The private firm Prison Health Services has moved aggressively into New York State and elsewhere, winning jail contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars with an enticing sales pitch, says the New York Times: Take the messy, expensive job of providing medical care from government and give it to an experienced nationwide outfit that could recruit doctors, battle lawsuits, and keep costs down. A yearlong examination of Prison Health by the Times showed “repeated instances of medical care that has been flawed and sometimes lethal. The company’s performance around the nation has provoked criticism from judges and sheriffs, lawsuits from inmates’ families and whistle-blowers, and condemnations by federal, state and local authorities. The company has paid millions of dollars in fines and settlements.”
The Times quotes state investigators as saying that Prison Health provided “medical staffs trimmed to the bone, doctors underqualified or out of reach, nurses doing tasks beyond their training, prescription drugs withheld, patient records unread, and employee misconduct unpunished.” Prison Health has 86 contracts in 28 states, and cares for 237,000 inmates, or about one in every 10 people behind bars. The company sais that any lapses are far outnumbered by successes, and that many cities and states have been pleased with its work. Company officials say that many complaints from litigious inmates, disgruntled employees, and overzealous investigators come with the challenging work they have taken on.