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Prisoner rights case challenges forced labor in private prisons

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The Indiana Lawyer on 5/15/2019 by Olivia Covington

When a defendant is convicted and sentenced to prison, it’s expected that they will be required to work while incarcerated. But a group of inmates at the New Castle Correctional Facility, Indiana’s only privately run state prison, have brought a unique legal challenge that could limit the scope of what inmates at private prisons are required to do.

The class-action case of Damarcus Figgs and David Corbin v. GEO Group, Inc., 1:18-cv-00089, alleges inmates in New Castle’s Mental Health Unit are the victims of human trafficking and are subjected to forced labor. Transferred to the MHU for “stabilization,” the inmates say they’ve been detained in the mental health unit for longer than necessary in order to turn a profit for the prison’s private operator, Florida-based GEO Group.

Similar challenges have been brought before, though generally in the context of federal immigration detention centers. But what sets Figgs apart is that the case seemingly marks the first time a judge has ruled that a private prison operator can be liable for human trafficking in a punitive setting.

The merits of the case have yet to be litigated, but even if it doesn’t succeed, attorneys say Figgs could represent a major turning point in acceptable prison operations.

“The defendant here is not the government,” said David Frank, a Fort Wayne attorney representing the class plaintiffs. “The defendant is a private, for-profit corporation that has as its business model the exploitation of human beings in violation of human rights.”

Surviving claims

Figgs was initially filed in Henry Circuit Court but was later removed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The named plaintiffs, Figgs and Corbin, each suffer from antisocial personality disorder and serious depression, while Corbin also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The plaintiffs, a class of roughly 100 inmates in the mental health unit, were each sent to the MHU after suffering trauma in prison, the complaint says. They are supposed to remain in the MHU for three to six months, the complaint continues, but “class members are almost always held longer than three months, usually longer than six months at the MHU, and at times for years.”

Frank’s argument included numerous legal claims, including peonage, Eighth and 14th Amendment violations, claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state law torts. But the only claims to survive were two brought under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act: forced labor in violation of 18 United States Code section 1589 and trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1590. Continue reading →

Tired Of Being ‘Dope Sick,’ A Drug User Gets Help From Police To Get Sober

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NPR on 05/26/2019 by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Two key ingredients came together for Shannon McCarty to get off drugs in late 2017: connections and timing.

“The police showed up because they said they got a call that we were shooting up in the car,” Shannon said.

Everett police officer, Inci Yarkut walked up to window of the car where Shannon was living.

“I explained who I was and what my role in the police department was,” Yarkut said, and she gave Shannon a business card. “[I] said, ‘Hey, if there’s something that we can do for you — because I think there are things that we can do for you, that we can help you — give me a call.”

That connection would prove vital for Shannon to get off heroin and meth. And the timing was right for her as well.

Across the country police agencies are re-evaluating how they handle people with addiction. Everett, Wash., is one place where, instead of just arresting people, officers help those with addiction get the services they need. As Shannon’s story shows, sometimes a personal touch can make all the difference.

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Justices reject marijuana ‘pursuit of happiness’ appeal

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The Indiana Lawyer on 5/15/2019

The state’s high court will not partake in arguments that laws criminalizing marijuana violated a man’s right to the pursuit of happiness, snuffing out his challenge to Indiana’s pot prohibition.

Justices of the Indiana Supreme Court last week denied transfer in John L. Solomon v. State of Indiana18A-CR-2041, which posed to the court the novel question of whether laws against marijuana deprived Solomon of his constitutional rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness under Article 1, Section 1, of the Indiana Constitution.

Solomon was arrested after a traffic stop when police found a marijuana blunt near where he had been sitting in the backseat. Police said Solomon claimed nothing in the car was his except the blunt, but at a bench trial more than a year later, he testified he didn’t know about the blunt and that he had told an officer it didn’t belong to him. Solomon was ultimately convicted of Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Although Solomon raised an argument under the Indiana Constitution challenging Indiana’s criminal law against marijuana, the Indiana Court of Appeals declined to accept Solomon’s assertion that his conviction violated his rights.

The COA found the argument waived because it was not raised in the trial court, and that even if it had been justiciable, reversal was not warranted. The COA also held that whether possession of marijuana under the circumstances constituted a criminal offense was a legislative determination, not a judicial one.

Indiana, meanwhile, remains in the minority of states that have not legalized marijuana either for medical or recreational purposes. At least 30 states have done so, but while numerous bills were introduced in the Indiana General Assembly this year that would have legalized marijuana, the bills made little progress.

Former Inmates Are Getting Jobs As Employers Ignore Stigma In Bright Economy

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NPR on 05/23/2019 by Jasmine Garsd

In 1998, Ichard Oden committed a crime that got him sent away for two decades. He was 19.

He got out of prison in February. Today, he’s a 40-year-old man with very little job experience.

As it turns out, Oden is coming back into society at a time when the economy is booming and attitudes toward people with criminal records are changing.

Unemployment in the Detroit metro area has fallen dramatically, to 4.4% from more than 17% just 10 years ago. Nationwide, it’s dropped to a 50-year low of 3.6%. Many employers say they can’t find enough workers. And for Oden and 20 million or so Americans with a felony record, that might mean a much better shot at getting a job and reintegrating into society.

In an increasingly polarized America, the reintegration of felons is a rare issue that has brought together people from very different political backgrounds.

The Obama administration launched the Fair Chance Business Pledge to eliminate barriers for people with a criminal record. Part of that initiative was “banning the box,” the part of a job application that asks if prospective employees have a criminal record. Companies including Google, Starbucks and Coca-Cola signed the pledge. And so far, 35 states have adopted a version of the ban.

With the First Step Act, the Trump administration also has committed to improving the lives of people with criminal records, including offering better education programs to prepare them for release. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have made it one of their marquee causes.

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Domestic violence coalition to offer training on pro bono victim representation

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Indiana Lawyer on 5/20/2019

Attorneys interested in receiving training on modest means and pro bono representation of domestic violence victims will have an opportunity to do so at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana next month.

The Southern District Court announced the “Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence Satellite Attorney Recruitment & Training Program” on Friday. The training aims to increase attorney awareness and participation in the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Satellite Attorney Program, which provides representation and offers free civil legal services to low-income victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Participating attorneys will gain the knowledge necessary to provide civil legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence for a modest means hourly rate.

Kerry Hyatt Bennett, ICADV’s legal counsel, will provide the training on June 28 from noon to 1:30 p.m. Opening remarks will be given by Chief Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson. The event will take place in the court’s Jury Assembly Room, room 172, on the first floor of the Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse, 46 East Ohio St., Indianapolis.

Those interested in attending the free event must be attorneys licensed to practice law in the State of Indiana. Reservation is required no later than June 17 and can be completed here. The event provides 1.5 hours of continuing legal education credit.

More information regarding the event can be found here or by contacting Mary Giorgio at

Bloomington woman shares her journey to sobriety

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CBS Indy 4 on 5/21/2019 by Debby Knox

Crissie Brault

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Crissie Brault is a Bloomington woman whose journey to sobriety has been fraught with arrests, the loss of her children, relapse and for now, sobriety.

Brault entered a rehab facility in Anderson during the summer of 2018, where she agreed to document her daily struggle to remain sober. In the videos, she is brutally honest about facing her fears and the loss of drugs in her life.

“I’m scared. I’m really scared of what’s next, of what’s to come, what’s going to happen,” said Brault in one video entry.

In some videos she is calm, talking about being baptized. In others she recalls nightmares that keep her awake at night and have the potential to trip her up.

“These memories, why does this bother me? This sh** plays in my head over and over and over in my head,” said Brault.

Throughout her time at the facility in Anderson, she made remarkable progress, attending AA and NA classes. But late in her stay, she broke a rule and ended up in the Monroe County Jail.

After five months, Brault expected to be sent to Rockville Prison in the fall of 2018. But Judge Marilyn Diekhoff was willing to give her one more chance. She was sent to the Indiana Center for Recovery in Bloomington. And that’s where she got help with her nightmares.

Brault works with a trauma specialist at the center. And that specialist uses a therapy called EMDR, which stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It’s a therapy involving eye movement and after several sessions, it allowed Brault to reprocess or rethink about the trauma she had endured.

Brault’s story is far from over. She is nearly one year sober and continues to stay in the recovering community in Bloomington, going to classes and volunteering her time. She’s also been fitted with dentures, which is giving her a much-needed confidence boost.

For now, Brault is sober and working to stay that way. We’ll keep you posted on her progress.

It’s estimated there are 23.5 million Americans who have an illicit drug or alcohol problem. Just 2 million will get the help they need. Relapse rates for drug addicts are between 40 and 60 percent.



Statewide e-filing nears completion end as Clinton, Pike connect

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Indiana Lawyer on 5/20/2019

One Indiana county remains to voluntarily implement electronic filing in its circuit and superior courts, wrapping up a years-long effort to make all 92 Indiana counties compliant with a statewide e-filing system.

E-filing became available in Clinton and Pike counties Friday, leaving just Sullivan County to make the digital switch before the year’s end. Clinton Circuit and Superior Courts and Pike Circuit Courts will require mandatory e-filing on July 16 for attorneys filing in those courts.

Sullivan Circuit and Superior Courts are the last to make the transition. The county is scheduled to go voluntarily live on August 9, requiring mandatory e-filing in October.

The Indiana Supreme Court began the rollout of its e-filing initiative in 2015, with an initial goal of completion by the end of 2018. That deadline was extended to reach seven counties — including Sullivan — and is expected to wrap up before 2019 is over, judicial initiative leaders say.

Marion County deputies, community awarded opportunity to help combat opioid crisis

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WTTV 4 on 5/13/2019 by Courtney Crown

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office, along with other community resource leaders, just received enough funding to take part in a nationwide planning initiative to create better care for anyone entering jail while addicted to opioids.

Through this money, a group of five will travel to Washington D.C. twice from July 2019 through February 2020 for two two-day conferences. Marion County is one of 15 communities across the country taking part in the “Planning Initiative to Build Bridges Between Jail and Community-Based Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder.”

The attendees get the chance to talk with experts on administering medications to inmates, educating jail staffers, and creating treatment deadlines. Deputy Chief Tanesha Crear, Jail Division Commander, said planning for the future is critical to former inmates’ health.

“How to make sure that what we start in our facility is continued when these individuals are released back into the community, because a continuum of care is also very important,” Crear stressed.

Drug addiction plagues many inmates entering jails in this country. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance reports one in five inmates abuses opioids.

“It’s enough people that it has grabbed our attention to say something needs to be done,” Crear said.

Currently, the jail offers programs to inmates such as Narcotics Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous and Addictions Education.

“We don’t want to continue to see the same individuals come back here with the same challenges and the same struggles as previous custody stays,” Crear said. “If there is something we can do while they’re here to assist with that holistic treatment upon these doors, we are very committed to doing so.”

The Behavioral Management Unit, along with the medical staff, oversees the detoxing unit to ensure people safely withdrawal. Plus, they partner with community resources and a local hospital for out-patient treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Heroin Anonymous meetings and transitional house after release.

DiSario family files civil suit against Licking County officials in Kirkersville chief death

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Newark Advocate on 5/8/2019 by Michaela Sumner, Newark Advocate

NEWARK – The DiSario family has filed a civil lawsuit against several officials in Licking County Municipal Court, alleging their actions led to the death of Kirkersville police chief Steven Eric DiSario two years ago Sunday.

According to Licking County court records, a complaint was filed in Licking County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday. Plaintiffs in the case include DiSario’s widow, Aryn DiSario, their children, and his mother, Robin Walker.

Court records list Licking County Municipal Court, the City of Newark, Judges David Stansbury and Michael Higgins, probation officers Steven Crawmer, Jessica Massa, Karrie Rice, Vanessa Stalnaker, and three unknown individuals as defendants in the case.

On May 12, 2017, Thomas Hartless killed his former girlfriend Marlina Medrano, newly-hired Kirkersville police chief DiSario, and nurse aide Cindy Krantz at the Pine Kirk Care Center in Kirkersville. Hartless then took his own life.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege by “engaging in such a willful, wanton and reckless manner with complete disregard or caring about the consequences of their ‘unreasonable and unacceptable’ behavior,” the defendants breached their duty of care and that breach caused DiSario’s death.

In the days following the Kirkersville shooting, the Adult Probation Department conducted an internal investigation, resulting in a report detailing mistakes made in the release of Hartless, as well as new procedures put in place to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. Continue reading →

Apply for the 2019 Donald “Charley” Knepple Scholarship Award

Donald “Charley” Knepple

Submit your application to be considered for the Donald “Charley” Knepple Scholarship Award. The winner will be announced at the 2019 Annual Indiana Probation Officers Conference in August.

The qualified candidate chosen for the Scholarship Award will be awarded $2,500.00 to help pay for their costs in continuing his or her education pursuing a Masters / Doctorate Degree.

Download the application that contains Full Information including qualifications

Apply on or before July 12, 2019

Questions? Contact Bob Schuster, Chair of Awards and Recognition Committee at 219-326-6808 Ext. 2511 or your POPAI District Representative.

Supreme Court again hears arguments in fixed-plea sentence modification cases

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The Indiana Lawyer on 5/14/2019 by Katie Stancombe

The Indiana Supreme Court once again granted transfer in two cases dealing with issues of modified fixed-plea sentences, hearing back-to-back oral arguments last week.

Justices on Thursday heard the cases of State v. Stafford 86 N.E.3d 190 (Ind. Ct. App. 2017) and Rodriguez v. State91 N.E.3d 1033 (Ind. Ct. App. 2018). The high court last year remanded the casesto the Indiana Court of Appeals after a 2018 amendment was made to the statutes at question, Indiana Code sections 35-35-1-2 and 35-38-1-17.

Those statutory changes explicitly defined when trial courts could modify fixed-sentences — a point of contention in both cases. The appellate court previously backed the grant of Pebble Stafford’s sentence modification, citing a 2014 amendment to I.C. § 35-38-1-17(1) to support its decision.

Likewise, Rodriguez was denied a motion to modify his sentence because the trial court ruled Indiana statute deprived it of authority to modify his fixed-sentence plea agreement. However, the appellate court reversed that denial in finding the statute did not permit a person to “waive the right to sentence modification under this section as part of a plea agreement.”

On remand, one appellate panel upheld its initial decision in Rodriguez, while another reversed and remanded its ruling in Stafford, finding the trial court was unauthorized to amend the sentence pursuant to the 2018 amendment.

Representing Alberto Baiza Rodriguez, South Bend attorney Jessica Merino presented to the high court last week a continued argument that a retroactive application of the amended 2018 statute would violate Rodriquez’s constitutional rights under the state’s contract clause and would be fundamentally unfair.

She also maintained that the prior version of the modification in statute is plain and unambiguous. Specifically, Merino noted her interpretation is based on I.C. 35-32-1-1, which she argued “provides the reasons why the legislature was making the change in 2014.”

Rodriguez’s position, she said, is that the state constitutional claims, regardless of the federal, would only apply if plea agreements were executed after 2014 and before 2018. She also stressed public policy regarding the statute, which produced concerns from Justice Steven David on her interpretation. Continue reading →

Judges’ shootings: What happened, and what happens next?

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Indiana Lawyer on 5/15/2019

Two Clark County judges are recovering from gunshot wounds in Indianapolis after being shot in downtown Indianapolis earlier this month. Meanwhile, two men accused in the shooting have been released from their bonds after the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file charges.

Clark Circuit Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs sustained injuries during an early-morning shooting on May 1. The shooting happened at about 3:30 a.m. in the parking lot of a downtown Indianapolis White Castle restaurant.

Indianapolis police later arrested 41-year-old Brandon Kaiser and 23-year-old Alfredo Vazquez in connection with the shootings. However, at a May 10 court hearing, both men were released as to their bonds after the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office announced it would not file charges “at this time.” Continue reading →

IU McKinney students bring energy, enthusiasm to re-entry program

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Indiana Lawyer on 5/13/2019 by Marilyn Odendahl

The people who arrive at Magistrate Judge Tim Baker’s courtroom the first Thursday of every month are realizing that the path to redemption requires learning to trust, changing their mindset, sometimes turning away from family and friends, and securing the ordinary things of everyday life like clothes, food and toothpaste. These people are working to find their place and make a contribution to their communities after serving time in federal prison.

Re-entering society is not easy. People are often released with very little and have to rebuild their lives from practically nothing. Largely by themselves, they have to fill their big needs for shelter and employment, as well as their smaller needs for shampoo and deodorant. They even have needs they may not realize, like learning to use the internet.

The men and one woman who gathered in Baker’s courtroom on a recent rainy Thursday afternoon were among those considered at a greater risk of stumbling and returning to incarceration. But seated behind them — figuratively having their backs — was a group of neatly dressed second-year students from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. The students have been meeting monthly with the men and woman for much of the school year, mentoring them and helping them with whatever they need.

While the mentees face numerous obstacles because they carry a stigma rooted in their past incarceration, the students have been undeterred. They call the county clerk’s office and untangle red tape, they visit traffic court, draft resumes, compile lists of job openings, assist in getting driving privileges reinstated, find places for rent, decipher medical insurance policies, get answers for child support problems, and help navigate the maze of enrolling in educational programs. Unconventional tasks like replacing a broken pair of glasses and preparing the articles of incorporation for a business have also been tackled by the team from IU McKinney.

“They are people who really care,” Vernon York said of the law students. “They are all about helping. They do whatever to help you.”

The students and the group in Baker’s courtroom, which included York, are all part of the Re-Entry And Community Help (REACH) program. Implemented in the Southern Indiana District Court in 2007, the program offers support and assistance to individuals starting probation who have been identified as being at medium or high risk of recidivating.

Baker, senior U.S. probation officer Ryan Sharp and assistant U.S. attorney Nick Linder work closely with the REACH participants. They offer encouragement for every goal the participants achieve and demand accountability for the missteps the participants make. At the same time, the law students log many hours helping participants overcome wall after wall after wall they encounter.

“We are a very compassionate society, but I think our system is much more focused on punishment as opposed to rehabilitation,” said IU McKinney student Aleksander Djuricic. “I think the REACH program, what it does is it shows that, through the work that we do, that rehabilitation should be the priority because these people that come out are willing to do the work and willing to put in the work. They just need the resources to be able to do so.”

Unexpected ending, new beginning

Enlisting the energy and enthusiasm of law students was the idea of IU McKinney Professor Lahny Silva. When Silva was contacted by now-Magistrate Judge Doris Pryor and asked for ideas to shape the REACH program, the petite woman whose speech is sprinkled with a Boston accent immediately thought of her classes.

Silva’s scholarship and research have focused on criminal justice and re-entry. Yet when Judge Larry McKinney, the individual who started REACH and provided the emotional fuel to keep it running, asked her why she wanted to be part of the program, she told him the truth.

“I come from a family of felons,” she said to the judge, explaining she has relatives who have struggled with addiction and were involved in dealing. “I grew up in (Narcotics Anonymous). This is my demographic.”

The REACH participants benefit because law students, Silva said, do not give up until they win, or until she tells them there is no more that can be done. In return, the law students not only get practical experience, but they also meet and hear the stories of individuals they might not otherwise encounter.

Without the program, Silva believes the students would “go on to be lawyers in the ivory tower, and they lose their grounding.”

Two students started working with REACH in 2015, and soon, Silva said, things “were thumping,” with the program expanding into Judge Tanya Walton Pratt’s courtroom in February 2017. But in September 2017, heartbreak barged in when McKinney died unexpectedly.

Silva still cries when remembering her REACH colleague and friend. “He brought me in and allowed me to do something I didn’t even realize I would be good at and that I loved,” she said. Just as devastating, she was certain the program would end without McKinney.

But Baker, who began his career serving as a law clerk for Judge McKinney, believed the program was “too important not to be involved.” So, he took over his mentor’s duties and began shepherding the participants. Continue reading →

ACLU report highlights Indiana’s prison problem

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Indiana Lawyer on 5/13/2019

While acknowledging Indiana’s efforts to reform its criminal justice system has slowed the growth of the state’s prison population, a new report by the ACLU of Indiana asserts that additional reforms, including expanded access to treatment for mental health and substance abuse, could reduce the number of incarcerated by 50 percent and save Hoosier taxpayers more than $541 million by 2025.

The report released Monday is part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Smart Justice 50-State Blueprints project. Included in the overview of Indiana’s incarcerated is an analysis of who is being sent to jail and prison, the racial disparities, what drives people into the penal system, how long people spend behind bars and why people are imprisoned for so long.

It also contains a map for ending mass incarceration. Specifically, the report outlines steps to reduce admissions, decrease time served, reduce admissions and lower disability disparities.

“The mass incarceration crisis, in Indiana and across the country, has taken a huge toll on families and communities, and has wasted trillions of taxpayer dollars,” said Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana executive director. “The current system has failed, disproportionately affecting communities of color. Legislative, policing and prosecutorial reform must be specific to combating these disparities.”

Key finding from the report’s analysis of Indiana include:

  • 77 percent of Indiana’s jails are at capacity or overcrowded.
  • More than half of the estimated 27,187 people in Indiana county jails have not been convicted of a crime and are awaiting trial.
  • 24 percent of people in Indiana prisons are serving time for a drug offense.
  • One in three people in Indiana prisons is serving 20 years or more.
  • Black Hoosiers were imprisoned at more than five times the rate of whites.
  • The number of women in the state’s prisons grew 9 percent between 2009 and 2019 even though the male prison population dropped 4 percent.
  • 34 percent of the people released from Indiana prisons in 2014 were reincarcerated within three years.

To reduce the number of people being incarcerated, the ACLU of Indiana said Indiana must “break its overreliance on jails and prisons” as a way to hold people accountable for their crimes.

The report advocates for a number of strategies to reduce admissions, including establishing a statewide holistic public defender service that provides not only access to an attorney but also to social services for assistance in finding housing, employment, and treatment. It also calls for decriminalizing personal drug use and possession in favor of approaching the problem as a public health concern.

To reduce the time served, the report calls for the elimination of mandatory minimums, expanding the availability of earned credits and allowing for compassionate release of aging and seriously injured or ill individuals.

People with mental illness are twice as likely to be arrested and are sentenced to prison terms that are, on average, 12 percent longer that people without a mental illness. The report proposes investing in pretrial diversion, ending custodial arrest and incarceration for low-level public order charges, and requiring prosecutors to offer diversion for individuals with mental health and substance use needs who are charged with nonserious offenses.

“This crisis goes deeper than just criminal justice policy reform,” said Henegar. “We are proud to stand with community partners to support long-needed reform to the criminal justice system and reforms to the many systems that have failed to adequately support individuals in our community, ultimately and unnecessarily resulting in their incarceration. We must address inadequacies throughout our education, healthcare and economic systems, to name a few.”

The Use of Naloxone by Community Supervision Agencies

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APPA on 4/1/2019 by APPA Technology Committee

The U.S. Surgeon General has recommended that all individuals who may come into contact with opioid abusers carry and know how to use naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug that saves lives (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018). Because community supervision agencies regularly interact with opioid abusers, it is important they consider equipping staff with naloxone. This paper outlines why agencies should consider adding naloxone to their toolkit and provides guidance for successful implementation.

Drug overdose has become a national crisis that affects every segment of the population. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that in the 12-month period ending in October 2017, over 68,000 Americans died from drug overdose–a 12% increase from the previous year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Statistics Rapid Release, 2018). This is the largest number ever recorded and equates to an average of more than 187 overdose-related deaths per day.

These statistics are largely driven by the opioid epidemic that is plaguing the United States. Opioids are a large family of drugs that include illegal substances such as heroin, synthetic drugs such as fentanyl and methadone,
and prescription pain relievers such as morphine or codeine. Blue Cross and Blue Shield reports that the number of opioid use disorder diagnoses increased over 490% between 2010 and 2016 (Blue Cross/Blue Shield, 2017). Opioids are now responsible for more than 68% of all overdose deaths, with nearly 45,000 Americans dying from opioid overdoses in the 12-month period ending in October 2017 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Statistics Rapid Release, 2018). As a result, several states and the federal government have officially declared the opioid addiction crisis a public health emergency.

Justice-involved individuals are disproportionately represented among substance abusers (National Institutes of Health, 2018). Further, those recently released from correctional facilities (many of whom are under some form of community supervision) are at an elevated risk of death due to drug overdose (Binswanger, Stern, Deyo, Heagerty, Cheadle, Elmore & Koepsell, 2007). This increased risk is attributable to a number of factors, including the psychological stress of reentry and the danger of immediately returning to pre-incarceration levels of drug use. Underscoring this risk, one study, conducted in Washington State, found former inmates died at a rate 12.7 times higher than the general population, with drug overdose the leading cause of death during the two-week period following release (Ibid).

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the adverse effects associated with an opioid overdose. Because community supervision officers regularly encounter opioid abusers and may themselves be vulnerable to exposure overdose, agencies should consider the pros and cons of equipping staff with naloxone.

Download full paper.