Maryland’s prisons are no place to get sick. The state’s audits and correctional system records show that the prison health care system has been underfunded, understaffed, and poorly run, says the Baltimore Sun. A Sun investigation found that many inmates over the past five years have received inadequate medical attention, according to interviews, independent state audits, internal state records, and other documents. Maryland corrections officials acknowledge underfunding and providing spotty oversight of the state’s main medical contractor, Tennessee-based Prison Health Service Inc. “We believe [health care] was constitutionally adequate,” said Richard Rosenblatt of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. “But it was not the type of health care we felt we should be delivering.”
Prison Health executives say they provided appropriate care to inmates, despite rapidly escalating health care costs and a contract the company signed in 2000 that turned out to be a money-loser. Prison Health’s Maryland contract expires June 30. The state has selected other vendors to provide services for the state’s 27,000 inmates in a restructured system. Over the next fiscal year, the state expects to pay roughly 60 percent more for inmate health care services – $110 million compared with $68 million spent last year. Some prisoner advocates doubt that the situation will improve despite the additional money and change in contractors. They say profit motives will continue to influence the quality of care that prisoners receive.