffs who are serving time behind bars have said in affidavits they were worried for their health if they remained in prison.
WILX: Judge releases 2 immigrants due to health risks at jail
A judge has ordered the federal government to release two immigrants from a jail in Calhoun County, saying their health is at risk from the coronavirus. The American Civil Liberties Union has had some success in winning the release of immigrants who have been locked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement while awaiting deportation hearings or other steps.
The Colorado Independent: Federal judge orders Weld County sheriff to protect health of jail inmates during pandemic
A federal judge Monday ruled the treatment of inmates in the Weld County jail during the COVID-19 pandemic violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. As a result, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Philip A. Brimmer ordered the county’s sheriff, Steve Reams, to identify inmates who have underlying health conditions and implement enhanced social distancing measures designed to protect them from the highly contagious disease. The order comes after the ACLU of Colorado and civil rights attorneys in April filed a class-action lawsuit in the federal district court on behalf of five inmates who have underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19, a disease that has infected at least eight inmates and four staff at the jail.
NBC-DFW: More Than 600 Inmates Test Positive for COVID-19 at Federal Prison in Fort Worth
Federal Medical Center Fort Worth has seen COVID-19 cases explode in number in recent weeks. As of Monday, 636 inmates at FMC Fort Worth had contracted the coronavirus, according to Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley. Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you. That’s about 40% of the inmate population at the federal prison.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice: TDCJ deploying significant testing of asymptomatic population
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced that the state has acquired and is deploying tens of thousands of COVID-19 oral fluid tests manufactured by Curative, Incorporated. The tests were given approval in April by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization and will be administered at TDCJ prison units across Texas. These tests are designed to be self-administered by the person being tested.
Daily Camera: Coronavirus testing sparse at many of Colorado’s large jails as outbreaks continue to mount
Testing at Colorado’s largest jails remains limited and sporadic even as an increasing number of the facilities are added to the state’s list of confirmed outbreaks. With the exception of Denver, testing numbers at the state’s 10 largest jails remain in the double or single digits despite populations in the hundreds and daily churn of people booking in and out of the facilities. At least five of the facilities — Arapahoe, Pueblo, Mesa, Larimer and Boulder — had tested fewer than 10 inmates as of earlier this week.
Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the state to have more power to scrutinize local jails. This comes after a McClatchy and ProPublica investigation found the agency meant to oversee the jails is toothless and that some jail conditions are inhumane.
by Jason Pohl, The Sacramento Bee, and Ryan Gabrielson, ProPublica
This article was produced in partnership with The Sacramento Bee, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.
This story is part of an ongoing investigation into the crisis in California’s jails. Sign up for the Overcorrection newsletter to receive updates in this series as soon as they publish.
Faced with a surge of homicides in some of California’s largest jails, inmates held in inhumane suicide-watch conditions and elected sheriffs who rebuff state inspectors, Gov. Gavin Newsom is crafting plans that would give the state more power to oversee local sheriffs and the lockups they run. READ MORE HERE
Greg Betza, special to ProPublica
Lux Alptraum Jan 3 · 8 min read
Over the past few years, telemedicine — a term broadly used to describe any method of remotely accessing medical care, including over the phone, through email, or via video chat — has gone from a sci-fi proposition to an increasingly ordinary part of health care.
In many parts of the country, it’s now possible to get birth control, HIV preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP), dermatological care, erectile dysfunction medications, therapy, and even UTI treatments without ever entering a doctor’s office. And telemedicine experts are hopeful that even more services will become widely available over the coming years, making accessing a medical professional as easy as opening an app. READ THE FULL ARTICLE
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — An inmate in solitary confinement at a California jail was refusing to leave his cell. The jailers’ usual response: Send an “extraction team” of corrections officers to burst into the cell and drag him out.
But not in Contra Costa County, one of three in the state using a kinder, gentler approach in response to inmate lawsuits, a policy change that experts say could be a national model for reducing the use of isolation cells. read here
A private prison company filed suit on Monday to block Assembly Bill 32, which prohibits California from contracting with for-profit, private prisons.
The GEO Group owns and operates private federal detention facilities and filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. The lawsuit alleges that AB 32’s intent is to “undermine and eliminate the congressionally funded and approved enforcement of federal criminal and immigration law” by government agencies.
“This transparent attempt by the state to shut down the federal government’s detention efforts within California’s borders is a direct assault on the supremacy of federal law, and it cannot stand,” the filing includes.
The lawsuit reflects California’s immigrant-friendly status as a sanctuary state and its effort to undermine federal enforcement agencies tasked with carrying out President Donald Trump’s harsher immigration policies.
Advocates against for-profit detention centers denounced the filing as a way to ensure tax dollars go toward prison companies rather than community needs. Read the full article here
image source: City and County Contracts With U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Local Governments Must Improve Oversight to Address Health and Safety Concerns and Cost Overruns
Nearly all people in prison eventually leave, many of them with chronic diseases or behavioral conditions that may affect public health and safety in the communities where they will live. In a positive trend, corrections departments are partnering with health care agencies in some states to make it possible for offenders’ conditions to be treated when they re-enter the community.
Officials say the collaborations – in states such as Connecticut, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio— are promising because they can improve public health and safety while providing states with a better return on the money spent on treating offenders while they are in prison. Departments of correction collectively spent $8.1 billion on prison health care in fiscal 2015.
read the whole article here>>>>
This past August, released surveillance footage showed 26-year-old Diana Sanchez alerting Denver County Jail deputies and medical staff that she was in labor just hours before she gave birth to her son, alone in her cell. With her pleas ignored by staff, ... read more here
by Roxanne Daniel, December 5, 2019
Aug. 5, 2019 at 6:00 am Updated Aug. 5, 2019 at 11:45 pm
By Erasmus Baxter
Seattle Times staff reporter
CHEHALIS, Lewis County — John Lininger met with his doctor in a windowless exam room, the clinic separated by two thick metal doors from the 240 or so other inmates of the Lewis County jail.
Lininger, a 46-year-old carpenter, has been in and out of this jail repeatedly over the past nine years on charges that he says are driven by his opioid addiction. Past jail visits meant excruciating withdrawals: nausea, bone-deep pain and overwhelming cravings for opioids.
This time is different. He sits calm, alert, without a thought of using heroin. read more here....