Category Archives: Corrections

Past Due: Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice in New Orleans

Source: Mathilde Laisne, Jon Wool, and Christian Henrichson, Vera Institute of Justice, January 2017

From the overview:
In 2015, government agencies in New Orleans collected $4.5 million in the form of bail, fines and fees from people involved in the criminal justice system and, by extension, from their families. Another $4.7 million was transferred from the pockets of residents to for-profit bail bond agents. These costs have become the subject of considerable public attention. Because many “users” of the system have very low incomes or none at all, there is growing concern that charging for justice amounts to criminalizing poverty, especially when people who can’t pay become further entangled in the justice system. In 2015, the city spent $6.4 million to incarcerate people who couldn’t pay bail or conviction fines and fees. By focusing on bail decisions and fines and fees assessed at conviction, Past Due, and its accompanying technical report, reveals the costs and other consequences of a system that tries to extract money from low-income people and then jails them when they can’t pay.
Technical Report

State Expenditure Report (Fiscal 2014-2016)

Source: National Association of State Budget Officers, 2016

This annual report examines spending in the functional areas of state budgets: elementary and secondary education, higher education, public assistance, Medicaid, corrections, transportation, and all other. It also includes data on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and on revenue sources in state general funds.

– The total state spending growth rate slowed in fiscal 2016, following a 10-year high in fiscal 2015.
– Medicaid continued to increase as a share of total state spending, while K-12 remained the largest category from state funds.
– Transportation led the way in spending growth from state funds in both fiscal 2015 and fiscal 2016, while Medicaid experienced the largest gains from all funds.
– Revenue growth slowed considerably in fiscal 2016 as states saw weaker collections from sales, personal income, and corporate income taxes.

Cycle of Crisis

Source: Megan O’Matz, Sun Sentinel, December 15, 2016

In Florida, the soaring number of forced hospitalizations of mentally ill reveals a broken health care system failing those who need it most…..

….The government closed or downsized many of the facilities, and efforts shifted to enable the mentally ill to live in the community, in their homes or elsewhere, with the help of local professionals. But the government never allocated enough money for services or housing. Now people with mental illness are confined in jails, cast adrift in the streets, or left to the care of families without the means to support them. There’s not enough help between a short hospitalization or being sent to a state mental institution such as Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, the state’s largest….

Dying for help
Source: Megan O’Matz, Sally Kestin and John Maines, Sun Sentinel, December 15, 2016

Families struggle with severely mentally ill relatives, then become victims of their violence. Florida’s health care system is too stressed to prevent the tragedies. ….

…. No government agency monitors the tragedies. But a six-month Sun Sentinel investigation determined that people with mental illness have killed or brutally assaulted at least 500 loved ones in Florida since 2000. During that time, Florida’s spending on mental health programs has declined significantly: When adjusted for inflation, the state last year spent one-third less per capita on mental health and drug treatment than it did in 2000, according to a Sun Sentinel analysis of data. ….

…. Jailing a mentally ill inmate in Florida costs up to three times more than treatment. One successful statewide program that provides social workers to visit the mentally ill, ensure they take their medication, go to the doctor and have adequate housing, costs $35 a day. By comparison, it costs $121 a day to house a person with mental illness at the Broward County Jail. ….

Punishing Poverty: The high cost of probation fees in Massachusetts

Source: Wendy Sawyer, Prison Policy Initiative, December 8, 2016

From the introduction:
In Massachusetts, probation is a much bigger part of the correctional control “pie” than incarceration in prison or jail. Almost three out of four people under state correctional control are on some form of probation. If you are one of these 67,000 people, the state tells you probation is “an opportunity for you to make positive changes in your life,” allowing you to remain in the community, work, and be with family and friends instead of serving time in jail or prison. While this may sound like a great deal, it comes at a price.

Probation service fees in Massachusetts cost probationers more than $20 million every year. People are placed on one of two tiers of probation: supervised and administrative, and they are currently charged $65 and $50 per month, respectively. With an average probation sentence of 17-20 months, a Massachusetts resident sentenced to probation is charged between $850-$1,300 in monthly probation service fees alone — on top of many other court fines and fees.

Probation fees are relics of the 1980s. A result of “tough on crime” politics and a misguided attempt to plug a budget in crisis, probation fees do nothing to further the mission of probation services in Massachusetts. In fact, they work against probationers who struggle to meet the demands of their probation and the needs of their families. With money tight in the Commonwealth again, lawmakers may be tempted to hold on to probation fees for the revenues, but this policy is fiscally shortsighted and morally bankrupt.

A group of state lawmakers and judges has recently called for re-evaluation of court fines and fees, suspecting that these costs unfairly impact the poor and make it harder for people to succeed. This report analyzes state probation and income data to confirm those suspicions, and argues that the state should reverse its outdated and counterproductive policy.

Staff Satisfaction, Ethical Concerns, and Burnout in the New York City Jail Health System

Source: Ramneet Kalra, Sarah Glowa Kollisch, Ross MacDonald, Nathaniel Dickey, Zachary Rosner, Homer Venters, Journal of Correctional Healthcare, Vol. 22 no. 4, October 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article reviewed a program evaluation conducted among correctional health care staff in New York City (NYC) using a 68-question electronic survey to assess satisfaction, attitudes, and beliefs in relation to ethics and burnout of health care employees in NYC jails. Descriptive statistics were tabulated and reviewed, and further assessment of burnout and ethics was performed through group sessions with participants. This evaluation has led to changes in agency policies and procedures and an emphasis on the human rights issue of the dual loyalty challenges that the security setting places on the overall mission to care for patients.

Race and Punishment in American Prisons

Source: Jeremiah C. Olson, Journal of Public Admin Research and Theory, Volume 26, Issue 4, October 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
American prison staffs face the difficult challenge of maintaining order in an often overcrowded, potentially dangerous environment. Prison staffs are given wide discretion over treatment decisions inside prisons, including the decision to punish prisoners. Staffs are forced to make quick decisions in an uncertain environment and are likely to use commonly understood heuristics to simplify their decision-making. These heuristics include stereotypes regarding race and criminality. This article uses data on nearly 11,000 prisoners to examine the determinants of one of the harshest punishments available, the use of solitary confinement in American prisons. Consistent with the broader literature on race and criminal justice, I find that black inmates report higher rates of placement in solitary confinement than white inmates.

As Alabama cuts mental health care, sheriffs say jails overwhelmed

Source: Lee Roop,, August 8, 2016

The state has closed three psychiatric hospitals since 2012 for financial reasons, cutting the number of beds for patients from 740 to 268 — a drop of 64 percent. …. Without available beds, sheriffs talk of searching for charges to find a way to house potentially dangerous individuals. …. “In Alabama, if you (want to) protect someone from themselves, you charge them with harassment and put them in jail,” agreed Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack. But jails are not hospitals, deputies aren’t nurses and this temporary solution often creates new problems for all involved. …. surveyed 40 out of 67 sheriffs or their chief deputies. Most report a growing problem and lack of training or services. See the percentages for each question below. ….

Individuals With Serious Mental Illnesses in County Jails: A Survey of Jail Staff’s Perspectives

Source: Azza AbuDagga, Sidney Wolfe, Michael Carome, Amanda Phatdouang, E. Fuller Torrey, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group and The Treatment Advocacy Center, Research Report, July 14, 2016

From the abstract:
Public Citizen and the Treatment Advocacy Center are releasing a comprehensive national survey that captures the perspectives of county jail staff about inmates with serious mental illnesses. According to the report, 21 percent of the surveyed county jails reported that 16 percent or more of their inmates were seriously mentally ill. The report presents the challenges faced by county jail staff, including the limited training they are given to address the needs of these inmates, who do not belong in jails to begin with.
Press Release
Recording of the press conference

National Survey of Prison Health Care: Selected Findings

Source: Karishma A. Chari, Alan E. Simon, Carol J. DeFrances, Laura Maruschak National Health Statistics Reports (NHSR), No. 96, July 28, 2016

Objectives—This report presents selected findings on the provision of health care services in U.S. state prisons. Findings on admissions testing for infectious disease, cardiovascular risk factors, and mental health conditions, as well as the location of the provision of care and utilization of telemedicine are all included.
Methods—Data are from the National Survey of Prison Health Care (NSPHC). The survey aimed to conduct semi-structured telephone interviews with respondents from all 50 state Departments of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Interviews were conducted in 2012 for calendar year 2011. The level of participation varied by state and questionnaire item.
Results—Overall, 45 states participated in NSPHC. In 2011, the percentages of prison admissions occurring in states that tested at least some prisoners for the following conditions during the admissions process were: 76.9% for hepatitis A, 82.0% for hepatitis B, 87.3% for hepatitis C, 100.0% for tuberculosis, 100.0% for mental health conditions and suicide risk, 40.3% for traumatic brain injury, 82.5% for cardiovascular conditions and risk factors using electrocardiogram, 70.0% for elevated lipids, and 99.8% for high blood pressure.
Of the 45 states that participated in the survey, most states delivered several services on-site, including inpatient and outpatient mental health care (27 and 44 states, respectively), care for chronic diseases (31 states), long-term or nursing home care (35 states), and hospice care (35 states). For inpatient and outpatient medical, dental, and emergency care, most states delivered services using a combination of on-site and off-site care locations. Most states delivered selected diagnostic procedures and radiologic tests off-site. Telemedicine was most commonly used for psychiatry (28 states).

Kiosk Reporting Among Probationers in the United States

Source: Eileen M. Ahlin, Carol A. Hagen, Michele A. Harmon, Scott Crosse, The Prison Journal, Published online before print August 5, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Kiosk reporting is one type of electronic reporting that reduces the need for a low-risk offender to meet face-to-face with a probation officer. Probationers are identified by the kiosk using biometric measures and are prompted to provide information they would typically discuss with a probation officer. Despite its use in a variety of contexts, little is known about kiosk reporting in practice. This research provides an overview of the use of kiosk reporting among probation agencies across the United States and examines the use of kiosk reporting from the perspective of probation officers.