In a possible case of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a Tennessee company recently contracted by the Florida Department of Corrections to provide health care to inmates in northern and central Florida had been sued for malpractice 660 times in the past five years, reports Dan Christensen in BrowardBulldog.org.
Of those cases against Corizon — which received a $1.2 billion, five-year agreement from the FDOC — nearly half of them remain open. Of the closed cases, nearly one in four resulted in confidential settlements. In August, Corizon expanded its services into another 51 correctional facilities.
Another FDOC contractor, Wexford Health Sources, agreed to a $240 million, five-year commitment to provide mental health services to nine South Florida prisons. Wexford has also been hit with nearly 1,100 malpractice claims, including letters of complaint from inmates and notices of pending lawsuits.
Pennsylvania-based Wexford paid a total of $5.4 million to settle 34 of the 610 closed cases against the company. One jury verdict cost the company $270,000.
These companies are part of a push towards prison privatization, sanctioned by Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-led state Legislature and based on claims they will save Floridians millions of dollars.
Most of the litigation record against Corizon has been blocked, the company insisting they are “trade secrets.” Only under the threat of litigation by BrowardBulldog.org, did they provide the information.
When the FDOC hired Corizon and Wexford, it wasn’t the first time the state has had dealings with the two. As far back as 2002, Legislative auditors referred to Wexford as “problematic.” In 2006, Corizon — known then as Prison Health Services — dropped out of a 10-year contract with the state, claiming it wasn’t making enough money.
When the Florida Legislature mandated prison cost savings of 7 percent through privatization, the state welcomed Corizon and Wexford with open arms by awarding the two troubled companies with brand new multi-year contracts.
“Most people feel as long as they achieve their 7 percent savings, who cares how they treat inmates?” Michael Hallett, professor of criminology at the University of North Florida told BrowardBulldog.org.