Corizon Health Inc., is under growing pressure after losing five state prison contracts, downgrades by credit analysts and increased scrutiny of inmate care, reports the Associated Press. Corizon, whose responsibility for 345,000 inmates at prisons and jails in 27 states makes it the biggest U.S. for-profit correctional health provider, is one of many firms using a similar model to vie for the billions of dollars states and counties spend on prisoner care. The growth of the for-profit prison care industry raises questions about how to divide expensive, complicated responsibilities between public agencies and private companies. States spend nearly $8 billion a year on prison health care, about a fifth of their corrections budgets, says a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation.
The spending reflects inmates who are much more likely than the general population to have a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Many have had little regular contact with doctors or other health care providers before they're locked up, allowing chronic conditions and infectious diseases to worsen. A rising population of older inmates requires more care, even as spending taxpayer money on doctoring for the accused and convicted remains politically unpopular. “The fundamental problem is not this company or that company. … The problem is a structure that creates incentives to cut corners and deny care to powerless people that have no other options,” said David Fathi of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project.