Conversations on COVID: Flattening the curve in jails and prisons
Brown University, April 6, 2020
Taking no action, Rich says, will not only endanger thousands of lives among incarcerated populations, but poses a dire threat to everyone by further overtaxing health care systems. Last Friday, the Rhode Island Supreme Court cleared the way for 52 prisoners in the Ocean State, but Rich says that further action nationwide is required. “When these people get sick, they’re going to get sick all at once,” said Rich, who is a practicing infectious diseases specialist at the Miriam Hospital in Providence. “That means there’s likely to be a large spike in people coming from corrections to the surrounding health care facilities. We can ill afford to have local health care systems overrun by a wave of people coming from the correctional setting. The consequences of that are dire.”
“Flattening the Curve for Incarcerated Populations — Covid-19 in Jails and Prisons”
NEJM, April 2, 2020
To operationalize a response for incarcerated populations, three levels of preparedness need to be addressed: the virus should be delayed as much as possible from entering correctional settings; if it is already in circulation, it should be controlled; and jails and prisons should prepare to deal with a high burden of disease. The better the mitigation job done by legal, public health, and correctional health partnerships, the lighter the burden correctional facilities and their surrounding communities will bear. We have learned from other epidemics, such as the 1918 influenza pandemic, that nonpharmaceutical interventions are effective, but they have the greatest impact when implemented early.
Doctors warn of ‘tinderbox scenario’ if coronavirus spreads in ICE detention
CNN, March 20, 2020
The department should consider releasing all immigrant detainees who don’t pose a risk to public safety, the doctors argue, before it’s too late. There’s an “imminent risk to the health and safety of immigrant detainees” and to the general public if the novel coronavirus spreads in ICE detention, Dr. Scott Allen and Dr. Josiah Rich wrote in a letter sent to lawmakers Friday. The doctors, contracted experts for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, say they’re “gravely concerned” about the risks the novel coronavirus poses.
“We must release prisoners to lessen the spread of coronavirus”
Washington Post, March 18, 2020
Center Co-Founders and Executive Director on the public health crisis of coronavirus reaching prisons: “It is essential to understand that, despite being physically secure, jails and prisons are not isolated from the community. People continuously enter and leave, including multiple shifts of corrections staff; newly arrested, charged and sentenced individuals; attorneys; and visitors. Even if this flow is limited to the extent possible, correctional facilities remain densely populated and poorly designed to prevent the inevitable rapid and widespread dissemination of this virus.”
“Association of Restrictive Housing During Incarceration with Mortality After Release”
JAMA Network Open, October 4, 2019
“This cohort study included 229 274 people who were released from incarceration in North Carolina from 2000 to 2015. Compared with individuals who were incarcerated and not placed in restrictive housing, individuals who spent any time in restrictive housing were 24% more likely to die in the first year after release, especially from suicide (78% more likely) and homicide (54% more likely); they were also 127% more likely to die of an opioid overdose in the first 2 weeks after release.”
*****The Center has released public health recommendations for criminal justice system stakeholders to decrease the spread of COVID-19*****
The Center’s Executive Director and Co-Founder were featured in the Providence Journal highlighting a recent visit to Rhode Island by Dr. Joao Goulao, the architect of Portugal’s radical and effective drug policy reform efforts, and issuing a call to action for Rhode Island to follow Portugal’s example.
Center Co-Founder and Director Dr. Jody Rich co-authored a new report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine that outlines a “series of recommendations on how to combine care for opioid use disorder with treatment for a number of infectious diseases increasingly associated with opioid abuse.”
Calling all doctors and medical students: sign the petition asking the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to require t that all residents and fellows who care for patients who use opioids, as well as their core faculty, receive specific training on the treatment of opioid use disorder.
The Center’s new Executive Director, Mavis Nimoh, is the subject of a June Valley Breeze feature about her goals for the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights. In this feature, Mavis talks about how her prior government agency and nonprofit work has informed her perspective on mass incarceration, social justice, and public health.
On November 26, 2019, Center Co-Founder Dr. Scott Allen spoke on the deplorable conditions and concerning quality of healthcare at government-run detention centers in a 60 Minutes feature and in a New York Times article on migrant family detention. In these features, Dr. Allen describes his experiences with healthcare facility inspections at the Department of Homeland Security, and denounces the critical lack of oversight for the ramifications and potential harm inflicted as a result of the Trump administration’s decision to separate children from families.
A $1-million federal grant awarded to Amos House in November 2018 paves the way for the establishment of the RI Reentry Collaborative in partnership with the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, OpenDoors, Reentry Campus Program, and the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence! The RI Reentry Collaborative will aim to provide comprehensive services to people being released from incarceration.
In October 2018, the Center co-published a report with the Fenway Institute titled “Emerging Best Practices for the Management and Treatment of LGBTQI Youth in Juvenile Justice Settings” authored by Brad Brockmann, JD, MDiv, former Executive Director of the Center, alongside Sean Cahill PhD, Vickie Henry JD, and Timothy Wang MPH. This report is intended as a guidebook to assist prison administrators.