Medical neglect runs rampant in prisons across the country, a largely invisible problem that has few in positions of power scrambling for a meaningful solution, reported The Nation. The problem is not unique to states that have outsourced their prison healthcare: In California, the crisis of overcrowding in state facilities, merged with catastrophically inadequate state-provided care, was the basis for a 2011 Supreme Court decision ordering the state to release tens of thousands of prisoners.
In those states that have turned to private companies to provide medical care to prisoners, stories of neglect and abuse also abound. In 2005, The New York Times published a shocking investigation into Prison Health Services, a company responsible for two prisoner deaths in separate jails in upstate New York within two months of one another. In both cases, the inmates had been repeatedly denied medication and accused of faking their distress.
The Times also told the story of 46-year-old Diane Nelson, who died of a heart attack in a Florida jail. “Stop the theatrics,” a Prison Health nurse snapped at her as she collapsed. “That same nurse, in a deposition, also admitted that she had joked to the jail staff, ‘We save money because we skip the ambulance and bring them right to the morgue.’”
In a 2003 piece for Harper’s, Wil S. Hylton profiled Correctional Medical Services, the company that in 2011 merged with Prison Health Services to create Corizon. Hylton’s piece exposed staggering levels of malpractice at CMS, which he described as “not merely the nation’s largest provider of prison medicine,” but “also the nation’s cheapest provider, a perfect convergence of big business and low budgets.”
In 2009, CMS CEO Rich Hallworth boasted a salary of nearly a million dollars, according to Forbes. Today, his company, Corizon, makes nearly $1.5 billion a year ostensibly treating inmates in some twenty-nine states.
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