by Mike Ludwig, Truthout
The Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna, Louisiana replaced in-person visitation through a glass partition with video calls in October 2017. Three suicides had occurred at the jail since August, raising concerns about the mental health of its prisoners.
Adorned with barbed wire, the beige walls of the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center rise up beside an earthen levy across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. Three men have killed themselves behind these walls in as many months, using nooses fashioned from bed sheets and whatever else they could find.
A deaf man named Nelson Arce, whose plans for enrolling in drug treatment were interrupted by a stay in the jail in 2016, died of a drug overdose last year. Arce leaves behind two children and family members who claim that he would not have been jailed for violating probation requirements had his probation officer provided him with sign language interpreters as required by law, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the state corrections office.
The lawsuit also claims he was denied access to proper communication services while incarcerated, effectively isolating Arce from anyone who could speak his native sign language, for weeks on ...
by Mike Ludwig, Truthout
In the spring of 2014, as rising rates of opioid misuse and fatal overdoses were capturing the nation’s attention, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was working on a national initiative to expand access to addiction medications known as medication-assisted treatments, or MATs. The ONDCP had just come under the direction of Michael Botticelli, President Obama’s new drug czar, whose background in public health rather than law enforcement signaled to some that a shift was happening in federal drug policy.
A memo circulating among top staff at the Bureau of Prisons at the time stated that the White House was “eager” to include federal prisoners in its national drug treatment initiative. The federal prison system’s substance abuse programs were not working for the vast majority of prisoners with opioid use disorders, so, the memo said, MAT should be provided as an additional option in federal prisons for the first time. A small number of jails and state prisons already had MAT programs, and the ONDCP had pushed for a federal program since late 2013.
Federal prison officials made plans to run a “MAT field trial” in Texas. Ten prisoners with a history of opioid ...