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"It's just us sitting there for 23 hours like we done something wrong": Isolation, incarceration, and the COVID-19 pandemic

Rosenberg, A., Puglisi, L. B., Thomas, K. A., Halberstam, A. A., Martin, R. A., Brinkley-Rubinstein, L., & Wang, E. A.

For the millions of people incarcerated in United States' prisons and jails during the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation took many forms, including medical isolation for those sick with COVID-19, quarantine for those potentially exposed, and prolonged facility-wide lockdowns. Incarcerated people's lived experience of isolation during the pandemic has largely gone undocumented. Through interviews with 48 incarcerated people and 27 staff at two jails and one prison in geographically diverse locations in the United States, we document the implementation of COVID-19 isolation policies from the perspective of those that live and work in carceral settings. Incarcerated people were isolated from social contact, educational programs, employment, and recreation, and lacked clear communication about COVID-19-related protocols. Being isolated, no matter the reason, felt like punishment and was compared to solitary confinement-with resultant long-term, negative impacts on health. Participants detailed isolation policies as disruptive, detrimental to mental health, and dehumanizing for incarcerated people. Findings point to several recommendations for isolation policy in carceral settings. These include integrating healthcare delivery into isolation protocols, preserving social relationships during isolation, promoting bidirectional communication about protocols and their effect between facility leadership and incarcerated people. Most importantly, there is an urgent need to re-evaluate the current approach to the use of isolation in carceral settings and to establish external oversight procedures for its use during pandemics.


Covid-19 in US jails and prisons: Implications for the next public health crisis

LeMasters, K., & Brinkley-Rubinstein, L.

Katherine LeMasters and Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein raise concerns about the lack of sustained change in prison health transparency after Covid-19 and implications for future public health crises.


Documenting competing needs to well-being among those on community supervision in the South

LeMasters, K., Krajewski, T., Dong, K., & Brinkley-Rubinstein, L.

Although the harms of incarceration on health are well known, little is known about individuals' competing priorities to maintaining their health while on probation and parole after release from incarceration. We explored individuals' competing needs on probation and parole (lack of health insurance/access, hazardous alcohol use, substance use, food insecurity, un/underemployment, housing insecurity, lack of social support, length of recent incarceration, prohibitive monthly fees, criminal legal discrimination) to achieving well-being. We explored overlap between competing needs and overall well-being. This descriptive, cross-sectional analysis assesses the relationship between competing needs and current well-being of participants in The Southern Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Study. Of 364 enrolled participants, 48% were thriving. The most common competing need was substance use (73%). Of the 10 competing needs, participants experienced a median 4 (interquartile range [IQR] 3-6). Those considered to be thriving experienced a median 4 (IQR 3-5) competing needs while those not thriving experienced a median 5 (IQR 4-6; p


Few prison systems release individual death data: Death in Custody Reporting Act completeness, speed, and compliance

Fliss, M. D., Lao, J., Behne, F., & Brinkley-Rubinstein, L.

The United States has one of the largest incarcerated populations per capita. Prisons are dangerous environments, with high in-prison and postrelease mortality. The Death in Custody Reporting Acts (DCRAs) of 2000 and 2013 require deaths of people in correctional custody or caused by law enforcement to be reported to the Bureau of Justice Assistance. These deaths must be reported within 3 months of the death and include 10 required fields (eg, age, cause of death). There is no public reporting requirement. Our Third City Mortality project tracks near-real-time data about individual deaths released publicly and prison system metadata, including data completeness and release speed, across (N = 54) US state, federal (N = 2; Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement), Washington, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico prison systems. Twenty-one (38%) systems release no individual death data; 13 systems release incomplete data slower than 1 year; 19 release timely, but incomplete, death data; and only one system (Iowa) releases complete and timely data. Incomplete, untimely, public prison mortality data limit protective community responses and epidemiology.


Identifying structural risk factors for overdose following incarceration: A concept mapping study

Nall, S. K., Jurecka, C., Ammons, A., Jr, Rodriguez, A., Craft, B., Waleed, C., Dias, D., Henderson, J., Boyer, J., Yamkovoy, K., Swathi, P. A., Patil, P., Behne, F., LeMasters, K., Brinkley-Rubinstein, L., & Barocas, J. A.

Background: Currently, there are more than two million people in prisons or jails, with nearly two-thirds meeting the criteria for a substance use disorder. Following these patterns, overdose is the leading cause of death following release from prison and the third leading cause of death during periods of incarceration in jails. Traditional quantitative methods analyzing the factors associated with overdose following incarceration may fail to capture structural and environmental factors present in specific communities. People with lived experiences in the criminal legal system and with substance use disorder hold unique perspectives and must be involved in the research process. Objective: To identify perceived factors that impact overdose following release from incarceration among people with direct criminal legal involvement and experience with substance use. Methods: Within a community-engaged approach to research, we used concept mapping to center the perspectives of people with personal experience with the carceral system. The following prompt guided our study: "What do you think are some of the main things that make people who have been in jail or prison more and less likely to overdose?" Individuals participated in three rounds of focus groups, which included brainstorming, sorting and rating, and community interpretation. We used the Concept Systems Inc. platform group wisdom for our analyses and constructed cluster maps. Results: Eight individuals (ages 33 to 53) from four states participated. The brainstorming process resulted in 83 unique factors that impact overdose. The concept mapping process resulted in five clusters: (1) Community-Based Prevention, (2) Drug Use and Incarceration, (3) Resources for Treatment for Substance Use, (4) Carceral Factors, and (5) Stigma and Structural Barriers. Conclusions: Our study provides critical insight into community-identified factors associated with overdose following incarceration. These factors should be accounted for during resource planning and decision-making.
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