The pandemic has had a significant impact on prison populations, where there have been almost 400,000 positive cases across the country and 2,700 inmates have died.
Lisa Armstrong has been delving into the spread of COVID-19 and its painful impact. She has been supported in her work through grants from Type Investigations, The Carter Center and the Fund for Investigative Journalism/Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. She has written about the spread of the coronavirus in New York state prisons and Miami jails and produced a documentary for CBS News about the role mental health care provided by for-profit companies has played in an increase in suicides in state prisons. Continue reading
For more than a year, Atlanta-based freelance journalist and AHCJ member Max Blau investigated the troublesome health care delivery in jails across his state.
He filed records requests, conducted tough interviews and weaved together a series about his findings — all while reporting and writing other stories at the same time to pay his bills. Continue reading
Gary Harki of The Virginian-Pilot came to his team’s sweeping series on mental illness, death and U.S. jails by way of a single incident: a young man who died in jail from direct neglect and bureaucratic incompetence for the crime of stealing a zebra cake and a Mountain Dew from a local convenience store.
The young man, Jamycheal Mitchell, had both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and his death, Harki says, was “just appalling,” especially as Mitchell was supposed to have been transferred to a mental health care facility. That incident led Harki to wonder how often people like Mitchell met this fate in America’s jails. And from that, the “Jailed in Crisis” series was born. Continue reading
From time to time, the tabs in my web browser taunt me with the stories I’ve saved to read later. Fairly frequently, those stories have a theme, usually a subject that I’ve seen a spate of in-depth coverage on. Lately, those browser tabs have been filled with stories about health care in jails, a topic that also got some recent mentions on AHCJ’s electronic discussion list.
There are a lot of aspects to cover here: mental health, privatization, the money involved and the care decisions based on those budgets and, of course, the people affected by all of those decisions – inmates and their families. You might even think about reporting on the mental health of corrections officers. So, here are some stories I’ve been paying attention to and some resources to use as a jumping off point for your own reporting – which I hope you will send to me or post a link to in the comments.
In Modern Healthcare, Beth Kutscher writes about the privatization of jailhouse health care and critics’ questions about the quality of care and cost savings. Her story starts with a focus on Florida but points out that about 20 states have outsource all or part of their prison health care. Florida’s five-year contract for prison health care is $230 million. One expert “estimated that half of all state and local prisons and jails have outsourced healthcare services, and that these contracts are worth roughly $3 billion a year.”
Last month, ProPublica’s Christie Thompson compiled a list of reporting on mental illness in prisons that includes “the best deep-dive reporting on the mentally ill in U.S. prisons” and goes back to 2000. Continue reading
A number of medical professionals working for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections have “less-than-spotless pasts,” according to Oklahoman reporter Andrew Knittle.
Knittle’s report, based on public records, spotlights doctors and a physician’s assistant who have been disciplined for things that include substance abuse and sexual improprieties.
The executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision points out that discipline doctors can have trouble finding a job and may find they can’t be network providers on insurance programs, so they turn to jobs working for the government:
Medical professionals with disciplinary records also work at the state Department of Veterans Affairs and medical facilities at Fort Sill, a federal installation.
The story includes links to the complaints mentioned in the article.