Other PHS/Corizon Legal Suits

wrongful death and malpractice lawsuit was filed in St. Louis last year over the death of a jail inmate from complications of a heart problem. The suit alleges that the prisoner collapsed and died an hour after a doctor instructed jail staff to send him to a hospital immediately. Records show that a Corizon nurse believed that the prisoner’s episodes were ‘staged,’ and point to numerous instances of doctor’s orders not being consistently followed. (“Suit blames St. Louis medical care in inmate’s death,” St. Louis Post Dispatch, 5/24/12).

In 2012, Corizon paid the city of Philadelphia a $1.8 million fine after an investigation found the company was using a sham female-owned subcontractor to falsely claim it was meeting city requirements for participation by firms owned by women or people of color. A rival company owned by a woman claimed that it submitted a bid that was $3.5 million per year less than Corizon’s. Despite the fine, Corizon retained its right to bid on contracts and is up for renewal. Meanwhile, the city has paid out at least $1 million since 1995 to settle lawsuits over negligent medical care.. (“With contract out to bid, prison health care questioned,” Philadelphia Daily News, 8/28/12 and “City questioned over prison health care firm,” Philadelphia Daily News, 1/10/13).

federal lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections was filed last year after an inmate with a history of seizures was denied emergency care by a Corizon nurse who overrode doctors’ orders for an ambulance. Within an hour, the man suffered irreversible brain damage that led to his death. Records indicate that Corizon’s “rationed care philosophy” is at the root of many such problems. For example, no Corizon doctors work after 4pm or on weekends. Nurses employed by the state department of corrections end their shifts at 10:30pm, leaving the prisons without medical staff overnight. Under Corizon’s contract, there is just one on-call doctor to serve the entire state prison system, and this doctor cannot access the medical files because the health services units are shut down overnight. (“Prisoner dies after denial of care,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7/9/12).

Washington County, OR ordered an audit of Corizon’s jail health servicesafter the county went $171,000 over its almost $4.6 million budget in FY 2011-12. Cost overruns were reportedly common over the past six years. However, the county ran into “legal roadblocks” in obtaining the needed documents from Corizon. The company’s lack of transparency prompted the county to amend its contract with Corizon in 2012 in order to ensure that the county will have access to financial records and other documents, as well as the ability to perform site reviews. (“Long-delayed Washington County audit of jail health services points to contract problems, new auditing approach,” The Oregonian, 8/20/12).

In 2011, Corizon was fined nearly $400,000 by the state of Idaho forfailing to meet some of the most basic health care requirementsoutlined by the state. Among the problems listed were the fact that one women’s prison had gone without an OB/GYN for two years and another maximum security prison had no staff psychologies for at least 8 months. These lapses were in violation of Idaho’s contract, which requires that vacant positions be filled within 60 days. The Director of the Department of Corrections indicated that the steep fines were the only way to ensure that the corporation comply with its contract requirements. “They’re bottom-line driven,” he remarked. (“Idaho fines prison health care company $382K,” Associated Press, 6/5/11).

Then, in 2012, A Federal report on the Idaho State Correctional Institution charged that prison care under Corizon “amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.” The court-ordered report, part of decades of litigation by Idaho inmates, was released publicly even though the state had argued to keep the report sealed. The report states that Idaho Department authorities are “deliberately indifferent to the serious health care needs of their charges,” says corrections medical expert Dr. Marc Stern, who was appointed by the court to review Idaho prison care. According to the report, Corizon failed 23 of 33 audit categories in 2010 – and despite feedback and follow-up – failed 26 of 33 categories in 2011. (“Federal court unseals report on prison health care,” KIVI News, 3/19/12). You can read thefull report here.