12-01-2021  11:52 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Dozens of Oregon Workers Fired for Not Getting COVID Shot

Officials in Oregon say at least 99 state workers have been fired for failing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Attorney General Rosenblum Says She Won’t Run for Governor

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on Monday put to rest rumors and officially said she will not enter Oregon’s crowded race for governor.

Portland’s Black Population Grew in the Last Decade, but That’s Not the Whole Story

The Black population in North and Northeast Portland declined by 13.5% over the last 10 years as more than 3,000 Black residents moved away, new numbers from the 2020 census show.

City’s Budget Windfall Means More for Police, Despite NAACP Demands

Group calls out lack of engagement from City Hall.

NEWS BRIEFS

Open Enrollment Deadline Is Dec. 15 for Health Insurance Coverage Starting Jan. 1, 2022

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Commissioners From Three Counties Select Lawrence-Spence to Fill Senate District 18 Vacancy

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Congressional Black Caucus Issues a Statement on the Passing of Former Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek

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Vsp Global Partners With Black EyeCare Perspective to Eliminate Inequities and Increase Representation of People of Color in the Eye Care Industry

Partnership includes scholarships, leadership development, and outreach to prospective optometrists ...

Shop Local and Earn Free Parking With Parking Kitty

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Longtime Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio won't seek reelection

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Rep. Peter DeFazio, the longest serving U.S. House member in Oregon’s history and a staunch advocate for environmental issues, said Wednesday he is retiring and will not seek reelection next year The 74-year-old Democrat is the powerful chairman of the...

Kentucky author and 'Merry Prankster' Ed McClanahan dies

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Ed McClanahan, a Kentucky author, teacher and friend of counterculture icon Ken Kesey, died Saturday at his home in Lexington, according to his wife. He was 89. McClanahan lived in Lexington with his wife Hilda, who remembered him as a “great man.” ...

No. 25 Arkansas beats Missouri, caps best season since 2011

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Sam Pittman grinned for almost the entirety of his postgame press conference Friday night. The Arkansas coach and his team had done something no others ever had. The No. 25 Razorbacks capped their regular season with a 34-17 victory over Missouri,...

Mizzou's Drinkwitz returning to Arkansas for rivalry game

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Just 45 miles of interstate highway separate Eli Drinkwitz from where he started and where he is now as Missouri's head football coach. Raised in the small Arkansas town of Alma, Drinkwitz will come full circle Friday when his Tigers visit No. 25...

OPINION

State is Painting Lipstick on Its One-of-a-kind, Long-term-care Law

Starting in January, the unpopular law imposes a stiff new tax of 58 cents per 0 earned for every worker in the state ...

Giving Thanks

Just by being alive we can be sure of having moments of sadness as well as happiness. When you’re active in politics, you experience both wins and losses. Sometimes it can be hard to feel grateful. ...

Acting on Climate will Require an Emphasis on Environmental Justice

Climate change affects us all, but its effects aren’t distributed equally. ...

Small Businesses Cannot Survive With Current Level of Postal Service

At The Skanner News office we received an important piece of correspondence that was postmarked June 12, 2021, and delivered to us on November 4, 2021. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Biden HIV/AIDS strategy calls racism 'public health threat'

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration in its new HIV/AIDS strategy calls racism “a public health threat” that must be fully recognized as the world looks to end the epidemic. The strategy released Wednesday on the annual commemoration of World AIDS Day is meant to...

Study: WNBA again earns A-plus grades in diversity hiring

A diversity report has awarded the WNBA earning high grades again when it comes to racial- and gender-hiring practices. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida Wednesday issued an A-plus to the WNBA for the league’s overall, racial and gender...

Alabama governor honors state's first Black poet laureate

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey recognized the state's first Black poet laureate, a creative writing teacher who delves into inequality and the difficulty of being Black in America, on Wednesday in the same building where Southern delegates voted to form the Confederacy 160 years...

ENTERTAINMENT

Q&A: Mel Brooks, 95, is still riffing

NEW YORK (AP) — Leave it to Mel Brooks to blurb his own memoir. There, along with laudatory quotes from Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Conan O'Brien and others is one from “M. Brooks," who hails “All About Me!” as: "Not since the Bible have I read anything so powerful and...

Louis Vuitton show pays tribute to designer Virgil Abloh

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Louis Vuitton's first ever U.S. fashion show turned into a somber yet whimsical tribute to groundbreaking designer Virgil Abloh days after his death. The Miami menswear event, an unofficial kickoff to the prestigious Art Basel fair, had been in the...

CNN suspends Chris Cuomo for helping brother in scandal

NEW YORK (AP) — CNN indefinitely suspended anchor Chris Cuomo on Tuesday after details emerged about how he helped his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to face charges of sexual harassment earlier this year. The network said documents released by New York's attorney...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Explosion of WWII bomb in Munich injures 4, disrupts trains

BERLIN (AP) — A World War II bomb exploded at a construction site next to a busy railway line in Munich on...

Putin demands NATO guarantees not to expand eastward

MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow would seek Western guarantees precluding any...

Outside Supreme Court, crowd amplifies abortion arguments

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EU chief calls for debate on making COVID-19 jabs mandatory

BRUSSELS (AP) — The chief of the European Union's executive arm said Wednesday that EU nations should consider...

Iceland police say homemade bomb found in Reykjavik dumpster

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — Three men were arrested after a homemade bomb was found in a residential neighborhood...

Man arrested after breaching security at UK Parliament

LONDON (AP) — A man was arrested Wednesday after breaching security at Britain’s Parliament. ...

David Crary AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- In corrections systems nationwide, officials are grappling with decisions about geriatric units, hospices and medical parole as elderly inmates - with their high rates of illness and infirmity - make up an ever increasing share of the prison population.

At a time of tight state budgets, it's a trend posing difficult dilemmas for policymakers. They must address soaring medical costs for these older inmates and ponder whether some can be safely released before their sentences expire.

The latest available figures from 2010 show that 8 percent of the prison population - 124,400 inmates - was 55 or older, compared to 3 percent in 1995, according to a report being released Friday by Human Rights Watch. This oldest segment grew at six times the rate of the overall prison population between 1995 and 2010, the report says.

"Prisons were never designed to be geriatric facilities," said Jamie Fellner, a Human Rights Watch special adviser who wrote the report. "Yet U.S. corrections officials now operate old age homes behind bars."

The main reasons for the trend, Fellner said, are the long sentences, including life without parole, that have become more common in recent decades, boosting the percentage of inmates unlikely to leave prison before reaching old age, if they leave at all. About one in 10 state inmates is serving a life sentence; an additional 11 percent have sentences longer than 20 years.

The report also notes an increase in the number of offenders entering prison for crimes committed when they were over 50. In Ohio, for example, the number of new prisoners in that age group jumped from 743 in 2000 to 1,815 in 2010, according to the report.

Fellner cited the case of Leonard Hudson, who entered a New York prison at age 68 in 2002 on a murder conviction and will be eligible for parole when he's 88. He's housed in a special unit for men with dementia and other cognitive impairments, Fellner said.

A.T. Wall, director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections and president of the Association of State Correctional Administrators, said he and his colleagues regularly exchange ideas on how to cope with the surging numbers of older prisoners.

"We are accustomed to managing large numbers of inmates, and it's a challenge to identify particular practices that need to be put into place for a subset," he said. "There are no easy solutions."

Wall said prison officials confront such questions as whether to retrofit some cells with grab bars and handicap toilets, how to accommodate inmates' wheelchairs, and how to deal with inmates who no longer understand instructions.

"Dementia can set in, and an inmate who was formerly easy to manage becomes very difficult to manage," he said.

States are trying to meet the needs. Some examples:

-Washington state opened an assisted living facility at its Coyote Ridge prison complex in 2010, with a capacity of 74 inmates. It's reserved for inmates with a disability who are deemed to pose little security risk.

-The Louisiana State Penitentiary has had a hospice program for more than a decade, staffed by fellow prisoners who provide dying inmates with care ranging from changing diapers to saying prayers.

-In Massachusetts, a new corrections master plan proposes one or more new facilities to house aging inmates who need significant help with daily living. Some critics object, saying inmates shouldn't get specialized care that might not be available or affordable for members of the public.

-Montana's corrections department is seeking bids for a 120-bed prison that would include assisted-living facilities for some elderly inmates and others who need special care.

In Texas, legislators have been considering several options for addressing the needs of infirm, elderly inmates. State Rep. Jerry Madden, chairman of the House Corrections Committee, said no decisions have been made as the experts try to balance cost factors and public safety.

"You can't just generalize about these prisoners," he said. "Some are still extremely dangerous, some may not be.... Some you wouldn't want in the same assisted living facility with your parents or grandparents."

Fellner, who visited nine states and 20 prisons during her research, said corrections officials often were constrained by tight budgets, lack of support from elected officials, and prison architecture not designed to accommodate the elderly.

She noted that prison policies traditionally were geared to treat all inmates on an equal basis. So it may not be easy for prison officials to consider special accommodations for aging inmates, whether it be extra blankets, shortcuts to reduce walking distance, or sparing them from assignments to upper bunks.

The report said the number of aging prisoners will continue to grow unless there are changes to tough-on-crime policies such as long mandatory sentences and reduced opportunities for parole.

"How are justice and public safety served by the continued incarceration of men and women whose bodies and minds have been whittled away by age?" Fellner asked.

One of the problems facing prisons is that many of their health care staff lack expertise in caring for the elderly, according to Linda Redford, director of the geriatric education center at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

"It's a big struggle for them to keep up," said Redford, who has helped train prison staff and inmates in geriatric care.

"They're used to having to deal with issues of younger prisoners, such as HIV and substance abuse," she said.

Under a Supreme Court ruling, inmates are guaranteed decent medical care, but they lack their own insurance and states must pay the full cost. In Georgia, according to Fellner's report, inmates 65 and older had an average yearly medical cost of $8,565, compared with $961 for those under 65.

Redford said the challenges are compounded because inmates' health tends to decline more rapidly than that of other Americans of the same age due to long-term problems with drug use and poor health care.

"In the general population, 65 doesn't seem that old," Redford said. "In prison, there are 55-year-olds looking like they're 75."

Many states have adopted early release programs targeted at older inmates who are judged to pose little threat to public safety. However, a 2010 study by the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City found the laws were used infrequently, in part because of political considerations and complex review procedures.

Redford said a common problem is finding nursing homes or other assisted-living facilities that will accept released inmates who have family to live with.

"Nursing homes don't want former felons," she said. "Some states are looking at starting long-term care facilities outside prison for that could take care of parolees."

For inmates who are terminally ill and have no close family on the outside, it's probably more humane to let them die in prison if there's a hospice program available, Redford said.

"The inmates who are volunteering are at those guys' sides when they die - they're really committed to making the last days as comfortable as possible," Redford said. "They're not going to get that on the outside."

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Online:

Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/

Association of State Correctional Administrators: http://www.asca.net/

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David Crary can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP

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