After two years of complaints about health care in Florida’s prisons, Corizon Health, the private company that has been responsible for the largest share of inmate care, has decided not to renew its $1.1 billion contract with the state, leaving the future of care for 74,000 inmates in limbo when the company pulls out in six months, reports the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times bureau in Tallahassee. The decision by the Tennessee-based company to terminate the contract that was scheduled to expire in 2018 came as the Florida Department of Corrections was attempting to renegotiate the agreement amid reports of inmate maltreatment, chronic understaffing and rising numbers of unnatural inmate deaths.
Corizon said, “We have tried to address the department’s concerns but have found the terms of the current contract too constraining. At this point, we believe the best way to move forward is to focus our efforts on a successful transition to a new provider.” In February, Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones was ordered to renegotiate the contract by Sen. Greg Evers, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, after reports by the Herald and other news organizations showed suspicious inmate deaths were covered up or never reviewed, staffing was inadequate, and inmate grievances and complaints of harmful medical care were dismissed or ignored. Audits conducted by the state’s Correctional Medical Authority found problems with inadequate medical care, nursing and staffing shortages. Last year, 346 inmates died in Florida prisons, 176 of them listed with no immediate cause of death.