Averting Crisis: Safe Withdrawal in Jail Settings

(Chicago) – Lawsuits and news coverage across the country point to an alarming issue faced by jails: people are going into withdrawal from opioids, alcohol, or other substances while in jail and facing extreme discomfort and sometimes death. From 2010 to 2015, families in at least six states were awarded nearly $11 million in compensation for loved ones who died while being denied routine withdrawal management care in jails.

Jurisdictions can save lives and reduce their possible exposure to costly and time-consuming litigation by creating and enacting policies that ensure adequate care for individuals experiencing withdrawal while in jail. In order to support these efforts, the Center for Health and Justice at TASC has developed a brief for jail administrators, public safety leaders, and county and state policymakers. This brief contains information about safe withdrawal management in jail and resources to aid in developing these procedures.

As the opioid crisis continues, jails across the country are encountering people who are actively using heroin and other opioids and who may go into withdrawal while in jail. Abrupt discontinuation of non-opioid substances, including alcohol and benzodiazepines, can also cause withdrawal.

Jail administrators and personnel play an instrumental role in addressing these issues. They are legally responsible to care for the health and safety of people detained in their facilities and are often involved in identifying and addressing acute and chronic health issues, including substance use disorders. As the opioid crisis endures, jails face a growing need to save lives and reduce their own exposure to litigation risk by ensuring safe withdrawal from illicit opioids and other substances while in jail.

  • A recent national survey found that only 22 percent of individuals serving sentences in jails who met diagnostic criteria for substance abuse or dependence received any type of drug treatment while incarcerated, and only 2 percent of them were provided withdrawal management services.
  • Between 2014 and 2016, at least 20 lawsuits were filed alleging that individuals in jail died from opiate withdrawal complications.
  • Previous court rulings have indicated that failure to provide incarcerated individuals medical treatment for withdrawal symptoms or forcing them to go through withdrawal without proper medical supervision may be a violation of constitutional rights.

“Providing adequate care to people going through withdrawal in jail is a win-win-win—counties reduce their exposure to risk, people going through withdrawal in jail avoid the possibility of an unwarranted death sentence, and their families and friends don’t lose their loved one to a really horrible death,” said Brad Bullock, TASC’s area administrator in southeast Illinois. “From both an ethical and a pragmatic standpoint, enacting these procedures is the right thing to do.”

Several advisory organizations provide guidelines or standards on the provision of care for individuals who are going through withdrawal syndrome while in correctional custody, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the World Health Organization, and the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare. These organizations call on jails that do not already have sufficient withdrawal management protocols to develop them, and to hire and train staff to respond to withdrawal and the associated symptoms.

There is consensus that medically supervised withdrawal is ideal whenever possible. Partnerships with local medical providers can help jails safely manage withdrawal syndrome. Additionally, relationships with drug treatment providers can help jails connect people to needed treatment upon release.

The Center for Health and Justice at TASC helps states, counties, and local jurisdictions develop practical, collaborative strategies for improving community health, reducing re-arrest, and saving public dollars.

For more information, please contact Laura Brookes, TASC’s director of policy.

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Heroes of TASC Honored at Luncheon; Judge Louis B. Garippo and Publisher Isaac Lewis Receive Leadership Awards

(Chicago, IL) — More than 300 people filled the ballroom of the InterContinental Chicago on June 10 to celebrate and honor the achievements of extraordinary citizens who have championed and embodied the ideals of social justice and public service.

TASC President Melody Heaps, Board Chairman Rev. Calvin Morris, Public Voice Honoree Isaac Lewis, Jr., and Executive Vice President Pam Rodriguez

TASC President Melody Heaps, Board Chairman Rev. Calvin Morris, Public Voice Honoree Isaac Lewis, Jr., and Executive Vice President Pam Rodriguez. Photo by Paul Merideth.

TASC Board Chairman Rev. Calvin Morris offered the invocation, and recognized Melody Heaps for her passion and leadership, which Rev. Morris first observed in the 1960s when both were community organizers on Chicago’s west side.

 
 
 
Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald congratulates Lou Garippo on receiving TASC's 2009 Justice Leadership Award. Photo by Paul Merideth.

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald congratulates Lou Garippo on receiving TASC's 2009 Justice Leadership Award. Photo by Paul Merideth.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jack Conaty, chief political reporter for WFLD-TV, graciously served as MC for the event. “I believe strongly that addiction is the number one health problem in the United States,” he said. “I also believe that treatment is the answer to addiction, not incarceration, particularly for nonviolent offenders.”
WFLD Chief Political Correspondent Jack Conaty and TASC Communications Director Daphne Baille

WFLD Chief Political Correspondent Jack Conaty and TASC Communications Director Daphne Baille. Photo by Monica Hubert.

Melody Heaps praised Louis Garippo for his 50 years of dedication, fairness, and wisdom as a respected attorney and criminal court judge. Mr. Garippo, who served as TASC’s board chairman for 20 years, accepted TASC’s Justice Leadership Award with typical grace and humility. He praised his wife Colette, his children, and past and current colleagues in the judiciary and legal community. He also expressed his sincere admiration for TASC’s staff: “They are absolutely dedicated to seeing that the patients under their care escape the burdens of their addiction.”

 TASC Executive Vice President Pam Rodriguez presented TASC’s Public Voice Leadership Award to Isaac Lewis, Jr., founding publisher and CEO of the North Lawndale Community News, community leader, and a long-ago TASC client. Mr Lewis spoke of the importance of community and the value of an array of recovery supports. “I learned along the way that you need help sometimes. When I was incarcerated in Cook County Jail, I needed help. And I heard about TASC…”

TASC Vice President Peter Palanca introduced Glenn Blackmon, professional contractor and business owner. Mr. Blackmon talked about the first time he came to TASC’s Halsted office as a building contractor, and the memories it awoke in him from years ago when he came to TASC for services. “I was once a TASC client, and now TASC is my client.” 

Glenn Blackmon, owner of Detail Construction, and TASC Executive Vice President Pam Rodriguez

Glenn Blackmon, owner of Detail Construction, and TASC Executive Vice President Pam Rodriguez. Photo by Monica Hubert.

Now a successful businessman, Mr. Blackmon says that after he completes a contracting job, “customers walk in and say, ‘Wow, this is a lot better than I expected.’ This statement also applies to my life after treatment – it’s a lot better than I expected.”

Brad Bullock and TASC Program Administrator Sandy Kiehna

Brad Bullock and TASC Program Administrator Sandy Kiehna. Photo by Paul Merideth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brad Bullock also shared his story of recovery and redemption. Mr. Bullock came from a troubled family and was repeatedly arrested and incarcerated as a teen, and few had hope for him. The words of a TASC caseworker changed his life when she said, “Nobody gets to choose their parents. You’re 17 now – you have to choose your path.” And he did. From chronic delinquency, drug use, and incarceration, Brad changed his life 21 years ago with TASC’s help. His path has included college, graduate school, marriage, fatherhood, and religious and civic leadership. He is also a respected caseworker and client advocate at TASC.

TASC’s executives also expressed gratitude for everyone in attendance, and all our donors who have made possible the successes of Isaac, Glenn, Brad, and thousands of others.

Ms. Heaps shared the news of calamitous funding cuts to drug treatment that are set to be implemented July 1 unless Governor Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, and House Minority Leader Tom Cross can come to a state budget resolution that funds these services. 

Ms. Heaps asked that anyone who believes in the value of TASC and treatment, as exemplified by those who shared their stories, to consider taking action in their private and civic lives.