Checkup time for Corizon, America’s prison medical contractor

Massive growth of privatized prison care has faced little scrutiny. Until now.

Written by Beryl Lipton
Edited by Michael Morisy

It’s expensive to get sick in America. For some, the good news flip side of that is that there’s a lot of money to be made in healthcare. For our prison population, that healthcare might be provided by the government, but increasingly towns and states are finding medical costs and care too burdensome, and the task is being outsourced. More often than not, it’s being outsourced to Corizon.

Corizon Health is currently the nation’s top provider of correctional medical care, proudly serving nearly 350,000 individuals in over 500 facilities in 27 states. These are some great numbers for them. But, since the company formed in 2011 through a merger of Prison Health Services and Correctional Medical Services, the company has been involved in hundreds of lawsuits, has lost contracts from Maine to Minnesota, and has faced scrutiny in Washington, D.C. (where it failed to win a contract this year) and Florida, where it still holds sway.

Recently, Corizon took heat over care provided at the infamous Rikers Island, eventually losing its contract with the City of New York after a report released in June found that the company had failed to properly screen employees and treat the mentally ill. In an interview with The Marshall Project, chief executive Dr. Woodrow Myers tempered talk of Corizon’s shortcomings by highlighting that the company continues to win contracts. He also spoke of the city’s challenges — multiple contracted corporations and city agencies responsible for different aspects of care — and failings.

“I think that the number one piece of advice I would give to the city moving forward is they need to establish an oversight process by the leadership of HHC and the leadership of DOC that is inviolable,” Dr. Myers said. “And that those two leaders must be involved in the tough decisions and must make sure their people are following through on the efforts that they want to put in place.”

It’s perhaps a sentiment that is too easily discarded as a way for a money-making machine to deflect culpability. But it’s one that the NYC Department of Investigations report: “The review also exposed a lack of oversight and accountability by DOC and DOHMH. The review further exposed that the three entities who share responsibility for the administration of this care do not effectively communicate, which has prevented solutions.”

So, while Corizon is on the hook for certain violations, there is something to the fact that the government agencies that hired the company weren’t keeping a close eye on it. One can’t expect that the company itself is going to draw attention to breaches of contract - the agency outsourcing the work is responsible for ensuring that there is a useful infrastructure in place for calling problems out.

MuckRock has begun requesting Corizon contracts from sponsoring agencies around the country. Consult the map below to see if Corizon contracts in your state.

Large marker = State contract
Small marker = County or local contract

Green = Complete
Yellow = Awaiting Response
Red = Awaiting Acknowledgement
Purple = Not yet available.

Are you interested in finding out more about one of these contracts or the facilities affected by them? Email info@muckrock.com and we’ll help you start filing your own requests.


Image via Wikimedia Commons