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.”
Going to prison doesn't spare patients from having to pay medical copays. In response to the rapidly rising cost of providing health care, states are increasingly authorizing the collection of fees from prisoners for medical services they get in state prisons or local jails. At least 38 states now do it, says the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and Stateline. The fees are typically small, $20 or less. States must waive them when a prisoner is unable to pay but still needs care, in keeping with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prisoners have a constitutional right to “adequate” health care.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would not renew the contract of Corizon Health Inc. to provide medical care at the Rikers Island jail complex, the New York Times reports. The decision ends the company's troubled 15-year history at the city's jails, and it highlights the enormous challenge of providing quality health care to Rikers inmates. Yesterday, the city's Department of Investigation reported that the company had hired doctors and mental health workers with disciplinary problems and criminal convictions, including for murder and kidnapping. It said missteps by Corizon employees may have contributed to at least two recent inmate deaths. The city has tried repeatedly to replace the company with a nonprofit hospital or health care provider, but had difficulty persuading anyone even to submit a bid, according to current and former government officials.
A scathing report by court-approved researchers paints a bleak picture of Illinois prison medical care, describing treatment delays, haphazard follow-up care, chaotic record keeping and a litany of other problems that may have cut short the lives of some inmates, reports the Associated Press. The 405-page report, which the Illinois Department of Corrections disputed, was filed yesterday in federal court in Chicago in a class-action suit against the agency, which oversees 49,000 inmates statewide. The report concludes that “Illinois has been unable to meet minimal constitutional standards with regards to the adequacy of its health care program.” The state says the authors should not have drawn sweeping conclusions after visiting just eight of 25 Illinois prison facilities. The experts reviewed a sample of 63 Illinois prisoner deaths from illness in recent years and found “significant lapses” in care in 60 percent of those cases.
The performance of Corizon Health Inc., the private health care provider for New York City’s jails, failed to improve last year amid heightened scrutiny over inmate deaths that put the company’s contract under review, says an evaluation obtained by The Associated Press. Corizon, whose three-year, $126 million contract expires Dec. 31, received an overall rating of “fair” in 2014 for the second straight year after being downgraded from “good,” says an annual review conducted by the city health department. Officials noted the Brentwood, Tn.-based company improved its care of mentally ill inmates, who make up about 40 percent of the 10,000-inmates in the city’s Rikers Island jail complex. The company did a “subpar” job prioritizing the sickest inmates to be seen in jail health clinics, the evaluation shows.
Harsh sentencing policies, including mandatory minimums, continue to have lasting consequences for inmates and the prison system, says the Washington Post. Inmates 50 and older are the fastest-growing population in crowded federal correctional facilities, their numbers up 25 percent to nearly 31,000 from 2009 to 2013. Some prisons have needed to set up geriatric wards, while others have effectively been turned into convalescent homes. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons saw health-care expenses for inmates increase 55 percent from 2006 to 2013, when it spent more than $1 billion. That figure is nearly equal to the entire budget of the U.S. Marshals Service or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The events in Ferguson, MO that set off a national firestorm over aggressive policing in African-American communities shouldn't have come as a surprise, Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte said yesterday. “Nobody should be shocked about Ferguson,” Forte told the Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. “We have a great relationship in Kansas City, but I think it could happen (here), we're not out of the woods.” Speaking to an audience of journalists, researchers and criminal justice practitioners, Forte said that he and others in the field recognized that police-community relations were approaching a boiling point long before the explosion of tensions nationwide following the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by former Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in August 2014 He pointed to widely used police tactics that he said make communities feel targeted by police, instead of protected. Among those, he said drug sweeps — in which police typically make mass arrests in a particular neighborhood or building — can harm a police department's reputation.
An estimated 40 percent of state and federal prisoners and jail inmates reported having a current chronic medical condition in a 2011–12 survey, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said today. The agency defined chronic conditions as those involving persistent health problems with long-lasting effects, including noninfectious medical problems, such as cancer, high blood pressure, stroke-related problems, diabetes, heart-related problems, kidney-related problems, arthritis, asthma and cirrhosis of the liver. About a fifth of prisoners and 14 percent of jail inmates reported ever having an infectious disease (excluding HIV or AIDS), such as tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C and other sexually transmitted diseases. Both prisoners and jail inmates were more likely than the general population to report ever having a chronic condition or infectious disease. High blood pressure was the most common chronic condition reported by prisoners (30 percent) and jail inmates (26 percent).
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.
Prison is no place to be vulnerable. For inmates with intellectual disabilities, autism or traumatic brain injury, it can be dangerous. They're easily be exploited their peers and they have trouble remembering rules, which can lead to disciplinary action and segregation from other inmates. Bradley Fulton, an inmate at the Washington Correction Center in Shelton, said he's been told he has autism. “I have a speech impediment.