Human Rights Groups Urge DC Council To Vote ‘No’ On Jail Healthcare Provider

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In the lead-up to the council’s vote on Tuesday to accept the contract for health services at the D.C. jail, a collection of 86 human rights groups asked lawmakers to shoot down the proposed contract with Corizon Correctional Healthcare.

In a letter addressed to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and the D.C. Council, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Defense Center said there is a need for all citizens to have access to high quality healthcare, even those in prison, and asked the council to find a more “responsible” provider.

“Corizon has been sued over 1,000 times in the past five years because of horrific deaths and permanent injuries to men and women in their care,” the letter reads. “Problems have been documented in lawsuits and in court and police investigations in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.”

Next week the council will vote on a $66 million contract that will allow Corizon to manage medical, mental and dental care for the inmates in D.C.’s Central Detention Facility and Correctional Treatment Facility. Former Mayor Vincent Gray failed to gain approval for the contract in December when members of the council expressed concerns about lawsuits levied against the company for its treatment of inmates in the past.

Councilman David Grosso said he is working on convincing other council members to vote down the contract, and he is fairly confident the it will not make it past the council.

“But you never know until the actual vote takes place,” he said.

In a March letter sent to the D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Grosso strongly urged her to reopen the bid process instead of awarding the contract to Corizon because of concerns about the company’s past performance.

“I have consistently heard from experts in this field that contracting with Corizon represents a step backward in the progress we have made in delivering quality healthcare to D.C. Jail inmates,” Grosso wrote in the letter.

Corizon CEO Woodrow Augustus Myers responded to Grosso’s letter with a letter of his own, calling the comparison between Corizon and Unity Health Care, which currently provides medical services in the D.C. Jail, misleading because Corizon operates nationwide and Unity is run locally.

“Based on the number of inmates each company serves each day, the incumbent’s lawsuit rate is far higher than Corizon Health’s,” he wrote in the letter.

Corizon is a Tennessee based company, according to their website, that provides healthcare services to an average of 400,000 inmates across the country each year. Healthcare at the jail is currently provided by Unity Health Care, Inc., a local non-profit organization that has been operating in D.C. since 1985 and handling health services at the D.C. jail since 2006.

Grosso said there is “clear evidence” of wrongdoing by the company in jails across the country, citing the at least 660 lawsuits filed against Corizon over the past five years. Half of those cases remain open and over a quarter of them ended with confidential settlements.

Last month Corizon agreed to pay $8.3 million in a settlement for the wrongful death lawsuit of a prisoner in their care at a California jail. The settlement is the largest ever wrongful death lawsuit in California history.

Bowser sent the contract to the council, which has to approve any contract awarded in the district over $1 million, in March after several rounds of bids over the course of an 18 month time period.

“The simple fact is that Corizon submitted the highest value package with a higher level of care,” Bowser spokesman, Michael Czin, said.

If the council votes no on the contract, it will reopen the bidding process.

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