AFSC-TUCSON: AZ DOC's DEATH YARDS

For Kini Seawright, and all the other women who gather crying tears that fill a million oceans...

Parsons v Ryan is now a certified CLASS ACTION!!!

As many of you know, under the current administration of Governor Jan Brewer the suicide and homicide rates among state prisoners doubled almost immediately, and has persisted over the course of the past four years, on the watch of Arizona Department of Corrections' Director Charles Ryan. On March 6, 2013, "Parsons v Ryan" , the civil rights lawsuit filed last year by the ACLU and Prison Law Office, among others, against Ryan and AZ DOC Health Services Director Richard Pratt on behalf of 14 state prisoners was certified as a CLASS ACTION!!!! That means every prisoner in the state is now a litigant.

Thank you not only to all the legal staff who brought it this far, but also to Wendy Halloran, KPNX, and the families who have survived the horrors of prison violence in this state with a resolve to make sure that the gross indifference to human life at the AZ DOC kills no more.

Monday, July 7, 2014

ASPC-Lewis: Another Murder in "The Promised Land": Homicide of Gordon Lee (UPDATED)

UPDATE July 9, 2014

It's my understanding, from more than one source, that Gordon Lee was strangled to death in the ASPC-Lewis Bachman shower by three other prisoners, who then dragged him back to his cell, dressed him and put him in bed. Staff allegedly slept through the murder happening 15 feet away from them, and didn't do their 4am count. He was found dead the next day. I dont know why tyey killed him - there are plenty of more horrible pedophiles in Protective Custody, which is what the Bachman yard he was killed on is. PC has become an increasingly dangerous place these days.

According to my sources,  Lee was assaulted a couple of weeks before this attack, and told a nurse what happened to him but she failed to report it to anyone. Its unclear whether or not he also formally applied for additional protection after that - the investigation, if conducted honestly, should show his protective custody requests (many prisoners need to PC up from Protective Custody yards like Bachman because of drug debts or repeated victimization, so that wouldnt be unusual for him to request). 

I believe that Wendy Halloran at Channel 12/KPNX is on the job trying to get records, so I'll be tuning in to them for follow-up.

peggy plews 7/9/14

From original POST (7/7/14 6:53PM) 

This man was murdered on ASPC-Lewis/Bachman, the same yard Alex Clark was just killed on. Seems like Protective Custody (AKA "the Promised Land" by the guys in the process of getting there) is as dangerous as the rest of the prison system these days. That's a big warning sign, Arizona. 

Think the Governor is paying attention yet? Maybe she notices, finally - the problem is that she still just doesn't care. This guy was in for child molestation, anyway, so no one will care that he's been murdered. He's one of the few who get long sentences who fessed up, interestingly - his plea was apparently not to avoid dying in prison - usually these long sentences are reserved for those who deny their guilt, like the truly innocent convicted at trial.  About 8-15% of sex offenders, by at least one prominent exoneration study, are likely to be innocent.

Gordon Lee's plea deal pretty much guaranteed he would never again be free, in fact - and maybe he felt he shouldn't be. You'd be surprised how many men who perpetrate these kinds of crimes against children are remorseful and want only to not hurt anyone again. Some mutilate themselves, and many commit suicide to protect the world from the monsters they fear they have become. Some even beg their judges to lock them away forever, castrate, or execute them. Many of them know what it's like to be violated, as survivors of childhood sexual abuse themselves; they never wished to become what they abhorred. Gordon Lee may have been a  sick human being to do what he did, but at least he didn't make the victim and her family go through a trial, or call her a liar in court. He owned his crimes against that child, when so few people ever do. There must have been some humanity in him somewhere.

Condolences, by the way, to anyone who cared for this man. Thoughts go out to his victim as well, who will likely relieve certain feelings all over again and have unexpected ones as well, in light of this news...  

(Remainder of post EDITED out - it was all speculation inviting people to contact me)

If anyone has any additional information about this homicide or this mans life, please contact me. He had no known close friends or family contacts outside of prison.


Reach me at 480-580-6807 arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com.


Ryan "cares" enough to do damage control on teacher's rape, OSHA investigation.

Most readers are aware by now that a teacher at AZ DOC's supermax complex, ASPC-Eyman, was stabbed and raped in January after being left alone in a classroom with one of the sex offenders she was educating, on a sex offender unit, where teachers have routinely been left alone with students. Here's the more complete account of the incident by the AP just last month.

One might expect this to have happened sooner or with greater frequency, given the poor security measures taken at the state's "most secure" facility. Despite their charges, however, I suspect that most of the students would have come to this teacher's defense if they had been present when it happened - they not only value their educational opportunities and appreciate the people who offer them, they also know this whole incident will keep educators and other civilians away for years to come, now.  

Seems like any dummy in the Governor's office can take one good look and advise the AZ DOC director that Warden Credio is putting female staff and volunteers at risk by leaving them alone in classrooms full of sex offenders with no surveillance (or even pepper spray, until now), but in the aftermath of this rape report going national in June, the Arizona Occupational Safety and Health Administration has decided to conduct an investigation into staff safety at Eyman. I guess Arizona wants the nation to know that we take rape seriously here - we do if it happens to anyone other than a prisoner, at least. We refuse to abide by the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, which should tell you something about how else we treat our prisoners.


Unfortunately, OSHA never investigates when prisoners are assaulted or injured on the job because prisoners are technically slaves of the state, or this might have been prevented. If ANYONE other than the DOC investigated prisoner assaults and deaths (and had authority to change things there), they would have most certainly required additional safety measures to be taken at Eyman and elsewhere. 


In fact, the whole system would be safer to work and be confined in than it is now if someone from outside of it - like the legislature or auditor general's office -took a good close look at how it's being run.  Makes you wonder where that billion dollar budget is being spent, since it clearly isn't going into facility repairs, surveillance cameras, security personnel, health care, psychiatric treatment, or substance abuse programs. (Hmm. I'd love to see DOC administrator's expense accounts and departmental credit cards...)

Needless to say, mainstream media has been rather critical of the AZ DOC over this, to which the director felt compelled to respond last week. It was such classic bureaucratic BS that I'm posting it below - along with the comment I left at the end of the article. All Chuck Ryan does about assaults on prisoners is punish the victim (and anyone else who dares say that violence is out of control in his prisons). 

Go to the source for the other remarks, including those by former Eyman Deputy Warden Carl Toersbijns...





--------------------- 


Prisons director: Actually, we do take rape seriously

AZCENTRAL.COM
Charles L. Ryan, AZ I See It 5:50 p.m. MST July 2, 2014

Regarding what I believe to be a misrepresentation of the Arizona Department of Corrections' response to an assault on one of its own employees, ("Is rape an acceptable risk for teachers? We think not," Editorial, Saturday):

On Jan. 30, a staff member at the Eyman corrections complex in Florence was brutally assaulted by an inmate. As the Department of Corrections reported in news releases that day and the following, a criminal investigation was immediately launched with the goal of pursuing prosecution of the inmate suspect to the fullest extent. In May, the inmate was indicted by a grand jury on charges including sexual assault, kidnapping and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Contrary to The Republic editorial board's assertion of indifference, every assault against staff and inmates is reviewed extensively and thoroughly investigated. In fact, when I returned as director in January of 2009, I changed the previous policy and ordered that all physical actions taken by inmates against staff or other inmates be reported and investigated, whether an injury occurred or not. This sends the strong message that every assault is intolerable.

Obviously, this incident at Eyman was a despicable and cowardly act — a fact clearly stated by this department when the documents from the criminal investigation were released to the news media.

But an Associated Press story published June 22 in The Arizona Republic indicated, "Prison officials dismissed the concerns. They say assault is a risk that comes with the job of overseeing violent inmates." This is not a department quote. It's the description by the AP reporter.

Department practice is quite the opposite. Staff and inmate safety is our highest priority — a fact reflected and borne out by ongoing training and assessment of security protocols. Significant focus is given to ensuring that all staff remain vigilant that any inmate, regardless of custody level or prior criminal history, can turn violent.

Such self-examination is ingrained in the daily work of the Department of Corrections. It results in decisions to create sector officers who conduct security checks on staff working in isolated areas; random physical, visual, radio and phone checks of such sectors; implementation of chemical-agent and hand-held radio training; addition of cameras where appropriate; and numerous other security measures that are constantly being reviewed.

Reporting on corrections can be tainted by sensationalism. Each assault in prison is thoroughly reviewed and investigated, and those responsible are held accountable administratively or criminally for their actions.

The safety of our staff and inmates has been, and always will be, my commitment and first priority.

Charles L. Ryan is director of the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Join the Conversation...


Peggy Plews · Top Commenter · Editor at Arizona Prison Watch

Violence against the staff at the AZ DOC - as well as a jump in the viciousness of attacks on more vulnerable prisoners such as transgender women and those with mental illness, has increased under this man's leadership, causing such concern among officers that one of the employee associations has asked Judicial Watch to investigate and local advocates have called on the US department of Justice. Those pleas for outside intervention were preceded in November 2010 with an open letter to Jan Brewer by the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association urging her to sack Chuck Ryan because, among other things:

"There exists, within ADOC administration, a well-known pattern of obstructing the disclosure of hazards in time to prevent accidents, injury, illness, and deaths. Tragically, in these instances, danger is not "imminent" - it is past, and too late to respond. Employees are routinely ordered to falsify documents and when they proactively seek to report identified hazards, they face punishment and retaliation. Obtaining an accurate account of the range and extent of violations will be difficult from records alone. It is unlikely that ADOC will disclose information without well-planned intervention by authorities. There is no evidence of any health and safety program existing, even on paper. There is no identifiable health and safety officer or other person bearing that responsibility and essential training is lacking to assure staff can perform certain assigned tasks safely and equipped with appropriate equipment e.g. cell extractions, transports, etc.

The entire department is devoid of any active programs for: Fire Prevention, Hazard Communication, Respiratory Protection, Medical Surveillance, Record keeping, Ventilation, Emergency Evacuation Procedures, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Response, Training, or Education. Failure of ADOC administration to respond has resulted in secondary risks and complications - now endangering, not just the prison population and employees, but the public at large. Appropriate identification of risk requires your immediate intervention. Another day must not go by without initiating an investigation.

We as institutional line staff are expected to hold a very high standard within the institutions and community, we expect that our Director and his administrators to be held to the same standard of conduct and the same standard of punishment if those standards are violated..."

The Minority Leader for the Arizona House of Representatives, Chad Campbell, has called for Ryan's termination more than once, and the media has feasted on the tragedies generated by the privatization of prison health care under this director. Of course, I've been calling for him to go for some time now, having heard from hundreds of prisoners and their loved ones about highly racialized gang violence, the heroin epidemic, pervasive despair and hunger, and gross medical neglect behind bars these days. Arizona should be ashamed of itself for rivaling the horrendous conditions attributed to prisons in far more impoverished countries run by dictators.

I hope some of you out there who know what I'm talking about have the courage to speak out and demand a new director. If you bother to call the governor's office about that, be sure to call your legislators as well - they are as much to blame for all this as Brewer, for simply refusing to oversee the prisons and giving them a blank check to do as they please.

Please ask that the Governor re-visit the AZ DOC's determined non-compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, too - I just received a letter from a gay prisoner who was raped and denied protective custody yet again, and the AZ DOC thinks they dont have a problem. http://www.arizonaprisonwatch.org/2014/06/az-state-prisoners-and-activists-call.html

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Execution by Deliberate Indifference: Killing Robert W. Murray.

UPDATED JULY 1 2014: There's nothing new about this, sadly - the AZ DOC has been executing prisoners all along by way of failing to treat their critical  medical and psychiatric conditions. Three death row prisoners in just over  a year have also committed suicide...





You must be a subscriber to see Gary Grado's newest article at the Capitol Times  about the above notice of Robert Murray's death -  if you can afford it,  check it out. Below is the original piece on Murray's cancer last fall, also by Grado, along with my post at the time. Not sure anything more needs to be said, except condolences to anyone who might have cared about this prisoner, as well as to the loved ones of his victims, for whom this will be an emotional time as well. 


----------------

SOS from Arizona's living dead: 
Deliberate indifference to life on death row
(originally posted to arizonaprisonwatch.org on September 26, 2013 7am)


 one of many letters received at AZ Prison Watch re: 
prisoner frustration over difficulty accessing medical care.

A big thanks goes out to Gary Grado at the AZ Capitol Times for interviewing this prisoner, and to the publication for making this particular article accessible to non-subscribers. Prisoners don't make sympathetic news subjects - especially not those on death row. A lot of folks would just as soon let Murray die of throat cancer untreated, in favor of putting those health care resources into the community (as if the state would actually re-direct "savings" there, instead of into the private pockets of profiteers). 

All I can say is that withholding medical care from Murray because the state plans to kill him anyway is akin to choosing to execute him by applying acid to his throat in small doses over the course of  9 months or so, letting it eat slowly away at his ability to  swallow, speak, and breathe, knowing this will not only kill him, but will make him suffer horribly as he dies. This has nothing to do with one's feeling about the death penalty - it's a question of whether or not you are for the constitution and against torture. If you believe in the rule of law, and that we should not torture our prisoners, then you have to support the provision of a basic standard of medical and mental health care to them.

The other thing is that prisoner health IS public health, and if we don't treat them inside, they come out with high rates of chronic illness, infectious disease, psychiatric disability, and so on. The imprisoned population is especially high-risk, medically, and many live marginally once back in the community, where they are more likely to lack access to health care than most non-felons. In prison they're frequently exposed to things like Hepatitis C (at least 40% of prisoners are believed to be infected), but as a captive patient population, they would be more likely than not to follow up on treatments and regimens that lower their mortality and long term health risks considerably, if their dietary plans and health care provider will offer them.

But that's not what appears to be happening. Deliberate indifference to human suffering is the absolute worst cancer there is in a society, and it's metasticized from the head of the AZ DOC to the agency's extremities. I hear stories like Murray's all the time, sadly - and it's not just the guys on death row. Remember Benny Joe Roseland? I've written to him a few times, but haven't heard back from him since writing that post. DOC says he's still alive, but that's all I can get from them.

Furthermore, as Dan Pochoda points out below, how we treat our prisoners says a lot about our society. The conditions in Arizona's prisons - from the medical neglect to the prevalence of heroin, the dominance of criminal gangs, and the rampant racialized violence - are among the worst in the country. There was a brief spell of progressive vision a the AZ DOC while Dora Schriro was director, under then-governor Janet Napolitano, but she was often mocked as being a "thug-hugger" for favoring rehabilitative programs over punishments, and her efforts were frequently undermined by the Good Old Boys network of DOC administrators and officers.

According to prisoners and former employees, things at the AZ DOC got dramatically worse as soon as Jan Brewer became governor, bringing Charles Ryan out of retirement to be her chief disciplinarian at the AZ DOC. The culture of contempt for prisoners and human rights that permeates that institution has actually been decades in the making, much of it under the direction of the younger Chuck Ryan, so all the bad stuff began to flourish again once he took over the reins there. 

I don't understand that man at all, I have to say. He's spent his career climbing that ladder, but now there, he appears to have utterly ceded control of his prisons to the gangs and profiteers - either that, or he's knowingly and intelligently aiding and abetting them. In either case,  his directorship  should be an embarassment to the Governor's office - for some reason Jan still stands by her man, though. 

Check out the other work the Capitol Times has been doing on the prison system here. If you're a subscriber, this is a pretty good piece that just came out about the class action lawsuit over health care, also by Gary Grado:

Exhibit in class-action lawsuit details failings of prison health system



-------from the AZ Capitol Times (9/16/13)--------

Prison ordeal

Death row inmate struggles with cancer

By Gary Grado

Published: September 16, 2013 at 8:41 am


A lab discovered death-row inmate Robert Murray had cancer the same day a Scottsdale surgeon removed his tonsils, but his disease went unknown to him and untreated for seven more months.

As Murray, 48, and his lawyers try to figure out what went wrong with his medical treatment, one thing is certain. The breakdown coincided with the turmoil surrounding the Department of Corrections’ transition to a private health care provider for Arizona prisoners, and his situation didn’t improve after the first company parted ways with DOC and a new company came under contract.

Murray endured long, painful delays between doctor’s appointments, a misdiagnosis, and a time in which blood from a burst abscess on his tonsil gushed from his mouth. He came to learn he had cancer when the surgeon he hadn’t seen in months asked him if he was finished with radiation to treat the illness, a treatment he never had.

Despite the delays, the cancer didn’t spread. Murray said an oncologist told him that although the situation could have become grave, he should have a full recovery with proper treatment.

“It was prayer, luck it just didn’t explode like it could have,” Murray said in a 21-minute interview from death row in Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence, where he’s been locked up since October 1992.

Such allegations aren’t unusual. A class-action lawsuit alleging DOC has provided inadequate health care for years offers other medical horror stories. And a suit recently filed by the survivors of an inmate who died in October 2012 alleges employees of Wexford Health Sources Inc. of Pittsburgh refused to treat him while he convulsed on the floor. Wexford is a company that provides prisoner health care in Arizona and elsewhere.

“We get weekly at least one letter that is equivalent, literally, to this fellow on death row,” said Dan Pochoda, the legal director for ACLU-Arizona.

Pochoda is one of more than 20 lawyers involved in the class action suit. He said the medical hardships of prisoners don’t resonate with the public, but they should because the state has a heavy obligation to provide adequate health care once it takes control of someone’s life.

“To paraphrase Dostoevsky, the test of a society is how they treat persons in prison,” Pochoda said.

Pleas for help

Murray and his brother, Roger Murray, are on death row for convictions in the May 14, 1991, robbery and murders of Dean Morrison, 65, and Jacqueline Appelhans, 60, at their store in Grasshopper Junction in Mohave County.

Morrison and Appelhans were found face down in their bathrobes, shot several times each in the head with shotguns and handguns. Appelhans was clutching Morrison’s arm.

Murray wrote a book titled “Life on Death Row” in which he denied committing the murders.

He has contended with an assortment of health problems during his 21 years in prison, and it was during an examination in February 2012 that he first complained of a lump in his throat.

Murray’s tonsils were becoming swollen and sore by April 2012, which was one of the final months that DOC provided medical care. Murray saw a DOC doctor in May and was diagnosed with an infected tonsil and given antibiotics.

Just days before his appointment, DOC and Wexford Health Solutions announced the company had been awarded a five-year contract to provide onsite medical, dental, pharmacy and mental health care, as well as the administration of third-party services.

Murray claims in a nine-page affidavit that the antibiotics had no effect and his many requests over the next month to see a doctor went unfulfilled as the swelling worsened and swallowing became difficult.

“His neck and face were visibly deformed,” said Murray’s attorney, Jennifer Garcia, a deputy federal public defender.

Wexford took over on July 1, 2012, and the company informed Murray he was on a waiting list to see a doctor, even as he continued to submit medical requests pleading for help.

“At least once during this period I overheard RX delivery nurses state that ‘Wexford has no available doctors for (the infirmary),’” Murray wrote.

In a Cure Notification, a letter to Wexford to outline how it wasn’t complying with the contract, DOC said the company’s staffing shortage created “inappropriate scheduling gaps in on-site medical coverage.”

In his requests to see a doctor, Murray writes about shooting pains in his ear, choking and coughing and difficulty breathing. He saw a nurse practitioner on July 20, 2012, who became alarmed by his condition and prescribed “magic mouthwash,” a formula of various medicines used to treat ulcers in the mouth.
Four days later the abscess burst.

“A warm fluid gushed into my mouth, I thought I may be vomiting and hurried to my sink,” he wrote.

He was rushed to the hospital, but he didn’t see a surgeon until September and wasn’t on the operating table until Nov. 19, 2012.

DOC, meanwhile, was already unhappy with Wexford’s performance, stating in the Cure Notification that the company was inadequately staffed, administered medication incorrectly, inconsistently and incompletely, and lacked a sense of urgency in addressing crisis situations.

DOC referred to several incidents in which it said Wexford did not comply with the terms of the contract, including not giving medication to a mentally ill inmate who hanged himself and a nurse who contaminated diabetes insulin with syringe tainted with Hepatitis C and continued to inject inmates with it.

Wexford responded with a letter of its own explaining that “the majority of the problems Wexford now faces are long-standing issues, embedded into (DOC) health care policy and philosophy, and which existed well before Wexford Health Sources assumed responsibility of the program.”

Wexford also alleged that DOC kept key information hidden during the procurement process.

An aggressive form of cancer

Dr. Joel Cohen of the Allergy Ear Nose and Throat Center in Scottsdale removed Murray’s tonsils on Nov. 19 and sent them to a nearby lab. The lab confirmed he had cancer and phoned the results to Cohen the next day, according to the pathology report.

Dr. Sun Yi, a University of Arizona professor who specializes in cancers of the head and neck, said that after diagnosis, blood work and scans would be done to determine the severity, or stage, of the cancer, a process that generally takes a few months.

From there, the patient would be referred to various oncologists.

“With malignancy, the more time you wait the more time the tumor has to continue to populate and grow,” said Yi, who is not involved in the case. “The worst case scenario is the cat’s out of the bag situation where it metastasizes and becomes phase four and for most cancers incurable at that point.”

Yi said cancer in the throat is extremely aggressive.

There are no records of any of the steps Yi described in Murray’s medical file.

Murray said Cohen wanted to see him 14 to 21 days after the surgery, but “ADOC-Wexford failed to take action.”

Cohen said he reported the cancer by telephone to a doctor at DOC on Nov. 20, 2012, and recommended treatment.

The doctor said he regularly treats prisoners and he understands there are all sorts of prison protocol that must be followed for each visit. He typically wants to see a patient for post-operative visit in 10 to 14 days.

“The prisoners can’t always come back when they’re told to come back,” Cohen said.

He said it is not his responsibility to prescribe the cancer treatment.

A spokesman for DOC and spokeswoman for Wexford declined to comment for this story. The agency and company agreed Jan. 30 to end the contract and DOC signed a new one with St. Louis-based Corizon Health Inc., which took over services on March 4.

Murray’s throat was still irritated and swollen in the meantime, and he got an appointment with Cohen on May 14.

“He’s talking to Corizon all the time about this problem and no one seems to be addressing them for months either,” Garcia said. “It doesn’t seem to me things have been measurably better under Corizon.”

Murray said Cohen asked him about his radiation treatment, which he never had, but the doctor still didn’t tell him about the cancer.

Records indicate Murray was prescribed radiation and a CT scan that day, but there is nothing in the record explaining why. When Murray returned to the doctor’s office on June 7 he saw Lee, Cohen’s associate.

“He said, ‘You have cancer, you didn’t know,’” Murray said. “It was kind of an astounding moment, surreal.

I kind of expected something was not right.”

Ray Norris, a medical malpractice attorney with the firm Gallagher and Kennedy, said medical negligence is determined by whether a doctor fell below the standard of care.

Norris, who is not involved in Murray’s case, said standard of care is measured by what an ordinary, prudent, and reasonable health care provider would do under the same circumstance.

“If there was a breach of the standard of care, the question then becomes causation, or in other words, what difference did it make,” Norris said.

Murray’s theory is he thinks Cohen expected him to return for a follow up visit within a few weeks and was going to inform him then about the cancer, but when Wexford failed to schedule the appointment Cohen never followed up. “I think it was probably just an accident, but an accident can be easily overlooked,” Murray said.

Murray is still undergoing treatment, and while it isn’t going at the pace he would prefer, he said he’s been assured it is normal pace for treating such a cancer. He said he is still considering his options on filing a lawsuit and looking for a civil lawyer.

Health Decline

May 2012: Inmate Robert Murray diagnosed with possible infected tonsils and given antibiotics. Wexford Health Solutions is awarded $349 million contract to provide health services to Arizona prisoners.

June 2012: Swelling in neck worsens.

July 1, 2012: Wexford takes over medical services.

July 24, 2012: Abscess in neck bursts and Murray rushed to hospital.

Aug. 17, 2012:  In an incident not related to Murray, Wexford nurses are accused of improperly administer medication by making inmates lick powdered medication from hands.

Aug. 23, 2012: Mentally ill inmate who didn’t receive psychiatric medication for weeks found hanged in cell.

Aug. 27, 2012: Wexford nurse allegedly contaminates diabetes insulin with syringe tainted with Hepatitis C.

Sept. 21, 2012: Arizona Department of Corrections informs Wexford of assorted contract breaches.

Nov. 19, 2012: Murray, whose face is deformed from swelling, undergoes tonsillectomy and lab results show he has cancer.

January 2013: Murray’s requests for follow up with surgeon unfulfilled, problems and pain with neck persist. Wexford and DOC agree to cancel contract. Corizon becomes new contractor.

June 7, 2013: Murray informed he has cancer that went untreated for seven months.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Corizon's Cruel and Unusual Greed: follow the money with Prison Legal News.


 Excellent but troubling article below from Prison Legal News: print and send it to prisoners!  Prisoner subscriptions to Prison Legal News are only $30 a year for the print edition (for prisoners), and one of the best investments you can make.

P.O. Box 1151
Lake Worth, FL 33460

For those fighting Corizon over  a loved one's health care, 
check out  these posts 

Corizon and the AZ DOC: Prisoners & Families, Know Your Rights.

Corizon's deliberate indifference: fighting back.

and feel free to contact me if you think I can help:
----from PRISON LEGAL NEWS----

published in Prison Legal News March, 2014, page 1

Loaded on March 15, 2014


by Greg Dober

Corizon, the nation’s largest for-profit medical services provider for prisons, jails and other detention facilities, was formed in June 2011 through the merger of Prison Health Services (PHS) and Correctional Medical Services (CMS).


In April 2013, the debt-rating agency Moody’s downgraded Corizon’s nearly $360 million worth of debt to a rating of B2 – an indication the company’s debt is highly speculative and a high credit risk. According to Moody’s, the rating downgrade was due to an “expectation of earnings volatility following recent contract losses, margin declines from competitive pricing pressure on new and renewed contracts, and Moody’s belief that Valitás [Corizon’s parent corporation] will be unable to restore metrics to levels commensurate with the prior B1 rating over the near to intermediate term.”


Valitás Health Services is majority owned by Beecken Petty O’Keefe & Company, a Chicago-based private equity management firm. Beecken’s other holdings are primarily in the healthcare industry.


On September 23, 2013, Moody’s again downgraded Corizon’s debt rating and changed the company’s rating outlook from “stable” to “negative.” The following month Corizon announced that it had replaced CEO Rich Hallworth with Woodrow A. Myers, Jr., the former chief medical officer at WellPoint Health. Hallworth, who had been appointed Corizon’s CEO in 2011, previously served as the president and CEO of PHS. At the same time that Hallworth was replaced, Corizon president Stuart Campbell also stepped down.


Prison Medical Care for Profit

According to Corizon’s website, the company provides healthcare services at over 530 correctional facilities serving approximately 378,000 prisoners in 28 states. In addition, Corizon employs around 14,000 staff members and contractors. The company’s corporate headquarters is located in Brentwood, Tennessee and its operational headquarters is in St. Louis, Missouri.

The 2011 merger that created Corizon involved Valitás Health Services, the parent company of CMS, and America Service Group, the parent company of PHS. The Nashville Business Journal reported the deal was valued at $250 million.

“Corizon’s vision is firmly centered around service – to our clients, our patients and our employees,” Campbell said at the time. “To that we add the insight of unparalleled experience assisting our client partners, and caring professionals serving the unique healthcare needs of [incarcerated] patients.”

Corizon has around $1.5 billion in annual revenue and contracts to provide medical services for the prison systems in 13 states. The company also contracts with numerous cities and counties to provide healthcare to prisoners held in local jails; some of Corizon’s larger municipal clients include Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York City (including the Rikers Island jail). Additionally, the company has its own in-house pharmacy division, PharmaCorr, Inc.

The prison healthcare market has flourished as state Departments of Corrections and local governments seek ways to save money and reduce exposure to litigation. [See: PLN, May 2012, p.22]. Only a few major companies dominate the industry. Corizon’s competitors include Wexford Health Sources, Armor Correctional Health Services, NaphCare, Correct Care Solutions and Centurion Managed Care – the latter being a joint venture of MHM Services and Centene Corporation. Around 20 states outsource all or some of the medical services in their prison systems.

As Corizon is privately held, there is little transparency with respect to its internal operations and financial information, including costs of litigation when prisoners (or their surviving family members) sue the company, often alleging inadequate medical care.

For example, when Corizon was questioned by the news media in Florida during a contract renewal, the company initially tried to prevent the release of its litigation history, claiming it was a “trade secret.”

In 2012, Corizon agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against PHS – one of its predecessor companies – by Prison Legal News, seeking records related to the resolution of legal claims against the firm in Vermont. Based on the records produced pursuant to that settlement, PHS paid out almost $1.8 million in just six cases involving Vermont prisoners from 2007 to 2011. [See: PLN, Dec. 2012, p.16].

Companies like Corizon provide healthcare in prisons and jails under the HMO model, with an emphasis on cutting costs – except that prisoners have no other options to obtain medical treatment except through the contractor.

Arizona DOC

A former Corizon nurse had her license suspended and is currently under investigation by the Arizona State Board of Nursing for incompetence. In January 2014, nurse Patricia Talboy was accused of contaminating vials of insulin at three units at the ASPC-Lewis prison, potentially exposing two dozen prisoners to HIV or hepatitis.

Talboy reportedly used a needle to stick prisoners’ fingers to check their blood sugar levels. She then used the same needle to draw insulin from vials of the medication utilized for multiple prisoners, possibly contaminating the insulin in the vials. After placing the vials back into inventory, other staff members may have unknowingly used them to dispense insulin.

“Every indication is that the incident is the result of the failure by one individual nurse to follow specific, standard and well-established nursing protocols when dispensing injected insulin to 24 inmates,” Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) director Charles L. Ryan said in a January 9, 2014 statement.

Talboy’s failure to follow procedures was discovered after a prisoner told a different nurse about the issue. Corizon reportedly delayed three days before publicly reporting the incident; in a press release, the company admitted that one of its nurses had been involved in “improper procedures for injections.” Talboy received her nursing license in August 2012 and became an RN in June 2013; as a rookie nurse, Corizon likely paid her less than more experienced nurses.

Following the insulin-related incident, the company was ordered to develop a comprehensive plan that includes “supplemental training and competency testing procedures for blood glucose testing and administration of insulin,” as well as “nurse-peer reporting education to ensure professional accountability” and “patient awareness education on injection protocols.”

Granted, Corizon isn’t alone with respect to such incidents. In August 2012, a nurse employed by the ADC’s previous medical services contractor, Wexford Health Sources, contaminated the insulin supply at ASPC-Lewis through improper injection protocols, potentially exposing 112 prisoners to hepatitis C. [See: PLN, July 2013, p.1].

Corizon has a three-year, approximately $370 million contract to provide medical care in Arizona state prisons, which began in March 2013. The contract award generated controversy because former ADC director Terry Stewart was hired by Corizon as a consultant; current director Charles Ryan had previously worked under Stewart, raising a potential conflict of interest. Ryan denied any improprieties.

According to a report by the American Friends Service Committee released in October 2013, titled “Death Yards: Continuing Problems with Arizona’s Correctional Health Care,” medical services in Arizona prisons did not improve after Corizon replaced Wexford as the ADC’s healthcare contractor. “Correspondence from prisoners; analysis of medical records, autopsy reports, and investigations; and interviews with anonymous prison staff and outside experts indicate that, if anything, things have gotten worse,” the report stated.


Florida DOC

In 2013, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) awarded Corizon a five-year, $1.2 billion contract to provide medical services to state prisoners in north and central Florida. Wexford Health Sources was contracted to provide similar services in the southern region of the state for $240 million. [See: PLN, June 2013, p.24]. The wholesale privatization of healthcare in Florida’s prison system followed a 2011 legislative decision to disband the state’s Correctional Medical Authority, which had oversight over prison medical care. [See: PLN, May 2012, p.30].

The contracts were part of the Republican administration’s initiative to expand privatization of government services, including prison management and healthcare, in spite of previous setbacks. In 2006, PHS withdrew two months into an almost $800 million contract to provide medical care to Florida prisoners; at that time, the company said the contract was not cost-effective and claimed it would lose money.

The 2013 contract awards to Corizon and Wexford followed a two-year legal fight. In 2011, AFSCME Florida and the Federation of Physicians and Dentists/Alliance of Healthcare and Professional Employees filed suit challenging the prison healthcare contracts, in an effort to protect the jobs of nearly 2,600 state workers.

On June 21, 2013 the First District Court of Appeals approved the privatization of medical care in FDOC facilities, overturning a ruling by the Leon County Circuit Court. The appellate court noted in its decision that “The LBC [Legislative Budget Committee] simply moved funds from different line items within the Department’s Health Services’ program, providing additional funds for contracts that the Department otherwise had the authority to enter.” See: Crews v. Florida Public Employers Council 79, 113 So.3d 1063 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 2013).


Under the terms of the FDOC’s contract with Corizon, the company must provide medical care to Florida state prisoners for 7% less than it cost the FDOC in 2010. When entering into the contract, state officials apparently had few concerns about the numerous lawsuits previously filed against Corizon, and no hard feelings toward the company’s predecessor, PHS, when it terminated its 2006 contract to provide medical services to Florida prisoners because it wasn’t profitable.


“Most people feel, as long as they achieve their 7 percent savings who cares how they treat inmates?” noted Michael Hallett, a professor of criminology at the University of North Florida.


Florida Counties


In a September 6, 2012 unpublished ruling, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a $1.2 million Florida jury verdict that found Corizon – when it was operating as PHS – had a policy or custom of refusing to send prisoners to hospitals. The Court of Appeals held it was reasonable for jurors to conclude that PHS had delayed medical treatment in order to save money. See: Fields v. Corizon Health, 490 Fed.Appx. 174 (11th Cir. 2012).


The jury verdict resulted from a suit filed against Corizon by former prisoner Brett A. Fields, Jr. In July 2007, Fields was being held in the Lee County, Florida jail on two misdemeanor convictions. After notifying PHS staff for several weeks that an infection was not improving, even with antibiotics that had been prescribed, Fields was diagnosed with MRSA. PHS did not send him to a hospital despite escalating symptoms, including uncontrolled twitching, partial paralysis and his intestines protruding from his rectum. A subsequent MRI scan revealed that Fields had a severe spinal compression; he was left partly paralyzed due to inadequate medical care.


The Eleventh Circuit wrote that PHS “enforced its restrictive policy against sending prisoners to the hospital,” and noted that a PHS nurse who treated Fields at the jail “testified that, at monthly nurses’ meetings, medical supervisors ‘yelled a lot about nurses sending inmates to hospitals.’” Further, PHS “instructed nurses to be sure that the inmate had an emergency because it cost money to send inmates to the hospital.”


At trial, the jury found that PHS had a custom or policy of deliberate indifference that violated Fields’ constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The jurors concluded that Fields had a serious medical need, PHS was deliberately indifferent to that serious medical need, and the company’s actions proximately caused Fields’ injuries. The jury awarded him $700,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. [See: PLN, March 2013, p.54; Aug. 2011, p.24].


More recently, the estate of a 21-year-old prisoner who died at a jail in Manatee County, Florida filed a lawsuit in October 2013 against the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Corizon, the jail’s healthcare provider. The complaint accuses the defendants of deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of Jovon Frazier and violating his rights under the Eighth Amendment.


In February 2009, Frazier was incarcerated at the Manatee County Jail; at the time of his medical intake screening, staff employed by Corizon, then operating as PHS, noted that his health was unremarkable. Frazier submitted a medical request form in July 2009, complaining of severe pain in his left shoulder and arm, and a PHS nurse gave him Tylenol.


Throughout August and September 2009, Frazier submitted five more medical requests seeking treatment for his arm and shoulder. “It really hurts! HELP!” he wrote in one of the requests. PHS employees saw him and recorded his vital signs. Despite the repeated complaints, Frazier was never referred to a doctor or physician assistant; on September 9, 2009 his treatment was documented as routine but he was placed on the “MD’s list.”


An X-ray was taken on September 17, 2009 to rule out a shoulder fracture. The X-ray was negative for a fracture, and Frazier was not referred to a doctor. He submitted two more medical requests that month and five requests in October 2009 seeking treatment for his increasingly painful condition. The complaint alleges that in total, Frazier submitted 13 medical request forms related to pain over a period of three months; he was seen by a nurse each time but not examined by a physician.


On October 29, 2009, Frazier received an X-ray to determine if he had a tendon injury. An MRI was recommended and he was transported to a hospital where an MRI scan revealed a large soft tissue mass on his shoulder. A doctor at the hospital, concerned that the mass was cancerous, recommended additional tests.


After being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, Frazier was returned to the jail and subsequently treated at the Moffitt Cancer Center, where he received chemotherapy, medication and surgery. Despite this aggressive treatment the cancer progressed and Frazier’s left arm was amputated. The cancer continued to spread, however, and he was diagnosed with lung cancer in June 2011. He died within three months of that diagnosis, on September 18, 2011.


In a letter to the attorney representing Frazier’s estate, Florida oncologist Howard R. Abel wrote that the lack of treatment provided by Corizon at the Manatee County Jail constituted “gross negligence and a reckless disregard to Mr. Frazier’s right to timely and professionally appropriate medical care.”


The lawsuit filed by Frazier’s estate claims that Corizon was aware of his serious medical condition but failed to provide adequate treatment. In addition, the complaint contends the company has a widespread custom, policy and practice of discouraging medical staff from referring prisoners to outside medical practitioners and from providing expensive medical tests and procedures. Finally, the lawsuit states that “Corizon implemented these widespread customs, policies and practices for financial reasons and in deliberate indifference to [the] serious medical needs of Frazier and other inmates incarcerated at Manatee County Jail.”


On January 10, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody denied Corizon’s motion to dismiss the case. The company had argued that the allegations in the lawsuit failed to assert sufficient facts to establish deliberate indifference, amounted only to medical negligence and were insufficient to establish gross negligence, and failed “to adequately allege a policy or custom that violated Frazier’s rights.” Judge Moody disagreed, finding the claims set forth in the complaint were “sufficient to establish a constitutional violation.”


The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office had better luck with its motion to dismiss. The Sheriff argued the complaint did not establish facts indicating that the jail had a similar practice – like Corizon – of providing deliberately indifferent medical care to prisoners. The court agreed and dismissed the claims against the Sheriff’s Office; the claims against Corizon remain pending. See: Jenkins v. Manatee County Sheriff, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Fla.), Case No. 8:13-cv-02796-JSM-TGW.


Idaho DOC


In February 2013, the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) announced it had reached a one-year extended agreement with Corizon to provide medical care in the state’s prison system. However, the Idaho Business Review reported that the extension also resulted in a rate increase. Then-Corizon president Stuart Campbell informed the IDOC Board of Correction that the company wouldn’t sign an extension for less money, stating the current contract had become too costly. During the preceding three years of the contract the IDOC had incurred approximately 20% in cumulative rate increases.


Both sides agreed that the contract would run through December 2013 and the IDOC would pay an additional $250,000. It seems odd that Idaho was willing to continue contracting with the company, though, as the relationship between the IDOC and Corizon has been a rocky one.


The quality of medical care at the Idaho State Correctional Institution (ISCI) in Boise has been an ongoing issue for nearly three decades. The prison was the focus of a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners alleging a variety of problems, including inadequate healthcare. The lawsuit was known as the Balla litigation after plaintiff Walter Balla.


In July 2011, after new complaints were filed regarding medical care at ISCI, U.S District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill appointed a special master, Dr. Marc F. Stern, to assess the situation at the facility. The court wanted Stern to confirm whether ISCI was in compliance with the temporary agreements established in the Balla case, and to investigate and report on “the constitutionality of healthcare” at the facility.


Dr. Stern, a former health services director for the Washington Department of Corrections who also had previously worked for CMS, one of Corizon’s predecessor companies, issued a scathing report in February 2012. With the aid of psychiatrist Dr. Amanda Ruiz, Stern and his team reviewed ISCI over a six-day period and met with dozens of prisoners, administrators and Corizon employees.


Stern stated in the report’s executive summary: “I found serious problems with the delivery of medical and mental health care. Many of these problems have either resulted or risk resulting in serious harm to prisoners at ISCI. In multiple ways, these conditions violate the rights of prisoners at ISCI to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment. Since many of these problems are frequent, pervasive, long-standing, and authorities are or should have been aware of them, it is my opinion that authorities are deliberately indifferent to the serious health care needs of their charges.”


The report found that prisoners who were terminally ill or in long-term care were sometimes left in soiled linens, given inadequate pain medication and went for long periods without food or water. The findings regarding sick call noted instances in which prisoners’ requests either resulted in no care, delayed care or treatment that was deemed dangerous. Emergency care situations had insufficient oversight, delays or no response; inadequately trained medical staff operated independently during emergencies without oversight from an RN or physician. The report also found problems with the pharmacy and medication distribution at ISCI.

In one case, a prisoner with a “history of heart disease was inexplicably dropped from the rolls of the heart disease Chronic Care Clinic.” As a result, medical staff stopped conducting regular check-ups and assessments related to the prisoner’s heart condition. A few years later the prisoner went in for a routine visit, complaining of occasional chest pain. No evaluation or treatment was ordered and the prisoner died four days later due to a heart attack. In another case, Corizon staff failed to notify a prisoner for seven months that an X-ray indicated he might have cancer.

Dr. Stern’s report not only reviewed processes but also staff competency and adequacy. The report cited allegations that a dialysis nurse at ISCI overtly did not like prisoners, and routinely “failed to provide food and water to patients during dialysis, prematurely aborted dialysis sessions or simply did not provide them [dialysis] at all and failed to provide ordered medications resulting in patients becoming anemic.” Stern concluded that prison officials were aware of this issue and the danger it presented to prisoners, but “unduly delayed taking action.”


The mental health care provided by Corizon at ISCI was found to be deficient by Dr. Ruiz, who conducted the psychiatric portion of the court-ordered review. The report noted that the facility had 1) inadequate “screening of and evaluating prisoners to identify those in need of mental health care,” 2) “significant deficiencies in the treatment program at ISCI” which was “violative of patients’ constitutional right to health care,” 3) an “insufficient number of psychiatric practitioners at ISCI,” 4) incomplete or inaccurate treatment records, 5) problems with psychotropic medications, which were prescribed with no face-to-face visits or follow-up visits with prisoners and 6) inadequate suicide prevention training.


The report concluded: “The state of guiding documents, the inmate grievance system, death reviews and a mental health CQI [continuous quality improvement] system at ISCI is poor. While not in and of themselves unconstitutional, it is important for the court to be aware of this and its possible contribution to other unconstitutional events.”


In March 2012, shortly after Dr. Stern’s report was released over the objection of state officials, Corizon disagreed with its findings. The company retained the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) to review the report. Corizon described the review as an “independent assessment,” even though it was paying NCCHC accreditation fees.


The NCCHC review consisted of a three-person team assessing the facility over a two-day period in April 2012. Unlike Stern’s assessment of medical and mental health care, the NCCHC team did not interview prisoners or include a psychiatrist. Regardless, the agency concluded that “The basic structure of health services delivery at ISCI meets NCCHC’s standards.”


Corizon stated in a press release that Dr. Stern’s report was “incomplete, misleading and erroneous,” and then-CEO Rich Hallworth appeared in a video defending the company. The NCCHC had previously accredited Corizon’s healthcare services at ISCI, thus in essence the NCCHC’s review was self-validating the organization’s prior accreditation findings. Also, according to NCCHC’s website, two Corizon officials sit on the agency’s health professionals certification board of trustees.


Corizon’s criticism of Dr. Stern’s report is just one example where the company has objected to an independent, third-party assessment of its medical services. The Balla case settled in May 2012 after 30 years of litigation. [See: PLN, Feb. 2013, p.40].


Indiana DOC


Following a competitive bidding process, Corizon was selected to continue providing medical care to Indiana state prisoners under a three-year contract effective January 1, 2014. The contract has a cap of $293 million, based on a per diem fee of $9.41 per prisoner.


Three weeks later, a lawsuit filed in federal court named Corizon and the Indiana Department of Correction as defendants in connection with the wrongful death of prisoner Rachel Wood. Wood, 26, a first-time drug offender, died in April 2012; the suit, filed on behalf of her family, claims she was transferred from prison to prison and denied care for her serious medical conditions, which included lupus and a blood clotting disorder.

“Notwithstanding the duty of the prison medical staff to provide adequate medical care to Rachel and to treat her very serious life threatening conditions, prison medical staff willfully and callously disregarded her condition, and allowed Rachel to deteriorate and die,” the complaint stated.

“That is just the attitude of these guys, is saving money rather than providing health care,” said Michael K. Sutherlin, the attorney representing Wood’s family.

Prison officials reportedly moved Wood among several different prisons and hospitals, and at one point lost track of her and claimed she had escaped even though she was still incarcerated.

“She died a horrible death and she died alone,” stated her father, Claude Wood. The lawsuit remains pending. See: Williams v. Indiana DOC, Marion County Superior Court (IN), Case No. 49D05-1401-CT-001478.


Maine DOC


In an October 2013 Bangor Daily News article, Steve Lewicki, coordinator of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, discussed the state of healthcare in Maine’s prison system. “Complaints by prisoners are less,” he said, noting that while medical services provided to prisoners are better than in the past, there are still concerns. This relative improvement coincided with the end of the state’s contract with Corizon. The contract, valued at approximately $19.5 million, was awarded to another company in 2012.

A year earlier, the Maine legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) completed a review of medical services in state prisons. The agency contracted with an independent consultant, MGT of America, to conduct most of the fieldwork, and the review included services provided under Corizon’s predecessor company, CMS.

The OPEGA report, issued in November 2011, cited various deficiencies in medical care at Maine prisons – including medications not always being properly administered and recorded by CMS staff. Although the company was notified of the problem, no corrective action was taken. CMS employees did not follow policies related to medical intake and medical records; OPEGA reported that 38% of prisoners’ medical files had inadequate or inaccurate documentation regarding annual physical assessments, and that files were not complete or consistently maintained. The report found 11% of sick calls reviewed were either not resolved timely or had no documented resolution. OPEGA also criticized CMS for inadequate staff training.

At a January 2012 legislative committee hearing, state Senator Roger Katz asked Corizon regional vice president Larry Amberger, “My question to you is in light of this history, why should the state seriously be considering any proposal your company might make to get this contract back again?”

In response, Amberger criticized the methodology used by MGT during the assessment and said he believed Corizon provided quality medical care. Questioning and challenging the findings of an independent reviewer is the same tactic the company used in Idaho. Regardless, Corizon’s contract to provide medical care to Maine state prisoners is now a part of history.


Louisville, Kentucky


While some jurisdictions, like Maine, have chosen not to renew their contracts with Corizon due to performance-related problems, in 2013 the Metro Department of Corrections in Louisville, Kentucky (LMC) offered the company a chance to rebid for its $5.5 million contract to provide medical care at the LMC jail. This time, however, it was Corizon that said “no thanks.”

The rebid offer was made even though seven healthcare-related prisoner deaths occurred in a seven-month period in 2012 during Corizon’s prior contract, which expired in February 2013. Nevertheless, LMC and Corizon agreed to extend the contract through July 30, 2013 on a month-to-month basis pending a formal rebid.

After the expiration of the month-to-month contract extension, Corizon notified LMC that it was no longer interested in providing services to the corrections department and would not seek to rebid the contract. LMC director Mark Bolton told the Courier Journal he was “surprised” by the company’s decision. What seems more surprising is that LMC wanted to continue contracting with Corizon to provide medical services in spite of the number of prisoner deaths.

In April 2012, Savannah Sparks, 27, a heroin addict and mother of three, was arrested and held on shoplifting charges at the LMC jail. While withdrawing from heroin she vomited, sweat profusely, could not sit up, could not eat or drink, and defecated and urinated on herself. Six days later she was dead. According to the medical examiner, her death was due to “complications of chronic substance abuse with withdrawal.”

A subsequent wrongful death suit alleged that Corizon and LMC employees were negligent in failing to provide treatment for Sparks’ opiate addiction and withdrawal. Corizon settled the suit under confidential terms. See: May v. Corizon, Jefferson County Circuit Court (KY), Case No. 13-CI-001848.

Four months after Sparks’ death, on August 8, 2012, another LMC prisoner, Samantha George, died. A lawsuit filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court claimed that George was moved from the Bullitt County Jail to the LMC facility on a charge of buying a stolen computer. According to the complaint, she told a Corizon nurse that she was a severe diabetic, needed insulin, and was feverish and in pain from a MRSA infection.

The nurse notified an on-call Corizon physician, who was not located at the facility and thus could not examine George in person, to decide if she should be taken to an emergency room. The doctor recommended monitoring George and indicated he would see her the next day. George’s condition rapidly deteriorated while she was monitored by staff at the jail; she was found unresponsive a few hours after being admitted to the facility and pronounced dead a short time later.

An autopsy concluded that George died due to complications from a severe form of diabetes compounded by heart disease. According to the lawsuit, the Corizon doctor never saw George; among other defendants, the suit named Corizon and LMC director Mark Bolton as defendants. The case was removed to federal court, then remanded to the county circuit court in October 2013. See: George v. Corizon, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Ky.), Case No. 3:13-cv-00822-JHM-JDM.

A few weeks after George’s death, Kenneth Cross was booked into the LMC jail on a warrant for drug possession. According to a subsequent lawsuit, upon Cross’ arrival at the jail a nurse documented that he had slurred speech and fell asleep numerous times during the medical interview. Several hours later he was found unconscious, then died shortly thereafter due to a drug overdose. The lawsuit filed by Cross’ estate alleged that employees at the LMC jail were deficient in recognizing and treating prisoners’ substance abuse problems and that the facility was inadequately staffed for such medical care.

After the deaths of Sparks, George, Cross and four other prisoners in 2012, LMC director Bolton said he believed Corizon took too long to evaluate and treat prisoners at the jail. According to the Courier-Journal, Bolton sent an email to his staff in December 2012 regarding the prisoners’ deaths, stating, “Mistakes were made by Corizon personnel and their corporation has acknowledged such missteps.” He further indicated that Corizon employees – not LMC staff members – were responsible for the care of the prisoners who died. Six Corizon employees at the LMC jail resigned in December 2012 during an internal investigation; they were not identified.

Bolton’s criticism was too little, too late to prevent the deaths of the seven LMC prisoners, though the jail has since made improvements to its medical services, including a full-time detox nurse and new protocols for prisoners experiencing withdrawal. One could speculate that LMC’s critique of Corizon might be a litigation tactic, to deflect responsibility. The fact remains that seven deaths occurred under Corizon’s watch and, notwithstanding those deaths, LMC was willing to renew its contract with the company.

In January 2014, the Louisville Metro Police’s Public Integrity Unit concluded investigations into three of the deaths at the jail, and criticized both Corizon and LMC. The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office found that Sparks’ and George’s deaths were preventable; however, no criminal charges were filed. Dr. William Smock, a forensic examiner who served as a consultant during the investigations, stated with respect to George’s death: “There is compelling evidence of a significant deviation from the standard of care and medical negligence on the part of the medical providers.”

“I’m glad to see that the government’s investigation matches exactly what our investigation showed, which is that her death and others like hers is easily preventable,” said Chad McCoy, the attorney representing George’s estate.


Minnesota DOC

After providing medical care to Minnesota state prisoners for 15 years, Corizon was not selected when the contract was rebid in 2013 – despite having submitted the lowest bid. Instead, competitor Centurion Managed Care was to begin providing healthcare services in Minnesota’s prison system effective January 1, 2014 under a two-year, $67.5 million contract.

Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy said the contract with Centurion was expected to “deliver significant savings to taxpayers while improving the quality of care for offenders.”

According to the Star-Tribune, nine prisoners died and another 21 suffered serious or critical injuries in Minnesota correctional facilities due to delay or denial of medical care under the state’s previous contract, which had been held by Corizon or its predecessor, CMS, since 1998.

That contract was for a fixed annual flat fee of $28 million. A flat fee contract provides an incentive for the contractor to tightly control costs, as a reduction in expenses results in an increase in profit. The Star-Tribune found that many of the staffing arrangements negotiated in the contract played a role in the deaths and injuries. For example, the contract allowed Corizon physicians to leave at 4:00pm daily and did not require them to work weekends. During off-hours there was only one doctor on call to serve the state’s entire prison system, and many of the off-hour consultations were done telephonically without the benefit of the prisoner’s medical chart. Under the contract, Corizon was not required to staff most facilities overnight.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections was held liable for nearly $1.8 million in wrongful death and medical negligence cases during the period when the state contracted with Corizon or CMS.

In October 2012, a jury in Washington County awarded Minnesota prisoner Stanley Riley more than $1 million after finding a Corizon contract physician, Stephen J. Craane, was negligent in providing medical treatment. The Star-Tribune reported that Riley suffered from what turned out to be cancer and had written a series of pleading notes to prison officials. One read, “I assure you that I am not a malingerer. I only want to be healthy again.”

In May 2013, the state paid $400,000 to settle a lawsuit over the death of a 27-year-old prisoner at MCF-Rush City. Xavius Scullark-Johnson, a schizophrenic, suffered at least seven seizures in his cell on June 28, 2010. Nurses and guards didn’t provide him with medical care for nearly eight hours. According to documents obtained by the Star-Tribune, Scullark-Johnson was found “soaked in urine on the floor of his cell” and was “coiled in a fetal position and in an altered state of consciousness that suggested he had suffered a seizure.” An ambulance was called several hours later but a nurse at the prison turned it away, apparently due to protocols to cut costs. Corizon settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum in June 2013. See: Scullark v. Garin, U.S.D.C. (D. Minn.), Case No. 0:12-cv-01505-RHK-FLN.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael A. Nutter has been accused of being too loyal to his campaign contributors, including Corizon. The company donated $1,000 to Nutter’s 2012 campaign committee several months before the city renewed Corizon’s contract to provide medical care to 9,000 prisoners in Philadelphia’s prison system. Further, PHS donated $5,000 to Nutter’s mayoral campaign in 2008.

The contract renewal would have been routine except for the fact that Corizon’s performance in Philadelphia has been far from stellar. In July 2012 the company agreed to pay the city $1.85 million following an investigation that found Corizon was using a minority-owned subcontractor that did no work, which was a sham to meet the city’s requirements for contracting with minority-owned businesses.

The renewed year-to-year Corizon contract, worth $42 million, began in March 2013. Nutter’s administration was accused of using the year-to-year arrangement to avoid having the contract scrutinized by the city council; the city’s Home Rule Charter requires all contracts of more than one year to be reviewed by the council. Further infuriating opponents of the contract, Corizon was not the lowest bidder. Correctional Medical Care (CMC), a competitor, submitted a bid that would have cost the city $3.5 million less per year than Corizon. Philadelphia Prison Commissioner Louis Giorla defended the city’s decision to award the contract to Corizon at a council hearing; however, he declined to answer questions as to why the administration considered Corizon’s level of care to be superior to that provided by CMC.

Three union contracts with Corizon covering 270 of the company’s workers in Philadelphia’s prison system expired on November 26, 2013. Corizon demanded benefit cuts, including changes in employee healthcare programs, to offset wage increases promised under the company’s contract with the city. A strike was averted in December 2013 when the mayor’s office intervened and both sides reached a settlement. The Philadelphia Daily News reported that the new union contracts provide wage increases but also include a less-generous health insurance plan for Corizon employees.

Since 1995, Corizon and its predecessor, PHS, have received $196 million in city contracts. The company’s contract was terminated for several months in 2002 as a result of complaints that a diabetic prisoner had died after failing to receive insulin. The city renewed the contract anyway, citing affordability and pledging increased oversight. The city’s law department estimates that Philadelphia has paid over $1 million to settle lawsuits involving claims of deficient prison healthcare; the largest settlement to date is $300,000, paid to a prisoner who did not receive eye surgery and is now partially blind.

Based upon the number of lawsuits filed against Corizon alleging inadequate medical care, its use of a sham subcontractor and the company’s treatment of its own employees, it appears that maintaining the status quo – not best practices – may be the controlling factor in Philadelphia’s continued relationship with Corizon.


Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

On September 30, 2013, a prisoner jumped from the top tier of a pod at the Allegheny County Jail. Following an investigation, authorities refused to make public their findings and declined to disclose the prisoner’s injuries, citing medical privacy laws. The prisoner, Milan Karan, 38, was not transported to the hospital until the following day.

A spokesperson for Corizon, which provides medical care at the 2,500-bed jail, defended the nearly 24-hour delay by noting the prisoner “was under observation” before being sent to a hospital.

In December 2013, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Corizon was having difficulty staffing the Allegheny County Jail. When the newspaper requested a comment from Corizon vice president Lee Harrington, Harrington claimed he had no knowledge of staffing problems – despite having previously received emails from the facility’s warden about that exact issue.

The staffing problems resulted in prisoners not receiving their medication in a timely manner. In emails obtained by the Post-Gazette, Warden Orlando Harper wrote to Harrington in October 2013, noting, “We are continuing to experience issues pertaining to the following: 1. Staffing, 2. Medication distribution.” Also, on November 17, 2013, Deputy Warden Monica Long sent an email to Corizon and jail staff. “I was just informed by the Captain on shift, the majority of the jail has not received medication AT ALL,” she stated, adding, “Staffing is at a crisis.”

That crisis had been ongoing since Corizon assumed the medical services contract at the facility on September 1, 2013. Before the $62.55 million, five-year contract was awarded, Corizon vice president Mary Silva wrote in an email that it was imperative the jail have “adequate staffing on ALL shifts.” That promise was made despite Corizon laying off many of the former employees of Allegheny Correctional Health Services, the jail’s previous healthcare provider.

Allegheny Correctional had provided four full-time and one part-time physician during its contract tenure. Corizon reduced the number of doctors to one full-time and one part-time physician. Allegheny Correctional also employed three psychiatrists and one psychologist. Corizon’s contract requires that it provide one full-time psychiatrist and a part-time psychologist.

In January 2014, the United Steelworkers union (USW) filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize Corizon employees at the Allegheny County Jail, including nurse practitioners, RNs, physician assistants and psychiatric nurses. USW representative Randa Ruge indicated that the Corizon workers had approached the union for representation due to intolerable working conditions.

“Our folks [Corizon employees] are in danger of losing their licenses to practice by some of the things that the company has them doing,” she said. Ruge told the Post-Gazette that the jail had run out of insulin for more than a week and Corizon supervisors had “countermanded doctors’ orders.”

Several weeks after the USW filed the labor petition, a Catholic nun who worked as an RN at the jail was fired by Corizon, allegedly for union organizing activities. Sister Barbara Finch was dismissed after she openly expressed concerns about staffing, patient care and safety at the facility. The USW filed an unfair labor complaint against Corizon regarding Finch’s dismissal, claiming she was terminated in retaliation for her union activities.

“This is a clear case of intimidation and union-busting at its worst,” said USW President Leo W. Gerard. “Sister Barbara has been an outspoken advocate of change for these courageous workers and their patients, and this kind of illegal and unjust action, unfortunately, is par for the course with Corizon.”

On February 14, 2014, Corizon employees at the Allegheny County Jail voted overwhelmingly to unionize. “The next step is getting to the bargaining table and getting Corizon to bargain in good faith and get some changes made in the health system at the jail,” said Ruge.

The previous week, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner stated she had “grave and serious concerns” about medical care at the facility, including issues related to staffing and treatment for prisoners with certain mental health conditions. “I regard the current situation as intolerable and outrageous, and I fully expect necessary changes to be urgently implemented,” she wrote in a letter to Corizon.


Polk County, Iowa

On August 29, 2013, Ieasha Lenise Meyers, incarcerated at the jail in Polk County, Iowa on a probation violation, gave birth on a mattress on the floor of her cell. Her cellmates assisted with the delivery. Earlier, when Meyers, 25, had complained of contractions, a Corizon nurse called an offsite medical supervisor and was told to monitor the contractions and check for water breaking.

Despite Meyers having been twice sent to a hospital earlier the same day, and pleading that she was about to give birth, the nurse did rounds in other parts of the jail. Guards reportedly did not check on Meyers as required, even though the birth could be seen on a nearby security monitor. Only after the baby was born was medical care provided. Sheriff Bill McCarthy defended the actions of jail staff.

Corizon Employee Misconduct

Like most private contractors that provide prison-related services, Corizon tends to cut costs in terms of staffing and operational expenses. As noted above, this includes paying lower wages, providing fewer or inferior benefits and hiring less qualified workers who can be paid less. Sometimes, however, these practices result in employees more like to engage in misconduct.

At the Pendleton Correctional Facility in Indiana, a Corizon nurse was arrested and charged with sexual misconduct, a Class C felony. The Herald Bulletin reported that in April 2013, when Colette Ficklin was working as a contract nurse for Corizon, she convinced a prisoner to fake chest pains so they could be alone in an exam room. A guard told internal affairs officers that she witnessed Ficklin and the prisoner engaging in sex acts in the prison’s infirmary. [See: PLN, Sept. 2013, p.17].

In March 2013 at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, a Corizon practical nurse was charged with drug trafficking and possession with intent to distribute. Phyllis Ungerank, 41, was arrested and booked into the LaPort County Jail after attempting to smuggle marijuana into the facility. [See: PLN, July 2012, p.50].

A Corizon nurse at the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach, Florida was fired after officials learned she was having sex with and giving money to a prisoner. Valerie Konieczny was terminated on December 18, 2012 when the jail was contacted by the brother of prisoner Randy Joe Schimp, who had written in a letter that a nurse was having sex with him and depositing money into his jail account. Investigators determined that Konieczny was the nurse who had sex with Schimp at both the Volusia County facility and another branch jail in 2011.


In New Mexico, Corizon physician Mark Walden was accused of fondling prisoners’ genitals and performing prostrate exams that were “excessive and inappropriate in terms of length and method.” At times, Walden reportedly did not wear gloves during the prostate exams. He was accused of sexually abusing 25 or more male prisoners while employed as a doctor at two privately-operated facilities, the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa and Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton.


Lawsuits were filed against Walden, Corizon and private prison operator GEO Group, and Walden’s medical license was suspended in December 2013. The suits claim that Corizon allowed Dr. Walden to work at the Clayton prison “despite knowing of the risk of sexual abuse and having the ability to know that [he] was repeatedly sexually abusing patients” at the Santa Rosa facility. [See: PLN, Sept. 2013, p.47].


The Privatization Model


Economics professors Kelly Bedard and H.E Frech III at the University of California at Santa Barbara examined the privatization of correctional medical services in their research study, “Prison Health Care: Is Contracting Out Healthy?,” published in Health Economics in November 2009.


They concluded: “We find no evidence to support the positive rhetoric regarding the impact of prison health care contracting out on inmate health, at least as measured by mortality. Our findings of higher inmate mortality rates under contracting out are more consistent with recent editorials raising concerns about this method of delivering health care to inmates.”


Today, five years after the Bedard-Frech report was published, it has the benefit of hindsight. Since the report was written, its findings and conclusions have been reaffirmed in prisons and jails across the nation that have contracted with private companies to provide medical care to prisoners. Cost reductions in the provision of correctional healthcare tend to result in greater inefficiencies that lead to poorer outcomes. Consequently, for-profit medical contractors may actually be increasing morbidity and mortality in prison and jail populations.


Many governmental entities are willing to outsource correctional healthcare to private companies; reasons for doing so include cutting costs, risk management and removing healthcare duties from corrections departments. If Corizon’s record with respect to providing medical care to prisoners seems dismal, the company can always defend its actions by stating it does what it has been hired to do: Cut costs for its customers. And those costs have been rising due to an increasingly aging, and thus medically-needy, prison population. [See: PLN, Nov. 2012, p.22; Dec. 2010, p.1].


With respect to risk management, litigation is not a compelling issue within the prison healthcare industry and Corizon views lawsuits as simply a cost of doing business. “We get sued a lot, but 95% or 97% of cases were self-represented cases,” ex-CEO Rich Hallworth was quoted in an August 2013 article. He added that most lawsuits settle for an average of less than $50. Of course it is difficult for prisoners to obtain representation to pursue litigation – unless it’s a wrongful death case, and then usually their family or estate is doing the suing.


Nor are the public agencies that contract with private medical providers greatly concerned about their litigation records. In fact, when Florida contracted with Corizon and Wexford Health Sources to provide medical care for the state’s entire prison system, the Florida Department of Corrections didn’t ask the companies about their litigation histories – such as lawsuits raising claims of deliberate indifference, negligence and medical malpractice.


“What really troubles me about this is the fact that the department didn’t ask these very basic, elemental questions any system would ask,” observed ACLU National Prison Project staff attorney Eric Balaban. “These two vendors were taking over Florida’s massive health care system and you’d think they would have asked hard questions to determine if these companies can provide these services within constitutional requirements.”


Even worse, the downgrading of Corizon’s debt rating by Moody’s in 2013 creates a potential problem for the company’s service delivery model. The majority of Corizon’s revenue is derived from contracts with state and local agencies that are trying to reduce their budgetary expenses. Given those fiscal pressures and competition from Wexford, Armor, Centurion and other prison healthcare companies, Corizon cannot easily increase its revenue through contractual price increases. But the company’s expenses are largely within its control.


Unfortunately for prisoners, in order to reduce costs Corizon will likely have to curtail the quality or quantity of healthcare services it provides. As noted above, this can be done by reducing employee wages or benefits; the company can also cut costs through understaffing and by limiting prescription medications or providing fewer referrals to hospitals and specialists. A growing trend is to use off-site medical staff who consult with prisoners through telemedicine. [See: PLN, Dec. 2013, p.34].


The correctional healthcare industry, comprised of only a few large companies, is highly competitive. When one company loses a contract, another is more than willing to step in and submit a bid. What really matters for most government agencies and policymakers is the bottom line cost.


According to Dr. Marc Stern, the court-appointed special master in Idaho, “whoever delivers prison healthcare is doing it on less than adequate funding because that’s how much municipalities, state legislatures and county commissions are allocating.” He noted that privatization can be good in some cases and bad in others, depending on the level of oversight by the contracting public agency.

When Corizon compromises medical care to save money, such as curtailing the use of ambulances for emergency transports, reducing the number of on-site doctors or sending fewer prisoners to outside hospitals for needed treatment, government officials typically fail to take corrective action and deny responsibility for the resultant deaths and injuries. Indeed, as with the Idaho Department of Corrections and LMC in Kentucky, they sometimes want to reward the company with renewed contracts.

Why? Because continuity maintains cost control, which is the driving force behind privatization of prison and jail medical services.


Conclusion

The intent of this article was to review Corizon’s performance and practices based on publicly-available information, including news reports and court records. Although the company was formed in June 2011, its two predecessor firms, PHS and CMS, littered the news and judicial dockets over the years with lawsuits and articles involving cases of inadequate healthcare. Thus, the sins of Corizon’s parents, CMS and PHS, are forever linked with the progeny of their merger.

Such past misdeeds could be explained away had Corizon adopted a new, post-merger culture that was removed from prior practices under PHS and CMS. However, many of Corizon’s mid-level and top executives – including ex-CEO Rich Hallworth, former president Stuart Campbell, chairman Richard H. Miles and a number of vice presidents – were previously executives with PHS or CMS. It was during their tenure at those companies that numerous cases involving deficient medical care occurred.

The corporate culture of Corizon, as well as its business model, appears to be largely the same as those of its predecessors. Therefore, the only thing that may have changed as a result of the merger that created Corizon is the company’s name.

Gregory Dober is a freelance writer in healthcare and ethics. He has been a contributing writer for PLN since 2007 and co-authored Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America, published by Palgrave in 2013. [See: PLN, Nov. 2013, p.36].

Sources: Bloomberg News, Forbes, www.businessweek.com, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, The American Independent, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, St. Louis Business Journal, www.browardbulldog.org, Miami Herald, WHAS-TV, The Tennessean, Courier-Journal, Idaho Business Review, Associated Press, The Arizona Republic, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Bangor Daily News, WANE-TV, Raton Range, Des Moines Register, Star-Tribune, The Nation, The Florida Current, www.usw.org, KPHO-TV, WANE-TV, Tucson Citizen, WCAV-TV, www.wdrb.com, www.modernhealthcare.com, www.cochs.org, www.wndu.com, www.afsc.org, www.americanownews.com