Prison health care is a touchy subject because the person getting treatment is a person who committed a crime. Let’s put the 8th Amendment – Cruel and Unusual Punishment – aside for a second and address prison health care in general. Prison health care has become a huge business and when companies who get the contracts to provide inmate care cut costs to beef up their bottom line the taxpayers eventually pay.
Let’s take Corizon Health Care. The largest provider of prison health services. Corizon merged with PHS (Prison Health Services) to corner the market. I am sure they are lobbying to get the North Carolina Department of Corrections contract.
RALEIGH – The state Department of Correction is working to privatize the delivery of health care for its 40,000 inmates to a single provider under a seven-year contract that could top $1.5 billion.
Here is how YOU lose. When an inmate gets out of prison and has aliments that could have been easily taken care while he was incarcerated it costs the taxpayers. The person getting out usually has no health care and he gets medicaid. You pay that cost. In essence, you are paying for the profits of private health care companies, because the private company should have taken care of the minor issue, but instead cut costs to beef up their bottom line.
Aleshia Napier was 18 years old in 2006 when she hung herself with a bed sheet at the Broward Correctional Institution in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after being placed in solitary confinement despite her diagnosis of clinical depression and bipolar disorder.
The attorney hired by the young woman’s devastated family, Randall Berg Jr., the executive director of the Florida Justice Institute, points to two culprits for ignoring the medical and mental health needs of Napier: the private prison health-care companies PHS Correctional Healthcare and MHM Services.
Napier’s family recently settled with the companies for $500,000, but Berg said this case is part of a larger trend.
“My main concern is the profit motive taking precedence over patient care,” said Berg, who has taken out more than ten lawsuits against private health care companies. “The second one is that once the government entity contracts with the private provider, the government entity doesn’t provide any oversight.”
Prison Health Service (PHS) got its largest contract ever in 2000, $253 million for three years, from New York City after both Florida and Pennsylvania began official investigations of PHS into treatment of those states’ inmates. At the same time it received the contract, PHS was paying millions in legal fees.
The range of health-care services provided by private companies has continued to broaden. PHS and Corizon also run nationwide pharmacies to supply their respective operations.
This makes cases like that of Ashley Ellis, who died in a PHS-run facility in Vermont from a lack of a vitamin that could be bought over the counter, all the more sad. Ellis, 23, died three days into her 30-day sentence. PHS did not have potassium in stock at the prison, and during Ellis’ stay, there was no doctor on staff and only one registered nurse, during just one shift.
Prison Legal News is currently involved in a lawsuit with PHS to release details of any lawsuits PHS has settled in Vermont, including the case of Ashley Ellis. PHS left the state the following January. The Northfield News reported Vermont was then off to look for its fifth private company in 14 years to run its prison health-care system.
“It’s tragic,” Friedmann said of Ellis’ death, “but illustrates that these companies are interested in only one thing.”
We need private oversight by people like myself who know how the system works and can see through the bullshit these companies do. Pass this on to your elected official and friends. Let’s stop these companies from killing inmates and start holding them to a higher standard.