Skip navigation

Articles by Jayson Hawkins

Delaware Changes Prison Health Care Provider Due to Lawsuits Against Prior Contract Holder

by Jayson Hawkins

March 2020 brought sweeping changes to the way people lived and worked as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country. Prisons, where social distancing was often difficult or impossible to practice, proved especially vulnerable to COVID-19, yet the Delaware Department of Correction pushed ahead with a switch to a new health-care provider. Centurion of Delaware LLC accepted responsibility for the medical and behavioral health care of the state’s prisoners effective April 1.

“It’s tough enough to transition to a new medical and behavioral health [provider] in 30 days,” commented Claire DeMatteis, Delaware DOC commissioner, “but doing so in the middle of a health pandemic is remarkable.”

The sudden switch reflects a loss of confidence in the state’s previous provider, Connections Community Support Programs, which agreed to void its annual $60 million contract three months ahead of schedule. Connections was facing lawsuits from two hospital systems after amassing nearly $10 million in unpaid bills for services provided to Delaware prisoners. Connections was also under investigation by the state Justice Department.

Jason Miller, spokesman for the Delaware DOC, said ample preparation and planning had taken place over March for the change in providers to proceed despite ...

Former Prisoners Shut Out of Coronavirus Loans

The first phase of economic relief stemming from the COVID-19 crisis included $350 billion in loans aimed at keeping U.S. small businesses afloat. The CARES Act, as approved by Congress, offered hope of surviving the pandemic to any business with fewer than 500 employees.

The Small Business Administration (SBA), which was tasked with distributing the loans, included a provision that seemed to target a specific demographic. A question on the loan application asked if any of the owners of the business had been convicted of a crime.

No statistics were available as to the number of small-business owners with criminal histories, but because individuals with past felonies are barred from many jobs it is common for them to open their own business. The SBA reports over 30 million small businesses nationwide, and with The Sentencing Project estimating that up to 100 million people in the U.S. have past convictions or arrests, the portion of business owners who have been entangled in the criminal justice system is believed to be significant.

Under previous administrations, the SBA had taken into account criminal convictions of those applying for loans, and the banks that distribute loans do regular background checks on ...

Former Missouri Jail Prisoner Ordered to Repay $1.3 Million Settlement for Faking Injuries But Whereabouts Unknown

On October 17, 2019 a former Missouri prisoner accused of faking injuries while in Boone County Jail was ordered to repay almost $1.3 million from a settlement in which he had accused deputies of using excessive force.

In October 2015, after an altercation in the dinner line at the jail, Derrick Houston was restrained by four deputies and placed in solitary. When Houston felt neck pain and tingling discomfort throughout his body, his requests for medical attention were repeatedly denied by the jailers. Five days later, after his condition worsened, he was finally taken to the hospital where doctors discovered that Houston had a fractured vertebrae in his neck.

Houston filed suit in July 2016, claiming that the lack of medical attention caused permanent paralysis from the waist down. While confined to a wheelchair, Houston testified at a deposition in March 2017 that he wanted to stand up and walk, saying, “I wish I could. I really wish I could man.”

Boone County Sheriff Dewayne Casey denied that his deputies were responsible. Carey stated that jailers reported Houston fell down in solitary; he also noted that Houston had a history of resisting commands and had spent time in ...

Artificial Intelligence for Surveillance Spreading to Prisons Around the Globe

Artificial Intelligence, long thought to be the wave of the future, has become a present reality in prisons around the globe. Facilities in Hong Kong and China have already established themselves on the cutting edge of “smart” incarceration.

The former has outfitted prisoners with wristbands similar to ...

Opioid Epidemic Keeps Climbing at California Prisons, and Claiming Lives of Released Prisoners as Well

With opioid overdoses claiming the lives of over 68,000 Americans annually, detention facilities have reported a corresponding rise in drug-related deaths among those incarcerated or recently released. (See PLN, September 2019, p. 1.) California’s nearly three dozen penal institutions recorded 997 overdoses in 2018, more than ...

Arizona Prison Water Woes Ease Up

The water at Douglas Prison, which has over 2,000 of Arizona’s prisoners, had a “noticeable petroleum odor and taste” and “was burning [prisoners’] skin after showers and causing diarrhea” in June 2019, Jimmy Jenkins of KJZZ-FM reported.

The problem arose after the facility switched to a different ...

Louisiana Sheriff Re-Elected Despite Prisoner Death Toll

by Jayson Hawkins 

Jail conditions are seldom equated to accommodations at a five-star hotel. Even so, there are lockups where the environment threatens a clear and ever-present danger to prisoners and staff alike. Such is the case at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison (EBRPP) a community jail that a ...

$525,000 Settlement in Minnesota Jail Excessive Force Incident

by Jayson Hawkins

"Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.”

Terrell Isaiah Wilson, 24, could be heard pleading for his life on video footage shot on April 13, 2016 at the Ramsey County jail in St, Paul, Minnesota. After being arrested for the theft of two cell phones, Wilson ...

Survey: Jail Population Down but Incarceration Rates Higher for Whites, Women

by Jayson Hawkins

In April 2019 the U.S. Department of Justice released an analysis of its Annual Survey of Jails, which has tracked jail capacities, populations and demographics since 1982. The most recent year for which data was available, 2017, found the overall jail incarceration rate had dropped 12 percent ...

Rider Programs in Idaho Offer Prisoners a Second Chance

by Jayson Hawkins 

Overcrowded prison populations across the nation have forced states to seek alternatives to incarceration. One solution being used in Idaho is intensive rehabilitative programs called “riders” that can take the place of prison sentences. 

About one out of six Idaho prisoners are selected for rider ...