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PLN editor quoted about private prison medical care companies

Tampa Tribune, Aug. 13, 2014.

Some companies vying for Hillsborough jail contract have pasts to overcome

By Keith Morelli | Tribune Staff Keith Morelli on Google+ 
Published: August 13, 2014

treat sick and injured jail inmates. As they sort through seven bids, they have to weigh not only what the businesses promise to provide in the future but what they have done right - and wrong - in the past.

Armor Correctional Health Services has treated sick and injured inmates at the Falkenburg Road and Orient Road jails since 2010. The monthly fee charged varies depending on the average number of inmates at the county’s two lock-ups, which combined has a capacity of more than 4,100.

So far this fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, the sheriff’s office has paid Armor nearly $17.6 million for its services, jail records show.

That doesn’t include a claim in which the jail was forced to settle in the death of an inmate two years ago.

The inmate had suffered a stroke and was misdiagnosed by an Armor nurse. The man died, resulting in a $1 million settlement for the family, of which Armor paid $8000,000 and the county the remainder.

Whether that incident will figure in as a deciding factor in the ongoing bid process remains unknown. Armor had a contract with the Pinellas County Jail, but that contract was terminated in June, a Pinellas spokeswoman said. The jail now provides its own medical care.

Some of the other companies bidding for the Hillsborough jail job, which is for a three-year term with options to extend it to five years, have similar pasts to overcome, according to public documents and published reports.

Corizon Health is a Tennessee corporation which as been in business for 35 years. This year alone, Corizon landed three contracts to provide health care for inmates, including a $100-million, three-year contract for care at the Fresno County Jail in California, according to a news release from the company in March.

Last year, Corizon signed a five-year, $1.2 billion contract to provide care for state prison inmates in 41 Florida institutions, even though the company was sued hundreds of times for malpractice over the previous five years, according to a recent story in the Miami Herald.

One of the cases, involving an inmate in Lee County, ended with an award of $1.2 million in 2011 after Corizon health providers failed to properly diagnose a spider bite, which eventually resulted in spasms, intestinal and nerve problems and a hospital stay, according to the Herald.

Three years ago, Maine dumped Corizon after suits were filed by a variety of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union. A year later, the Maine Department of Corrections contracted with Correct Care Solutions, another company vying for the Hillsborough County jail job.

“While CCS has been open to increased transparency and dialog with prisoners’ advocates,” the ACLU said in a February statement, “several concerns remained and have gone unaddressed by the Maine Department of Corrections despite requests from advocacy groups.”

Wexford Health Sources, also among the bidders for the Hillsborough County jail job, last year signed a five-year, $240 million contract to care for prisoners in nine South Florida lock-ups.

According to published reports, Wexford was the subject of more than 1,000 civil claims between 2008 and 2012, settling a handful of the cases for a total of over $5 million.

Wexford lost its contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections last year after questions arose over the quality of care for inmates there.

“There’s no question that over the past year Wexford has been providing abysmal care to Arizona prisoners with serious medical and mental health needs,” ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Dan Pochoda said in a prepared statement.

Arizona officials selected another for-profit health care agency to take Wexford’s place: Corizon.

Pochoda said that switch won’t help prisoners.

“Merely replacing one for-profit prison contractor with another will only prolong the crisis in Arizona’s prisons, Pochoda said. “There is no reason to think that anything will change under Corizon.”

Wexford claims among its clients four South Florida state prisons, and a recent audit gave the health care provider high marks. The American Correctional Association audits scored all four sites at 100 percent compliant with the association’s mandatory medical standards.

Since 1992, Wexford Health has signed contracts with more than 270 correctional and other institutions in 13 states along with county jails scattered across the country.

Also bidding for the Hillsborough County jail job:

♦  Correct Care Solutions, a Tennessee corporation founded in 2003 which currently employs more than 5,000 workers and cares for about 100,000 inmates in 31 states, according to the company’s website.

Among its clients: the Kentucky Department of Corrections, which signed Correct Care Solutions to a two-year contract last month worth nearly $100 million to care for inmates in a dozen state institutions.

♦  Correctional Healthcare Companies, based in Colorado, is nationwide and has been “fully integrated” since 2011, though part of the company had been offering inmate health-care services since 1992.

Among its clients: the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, N.M., where earlier this year, a former inmate filed a lawsuit saying the jail and Correctional Healthcare, was to blame for poor quality medical care. The jail and the health provider denied the allegations in court.

♦  Correctional Medical Care of Pennsylvania, holds contracts for health care services in 14 New York corrections institutions. Founded in 2001, Correctional Medical Care has about 300 employees.

Three years ago, the company’s president was named in a federal lawsuit over the firing of an employee in New York, according to Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, which reports on criminal justice issues and prison- and jail-related civil litigation. The employee said in the suit she and her boss were having an affair, which she said led to her firing.

The suit does not appear to have had an impact on service offered at the New York prisons and jails; corrections officials there have said they are satisfied with the quality of care in their institutions.

NaphCare, founded in 1989 and headquartered in Alabama, recently signed a contract to provide medical care to a federal institution in Marianna, located in the Florida Panhandle. The prison houses 1,300 medium-security male inmates and 260 female inmates in an adjacent minimum-security satellite prison camp, according to a news release issued by the company earlier this month.

Part of the scope of service covers health care inside the institution, while another part coordinates off-site services, including medical specialists and access to nearby hospitals.

NaphCare currently administers medical care in 11 county jails, none in Florida, and a handful of federal facilities for inmates across the country.

The job of caring for sick and injured inmates in Hillsborough County is a large one. The sheriff’s office current contract with Armor is for $20 million this fiscal year. Sheriff’s officials are scheduled to announce next week which company has won the bid.

Whichever corporation gets the bid will provide medical physician services, nursing services, dental services, social work, mental health services and pharmaceuticals. The agency also is responsible for on and off-site medical services, X-ray and laboratory services, supplies, equipment, records and personnel management services.

Paul Wright is the editor of the Prison Legal News, and is an advocate for prisoners’ rights. He said he’s against the idea of a for-profit business model caring for prisoners.

The companies make money by holding down expenses and one way to do that, he said, is to skimp on health-care services for prisoners.

“All too often taxpayers pay money for services,” he said, “that are not being provided.”

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